When We Were Orphans

Thursday, February 21, 2013



When We Were Orphans
by Kazuo Ishiguro
★★★☆

Christopher Banks is only a young boy living with his family in China when he is orphaned. He is sent to live with an aunt in England where he grows up to become a well-respected detective, driven into that line of work because of his deep desire to solve the mystery surrounding his parents’ disappearance.

In many ways the book is clearly a recreation of Great Expectations; even down to the details of a large inheritance providing a future for the main character and his infatuation with a cold and calculating woman. When Christopher returns to China midway through the novel, the plot becomes muddled. We drastically shift gears and the book never quite recovers. The first half was beautifully written and paced and the second half never seems to be able to decide which story it wants to focus on, that of Christopher’s search for his parents, his childhood friendship with Akira or his infatuation with Sarah.

I also wasn’t expecting it to be a detective novel of sorts. Ishiguro’s writing still completely captivated me despite the flailing plot. It almost doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, I just love his writing style. From the dystopian Never Let Me Go to the period drama Remains of the Day, he hasn’t let me down yet.

BOTTOM LINE: I will never regret reading a Ishiguro novel. Even if it doesn’t live up to my expectations it’s still a lovely experience. I would recommend starting with Remains of the Day if you’re new to his work. Save this book for after you become a huge fan of his work.

7 comments:

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

I read this three years ago and did find it rather slow to start with. http://lindyloumacbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/when-we-were-orphans-by-kazuo-ishiguro.html

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

LindyLouMac - It never came together for me the same way it did for you, but I still enjoyed the writing.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I really enjoyed Never Let Me Go and have Remains of the Day on my shelves. It has been on my short term reading list a few times but always get shoved to the back again. I'm going to move it to the stack right this minute.

JoAnn said...

This was my first Ishiguro novel, and I'll admit I didn't really get it. Never Let Me Go was wonderful on audio, and I really need to read Remains of the Day.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I'm wondering if it will become popular again since it's so similar to Downton Abbey.

JoAnn - Remains is my favorite!

Kristi said...

I have When We Were Orphans on my shelf. I'm really looking forward to it even if it's not his best. I just love his writing so I'm sure I'll be satisfied no matter what the story.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Kristi - That's how I feel. His books are worth reading even if they don't end up being my favorite.