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When We were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

When We were Orphans (original 2000; edition 2001)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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3,918911,314 (3.47)245
Title:When We were Orphans
Authors:Kazuo Ishiguro
Info:Vintage Books (2001), Paperback
Collections:Your library, General Fiction
Tags:Fiction, 20th Century, British

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When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro (2000)



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English (88)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (91)
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
Good in the same way that all of his other books seem to be good, but not quite as good as his best. ( )
  valzi | Sep 7, 2016 |
When We Were Orphans- Kazuo Ishiguro- audio book
5 stars
“Interesting, but strange, book”. I quote the other Judith (JudithAnn). I have to agree. Superficially, this first person narrative is easy to understand. Christopher Banks is relating the story of his life, his childhood in Shanghai, the tragic loss of his parents, his career as a detective and his role in World War Two.
It starts out like an easy read… a Boy’s Adventure story….. a hard-boiled 30’s detective. But clearly, it isn’t. I kept asking myself,” Why is the author doing this?” Toward the end of the book, Christopher returns to war torn Shanghai and the narrative becomes almost surreal. I thought “I get it! This guy is a delusional schizophrenic. Nothing in the narration is dependable.” But, then surprisingly, at least some of what appears to be imaginary turns out to be true.
Remains of the Day was my only previous experience with Ishiguro, so I went looking for some help with this book. I found an article by Margaret Atwood. She said, “An Ishiguro novel is never about what it pretends to be about.” It’s all about the subtext. In this case, the subtext is British imperialism and its role in the opium trade. Maybe.
This is not the easy, mindless kind of book that I usually listen to while driving, but I happened to find it on the library shelf. It’s very unlikely that I would have finished such a strange book had I tried to read it first, but now I want to read it to see if I’m right about what I think is lying behind the text. It was a very interesting, and strange, book.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
This book is something of a weird trip. At first we are in similar territory to "The Remains of the Day", in 1920s London, where we find the narrator as a young man making a name for himself as a detective, who has come to England from Shanghai after his parents disappeared. Then we move to Shanghai in 1937, where things gradually get messier and more surreal and develop into a Kafkaesque thrillerish nightmare set in a war zone as the narrator tries to resolve the story of his parents. This section was reminiscent of "The Unconsoled", but without the repetition and the longueurs that made that book a difficult read. Finally there is a short but moving resolution.

The disjointed nature of the plot makes this a tricky one to assess, but it contains some fine writing and some interesting ideas about the nature of loss and the way lives are shaped by larger historical events, and the contrasts between European and Asian perspectives. ( )
  bodachliath | May 4, 2016 |
This book starts off great, but the second half felt surreal and rushed. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
There are many varied reviews on this book and I was surprised at the number of negative comments. I think the book was great - it is the story of a young English boy, Christopher Banks, in Shanghai whose parents disappear without a trace. At the age of 9, he is sent to live with an Aunt in England but he grows up to be a detective and sets out to find the mystery of his parents' disappearance. The timing is unfortunate since Japan and China are at war and WWII is looming threateningly. Banks himself is an interesting character - he seems to remember himself differently than others do and this is key aspect of his character. Perhaps we all see ourselves differently than others see us but Banks remembers himself being outgoing, fun, and stoic about his life whereas others remember him as a loner with issues. The book also focuses on two others who are also orphaned and in the end, Banks comes to grips with the cards life has dealt him. ( )
  Oodles | Feb 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
When We Were Orphans may well be Ishiguro's most capacious book so far, in part because it stitches together his almost microscopic examination of self-delusion, as it plays out in lost men, with a much larger, often metaphorical look at complacency on a national scale.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Pico Iyer (pay site) (Oct 5, 2000)
Das neue Buch ist eine Überraschung. Denn es kommt so ganz anders daher, es tut so, als werde hier einmal Handfestes geboten, ein Kriminalfall! Ein Kind verliert seine Eltern. Ein schreckliches Familiendrama. Eine historische Erzählung, die sich im China der Opiumkriege entfaltet, Kolonialismus, Bandenkrieg, es birgt, natürlich, auch die Geschichte einer vergeblichen Liebe, und es gehört zum Abenteuerlichen dieser Lektüre, dass wir alle paar Seiten der Illusion erliegen, nun aber endlich zu erahnen, worauf wir uns hier einzulassen haben. Ahnungen, die uns mit dem Wenden einer Seite weggeschlagen werden, was die Gedanken nicht unangenehm verwirrt, so wie wenn die Achterbahn abrupt die Richtung wechselt und es uns herumschleudert und wir die Gravidität der Gehirnmasse kribbelnd spüren. Kein Wunder, es ist die Lebensgeschichte eines Verrückten.
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To Lorna and Naomi
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It was the summer of 1923, the summer I came down from Cambridge, when despite my aunt's wishes that I return to Shropshire, I decided my future lay in the capital and took up a small flat at Number 14b Bedford Gardens in Kensington.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Privatdetektiven Christopher Banks har opklaret talrige sager i det londonske society. Men der er stadig en sag han ikke har kunnet løse. Under sin opvækst i Shanghai forsvandt hans forældre sporløst. Nu, i slutningen af 1930erne på kanten af 2. verdenskrig, indser Banks at han må tilbage til Østen

The novel is about a British man named Christopher Banks who used to live in the Shanghai of colonial China in the early 1900s, but when his father, an opium businessman, and his mother disappear within an interval of a few weeks, Christopher is sent away to live with his aunt in Britain. Christopher vows to become a detective in order to solve the case of his parents' disappearance, and he achieves this goal through ruthless determination. His fame as a private investigator soon spreads, and in the late 1930s he returns to China to solve the most important case of his life. The impression is given that if he solves this case, a world catastrophe will be averted but it is not apparent how. As Christopher pursues his investigation, the boundaries between fact and fantasy begin to evaporate.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375724400, Paperback)

When 9-year-old Christopher Banks's father--a British businessman involved in the opium trade--disappears from the family home in Shanghai, the boy and his friend Akira play at being detectives: "Until in the end, after the chases, fist-fights and gun-battles around the warren-like alleys of the Chinese districts, whatever our variations and elaborations, our narratives would always conclude with a magnificent ceremony held in Jessfield Park, a ceremony that would see us, one after another, step out onto a specially erected stage ... to greet the vast cheering crowds."

But Christopher's mother also disappears, and he is sent to live in England, where he grows up in the years between the world wars to become, he claims, a famous detective. His family's fate continues to haunt him, however, and he sifts through his memories to try to make sense of his loss. Finally, in the late 1930s, he returns to Shanghai to solve the most important case of his life. But as Christopher pursues his investigation, the boundaries between fact and fantasy begin to evaporate. Is the Japanese soldier he meets really Akira? Are his parents really being held in a house in the Chinese district? And who is Mr. Grayson, the British official who seems to be planning an important celebration? "My first question, sir, before anything else, is if you're happy with the choice of Jessfield Park for the ceremony? We will, you see, require substantial space."

In When We Were Orphans Kazuo Ishiguro uses the conventions of crime fiction to create a moving portrait of a troubled mind, and of a man who cannot escape the long shadows cast by childhood trauma. Sherlock Holmes needed only fragments--a muddy shoe, cigarette ash on a sleeve--to make his deductions, but all Christopher has are fading recollections of long-ago events, and for him the truth is much harder to grasp. Ishiguro writes in the first person, but from the beginning there are cracks in Christopher's carefully restrained prose, suggestions that his version of the world may not be the most reliable. Faced with such a narrator, the reader is forced to become a detective too, chasing crumbs of truth through the labyrinth of Christopher's memory.

Ishiguro has never been one for verbal pyrotechnics, but the unruffled surface of this haunting novel only adds to its emotional power. When We Were Orphans is an extraordinary feat of sustained, perfectly controlled imagination, and in Christopher Banks the author has created one of his most memorable characters. --Simon Leake

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:35 -0400)

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Christopher Banks, an English boy who was orphaned after his parents disappeared in Shanghai under suspicious circumstances, returns to Shanghai twenty years later in the hopes of learning what really happened to his parents.

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