When We Were Orphans
A masterful novel from one of the most admired writers of our time.
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
Narrator Christopher Banks is born of English parents with whom he lives in the International Concession in Shanghai. Around 1915 or so they disappear, when he is about nine, and are believed victims ...more
Christopher Banks, When We Were Orphans' narrator, is certainly unreliable, yes. But our relationship to him as an unreliable narrator is a strange one, ...more
I'll try not to write spoilers, although as I have no idea what the denouement of this book is (let alone what it might 'mean') it would be hard difficult for me to know if I did - however, the strands of the story are:
- that the narrator is an expatriate of Shanghai, both of whose ...more
Christopher Banks overcomes a tragic childhood, it seems, to become the preeiminent detective in Great Britain. This allows him access to the country's elite social circles, but it's clear there are precious few people around whom Christopher is really comfortable. As a child, these people were his parents, famil ...more
Were their disappearances due to the corrupt opium business, or to Mrs. Banks’ genteel anti-opium efforts? Young Christophe ...more
Protagonist Christopher Banks is a wonderfully flawed and curious man w ...more
I'm not sure what to say about this book. It read like a well-written parody of a children's detective story, but, for me, ultimately failed to climb high enough above that to let me take it seriously. Since we are never sure how much we can believe our narrator, it is difficult to know how to feel. ANd we are presented with an awful lot of material that can invoke strong feeling.
The very notion that Christopher Banks is searching for his long lost parents so many years later i ...more
-In many instances, he successfully harnesses the dislocations and telescoping of the Unconsoled in the service of a plot that's more grounded in so-called reality. In this case, it's a detective story about an Englishman returning to Shanghai, trying to find his parents who di ...more
(You may consider the rest of this review spoilery, because while I don't reveal major plot twists, I ...more
I am still at a loss. Was this a satire on British Imperialism? Was it meant to be a fantasy? I kept thinking there was going to be one ...more
I loved this book. First thing that attracted me to it was the title. For me it has a special resonance and I really longed to see what could be between the pages of such a greatly named book. I realized from the first page it wouldn't be what I expected (I'm not sure why I thought it would be about a girl), but as I flipped through it I got more and more sucked in its world. It is stunning.
Let me make it clear ...more
William has written a brilliant (in my opinion) and appreciative review of this book here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
I agree with much of it - including William's statement that "the detective work he does is like a child’s game carried out in a friend’s backyard".
That said -- and though I adored the other Ishiguro I've read (including Never Let Me Go, written after Orphans) -- this book does not work (for me), and I can fully understand why some of my GR 'friends' gave this a mere ...more
More of my thoughts soon.
I read When We Were Orphans last month as a scheduled buddy read with my mommy-friends from the book club. The only other Ishiguro I have read before this book was Never Let Me Go which, to this day, remains as one of my most favorite novels of all time. His other popular book, The Remains of the Day, has been on my to-read list for quite ...more
While the narrative voice of When We Were Orphans is familiar, the story is very different. It's still emotionally charged, and the revelations are...sad. No other word for it. What really struck me, will stick with me, though, is Christopher's naivete. A good portion of the story is r ...more
I have only read one other Ishiguro novel before: Never Let Me Go. I once saw him speak about that book at a reading and learned that he is rather obsessed with memory and how it is related to sense of self. On the experience of reading two of his six novels, I would call him difficult to read but emotionally deep.
The emotional depth is not in the writing which is almost without emotion. By some alchemy though, I felt or maybe even contributed emotion while reading. Was I trying to add it in bec ...more
For all that goes right with the book—its romantic scenery, its dialogue, plot twists that excite—I also feel that it suffe ...more
To live a life that counts, to accomplish what others have been unable to manage. Our protagonist, Christopher Banks, lives his first 9 years in a kind of golden glow. When both parents, over the course of a few months, disappear from the International Settlement in Shanghai he is returned to England.
Later in life he makes a success of himself, but yearns to solve the mystery of his Mother and Father's (assumed) kidnapping. Do they still live? What really h ...more
There is an air of unreality throughout the book, and yet at the end it just peters out where I was expecting a revelation about his delusional state. ...more
His first novel, A Pale View of Hills won the 1982 Winifred Holtby ...more