When We Were Orphans

When We Were Orphans

eBook - 2015
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From the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of the Booker Prize–winning novel The Remains of the Day comes this stunning work of soaring imagination.

Born in early-twentieth-century Shanghai, Banks was orphaned at the age of nine after the separate disappearances of his parents. Now, more than twenty years later, he is a celebrated figure in London society; yet the investigative expertise that has garnered him fame has done little to illuminate the circumstances of his parents' alleged kidnappings. Banks travels to the seething, labyrinthine city of his memory in hopes of solving the mystery of his own, painful past, only to find that war is ravaging Shanghai beyond recognition-and that his own recollections are proving as difficult to trust as the people around him.
Masterful, 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.


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Jun 06, 2020

Odd book: takes place in Shanghai China & London England between 1931 & 1958
Sometimes disjointed. Narrator seems to be "disturbed", but subtely so that the reader can't be quite certain about that.
There's an unreal scene where the narrator is searching for his parents, which we have no reason to believe are alive, and he ends up on the "line" between the Chinese & the Japanese in the workers' industrial, who live in obscenely terrible conditions.
He does not seem to notice that while he is "fighting" for equality in some aspects of his life, in other areas he is completely blind/oblivious. (perhaps we all suffer from this?!)
This takes place during the rise to power of Chiang Kai Shek and also the empirical aspirations of Japan.
While Can/US are struggling through the Depression, China is dealing with opium from India and the fall of the British Trade Empire.

This seemingly straight-forward detective novel turns out to be an introspective look at imagination, memory, and how the mental and emotional landscape of childhood seeps into the present.

Feb 09, 2018

A very British narration with the main character Christopher Banks whose instrospection and reflection describe the intent of Ishiguro's story. Thus said, "I suppose it was, at least in part, my attempt as an adult to grasp the nature of those forces which as a child I could not have had the chance of comprehending. It was also my intention to prepare my ground for the day I began in earnest my investigations into the whole affair concerning my parents...." The writer takes us from country to country and past to present in a way that, although choppy at times, leads us to an interesting end.

Jun 12, 2017

Remains of the Day was good, the film better.
His other books I found hugely disappointing.

Aug 04, 2016

A awkward book about an awkward man and some key elements of his life. About two thirds of the book is slow, sensitive, and highly introspective, and the last third is odd: suspenseful and the naivety of Banks is crystal clear. The penultimate paragraph is truly great, it could have been written by Willa Cather.

Nov 26, 2015

Selected for the Logan Central Monday Book Club in 2016. For a full list of 2016 selections, see the Logan Central Monday Book Club list.

Apr 26, 2015

Thru Chap 8

theorbys Jan 30, 2015

Revisiting many of the themes of Unconsoled, and despite his obvious writing skills, this novel falls flat. I thought Unconsoled was a good 200 pages too long, and that this novel, 200 pages shorter than the Unconsoled, might be just right. But sadly it's a good 100 pages too long.

Apr 14, 2014

Another masterpiece from Ishiguro. This time his main character is Christopher Banks, a Shanghai-born man of British desendant, who fashions himself as a Sherlock Holmes to rescue his long-disappeared parents and save the world from war. Banks is the epitome of British colonialism during the opium wars in China, his selective or distorted memory aiding in his denial of the facts.

Reviewed: 12 November 2006

Don27 Sep 01, 2013

A gripping, perceptive wonderful story. Ishiguro takes us seamlessly from Shanghai to England and back again. I felt for the narrator. Ishiguro has an interesting writing style. He keeps us away a little, but that works here. A rewarding read.

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Mar 27, 2016

I have become increasingly preoccupied with my memories, a preoccupation encouraged by the discovery that these memories - of my childhood, of my parents - have lately begun to blur. A number of times recently I have found myself struggling to recall something that only two or three years ago I believed was ingrained in my mind forever. I have been obliged to accept, in other words, that with each passing year, my life in Shanghai will grow less distinct, until one day all that will remain will be a few muddled images. p.70

Feb 12, 2012

"...And those of us whose duty it is to combat evil, we are... how might I put it? We're like the twine that holds together the slats of a wooden blind. Should we fail to hold strong, then everything will scatter..."

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