When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

When We Were Orphans - Kazuo IshiguroThis book is the first book I got from Bookcrosser, sent direct from Sri Lanka :). Finally I’ve got a chance to read it and really, am quite happy with it. The book is on the Booker shortlist 2000. The author is Japanese-born who migrated to Britain since he was 5. So throughout the novel it all feels very English. I could hear the English accent in my head as I read it.

It’s a story about Christopher Banks, who is a famous detective in London. He grew up in Shanghai, before he left the city because of the loss of his parents. Eventually he went back to Shanghai to “solve the case” and looked for his parents. I found that the characters are quite interesting. The parents, the Japanese childhood friend, the English lady who always crossed path with Christopher, the orphan who Christopher took in. They’re not.. typical. Really, quite fascinating.

I think the book is very well written. The pace is quite slow at some places, but somehow I don’t mind. I enjoyed the words and everything he worded. Ishiguro is a good author. No wonder he has so many award winning novels. Definitely someone whose books I will watch out. His next book on my shelf is The Remains of the Day, which is the winner of Booker Prize in 1989 (which I got from my favorite used bookshop for a whooping one buck, still in jolly good condition :).

Ratings: 3.5 out of 5
Slow and enjoyable. I imagine it’s not something for everyone. It’s not a bad start at all for Ishiguro’s works.
Yes he added quite a few words into my vocabulary.

Memorable Quotes

Can you imagine an English gentleman with thick English accent saying this line: (easily the most hilarious line in the book)

“It appears to be quite permissible here to employ surprisingly rough shoves to get people out of one’s way. Though I have not yet found the nerve to take advantage of this license myself, I have already witnessed on a number of occasions refined ladies at society gatherings giving the most peremptory pushes without provoking as much as a murmur.” ~ p164, Christopher on Shanghai

Charming ;)

“She was very beautiful when she was younger. The most beautiful flower, my good sir. You cannot imagine. In this respect, I am like a Westerner in my heart. I have never wanted any wife but her. One wife, quite enough. Of course, I took others. I am Chinese, after all, even if I have lived all my life here in the foreigners’ city. I felt obliged to take other wives. But she is the one I truly cared for. The others have all gone now, and she is left. I miss the others, but I’m glad, in my heart I’m glad that in our old age, it is just the two of us again.” ~ p205 … “Certain kinds of beauty never fade.” ~ p210

Might have been one of my favorite parts. The part where Christopher talked to old Chinese man about the differences between Western and Chinese customs, how it’s quite inevitable at times to resist what’s accepted as culture.

SPOILER for discussion below (highlight to see)
I still don’t get how Christopher could think that his parents would still be held captive and alive after 15 years. All the more strange that other people in the city seem to think this way too. Like the Chinese captain, who even went all the way to take him to the old house in the middle of fighting. What’s going on there? I even dreamed about this. I thought there would be some weird fantasy twist to it later, like time traveling or whatever. But apparently he just thought they would be there, in the old house in the middle of the war. And what’s with the big case to be solved that could save the world they were all referring to? Well, these are some loose ends I’m a bit confused with.

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4 thoughts on “When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro”

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