Thursday, March 27, 2014

When We Were Orphans

When We Were Orphans is a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Not judged his best book, it was still shortlisted for the 2000 Man Booker Prize. It's considered a detective story, and I'm shelving my copy with my mysteries.

Reading some authors is to me like sitting in a row boat and going down the river. I'm swept along gently by his prose. I think this author is especially good at foreshadowing that doesn't give away too much.

from the back of the book:
Renowned London detective Christopher Banks was born in Shanghai at the beginning of the twentieth century, and lived there relatively happily until he was orphaned by the disappearance of his father and mother. Now, more than twenty years after leaving Shanghai, he is a celebrated figure in London society; yet the criminal expertise that has garnered him fame has done little to illuminate his understanding of the circumstances of his parents' alleged kidnappings. Banks travels back to the seething, labyrinthine city of his memory in hopes of recovering all he has lost, only to find that the Sino-Japanese war is ravaging Shanghai beyond recognition - and that his own recollections are proving as difficult to trust as the people around him. Masterfully suspenseful and psychologically acute, When We Were Orphans offers a profound meditation on the shifting quality of memory, and the possibility of avenging one's past.
Kirkus Reviews ends its review by saying,
Elegiac, meditative, ultimately emotionally devastating, and the purest expression yet of the author’s obsessive theme: the buried life unearthed by its contingent interconnection with the passions, secrets, and priorities of unignorable other lives.
The Guardian says, "The single problem with the book is the prose, which, for the first time, is so lacking in local colour as to be entirely inappropriate to the task in hand. One can't only admire a book's structure." closes with this:
The reason to read the book is Ishiguro’s gorgeous, perhaps matchless, prose. And that’s more than enough until (maybe with his next novel) Ishiguro manages to build a fictional vessel that can contain his formidable command of both the architectonic and the surreal.
There's a reading group guide here.


  1. Will look for this one at the library. I did read his Remains of the Day and enjoyed it. Besides, I can't pass up a good detective story.