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When We Were Orphans (2000)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,9371171,690 (3.47)276
Christopher Banks, an English boy born in early-20th-century Shanghai, is orphaned at age nine when both his mother and father disappear under suspicious circumstances. He grows up to become a renowned detective, and more than 20 years later, returns to Shanghai to solve the mystery of the disappearances.… (more)

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English (108)  Dutch (2)  Italian (2)  Spanish (2)  Hebrew (1)  German (1)  All languages (116)
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
Renowned London detective was orphaned by his parents "kidnapping" while the family lived in Shanghai. He returns to Shanghai twenty years later to try to find them.
  BLTSbraille | Sep 29, 2021 |
It's a good book all around except Christopher is the crappiest detective ever. Of course the story wouldn't work if he was any good. ( )
  jooniper | Sep 10, 2021 |
I love Ishiguro's writing. I am totally engrossed immediately after beginning one of his books. This one was no exception at the beginning, but I thought the second half of the book dragged. How he thought his parents could still be being held prisoner after 18 years is a bit of a stretch. Surely someone would have located them or they would have managed an escape--something. I did not like that he and Sarah almost got together. He was not even slightly attracted to her in all their meetings. I got the feeling that he found her slightly repugnant It felt like he was thinking, "Well, nobody else has come along...." She was such an opportunist. The Jennifer thing? The story seemed very disjointed. Christopher certainly had a lot on his plate--finding his parents, finding Akira, trying to be a successful, respected detective, raising an orphan, Jennifer, deciding where he wanted to live, England or Shanghai. It all hinged on finding the Yellow Snake and learning what he knew. And when Christopher finally did find him and the Yellow Snake told him everything, how much to believe. At least Christopher found Akira, and we could imagine what happened, and at least he found his mother, and we could imagine what happened there. He also found out about Sarah, so all loose ends were gathered together.

reader37143 7/6/21 ( )
  37143Birnbaum | Jul 6, 2021 |
audiobook fiction - classic literature/historical fiction - British national looks for missing parents in Shanghai (evolution of opium trade, second Sino-Japanese War in early 1940s); author was born in Nagasaki in 1951 but moved to GB at the age of 5.

I liked the gentle, quiet pace of the narration at first, but was somewhat disappointed by the story--readers that have settled into the first half are bound to be unsettled by the latter half, and readers that enjoy the second half are generally bored silly by the first half. Of course Christopher Banks (the unreliable narrator) is written to be pretty unlikeable, with his arrogant, self-centered actions throughout the last half of the book.

The main story is not in fact the mystery around his parents' disappearances but his clinging to his faulty memories of an idyllic childhood despite having been orphaned at a young age. The episode (several chapters long) about getting to the building where his parents had supposedly been kept prisoner for 18(?) years was frustrating (he said he would only be gone a few minutes)--mainly it served as a way for Christopher to reconnect with Akira (a Japanese soldier who has dishonored himself by spilling secrets to the Chinese) but mostly showed that he was actually a terrible detective, and how very deeply invested he was in believing his childhood to have been a happy one that he would make such a long series of extremely poor decisions in the hopes that he would turn out to be right. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
This is the first book I’ve read by this author but I may read others at some point.

The story is somewhat convoluted and it was a bit hard for me to make head or tail of it, but it’s about an English boy called Christopher living in Shanghai with his parents.

Various characters flit in and out of his life including a girl he calls Miss Hemmings.

Ha has a Japanese childhood friend called Akira who later again comes to play a role in his life.

In Shanghai Christopher and his parents live in relative safety in the International Settlement while in the Chinese areas of the city there are all manner of ghastly diseases, filth and evil men.

Christopher’s beautiul mother worked to get rid of the high level of opium addiction in Shanghai. She has lunches attended by various ladies, and Christopher’s mysterious uncle Philip is always in attendance.

At one point Christopher’s parents both disappear, and it appears that Uncle Philip is somehow involved. Detectives are looking for the parents but to no avail.

Christopher becomes a famous detective and at one point late in the plot decides himself to search for his long-lost parents.

Finding a Chineseman called the Yellow Snake is apparently a key factor in finding C’s parents.

The book is elegantly written. ( )
  IonaS | May 12, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 108 (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.

» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kazuo Ishiguroprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brown, JanePhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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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Wikipedia in English (2)

Christopher Banks, an English boy born in early-20th-century Shanghai, is orphaned at age nine when both his mother and father disappear under suspicious circumstances. He grows up to become a renowned detective, and more than 20 years later, returns to Shanghai to solve the mystery of the disappearances.

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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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