Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “When I Whistle” as Want to Read:
When I Whistle
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

When I Whistle

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  443 ratings  ·  48 reviews
One of Endo's most unusual and powerful novels is set largely in a modern hospital, with themes and scenes that eerily seem to predate Never Let Me Go.

A jaded businessman has a chance encounter with the doctor son of his best friend at school, Ozu, and memories are stirred of a former love interest of Ozu's, Aiko. The son of his friend proves to be contemptuous of the out
Paperback, 273 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Taplinger Publishing Company (first published 1974)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about When I Whistle, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about When I Whistle

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  443 ratings  ·  48 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of When I Whistle
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Why do pure and simple people like Flatfish have to die?

A plain, unassuming fellow. A fellow maybe a little cunning, but one who, somewhere in his heart, embraced a purity that made him treasure the first love of his youth. Fellows like that probably existed everywhere in the world. But this particular fellow died in the war, leaving behind him only the suit that he wore, a pen, and a notebook.

Doesn't that … make you … sad? Ozu felt like shouting to the stars in the sky.

I don't feel sad when
Dhanaraj Rajan
Four and Half Stars. I would have given it five stars had it ended the way I wanted it to end. That is too preposterous from my part. But then we are only human........

The book is about a father and his son. The stories of both the father and son are presented in the alternative chapters. The father's story happens in prewar/war time Japan and ths tory of the son happens in the post war Japan.


The times have changed and with time eve
Czarny Pies
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Graham Greene
Shelves: asian-literature
Shūsaku Endō is often likened to Graham Greene and rightfully so. The comparison is as flattering to Greene as it is to Endo. Both men were truly great writers. Endo and Greene both were self-proclaimed Catholics who wrote novels about man's great difficulty in making morally good choices in situations where the benefits of doing the immoral thing were great.
"When I whistle" tracks the parallel stories of a father Ozu who developed his world-view prior to WWII and his son Eiichi a highly unethic
Apr 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If someone told you that Japan before World War II was different than Japan today, you'd say, trying to restrain sarcasm, "really?." "No, no," your friend would quickly add, "I mean there was a different spirit. People felt and thought differently." That's the point where if you are at a cocktail party, you might say, "I think my wife may be looking for me." What Shusaku Endo does in this novel is to let you experience in your own bones how the spirit of certain age is replaced by another. I kno ...more
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
The story in When I Whistle alternates between the present–in which Ozu and his son are constantly at odds because of the differences in their values–and Ozu’s past. While Ozu’s son is busy working and scheming about ways to make himself a name in the hospital where he works, Ozu has been reminded of his past and can’t stop thinking about Flatfish, his best childhood friend. By telling the story using two different threads, Endo is able to highlight the chasm that exists between two generations ...more
Peter D. Great
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite novels of all time. Sadness and beauty perfectly blended. Just try to get through this book without a few drops falling from the corners of your eyes.
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Not nearly as good as Silence, but very different. It felt modern, yet it was not repulsive. It deals with problems and brokenness head-on, but doesn't justify them. Nice rhythm... I liked it. ...more
Effie Gavriel
Feb 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Two totally different worlds between two generations presented in a masterful simplicity that really carries you away.
Geneva Lewis
Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shusaku Endo is a novelist who captures emotions and the events that change lives in subtle and dramatic ways. This is a novel about many things: love, betrayal, medical care, friendship, devotion, responsibility, and the myriad ways in which our actions impact others. He has a realism about his work that is fragile and breathtaking at once. In this story, he deftly goes back and forth from narrator Ozu to Ozu's son, Eiichi, sometimes in the present and often in pre-war Japan. We are brought fro ...more
David Goldman
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
I had not heard of Endo before seeing this book at a local bookstore. I don’t know what made me pick up the book, but I’m glad I did. Endo is in the canon of modern Japanese not novelists , and a Japanese friend tells me he’s standard reading for students. I can see why.

Endo is an extremely clear, direct writer, and his flat style (I mean this as a compliment) allows the intensity of the psychological, social, and moreal delemias full range with ever descending into being maudlin or overwr
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting but sad story. There are actually two stories, one about a father and another about his son. Father's story is largely about his adolescent school years, his relationship with his friend and their clumsy efforts to befriend girls from the local school. The war intervenes and all go their separate ways. The son's story is more interesting although challenging. He is an ambitious young doctor working in a hospital. His morals are questionable and treatment of patients unethical even ...more
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
i really loved this story about child hood friends and the changes that take place in their lives as they grow older. Shusaku Endo is an anomaly in japan as he is a christian in a very non christian nation..and all though many of his novels concern a religious theme this one does not. Even the novels that i have read by him that do have a religious bent ,Endo does not try to beat you over the head with it like western christians do...I understand that SILENCE is being made in to film by MARTIN S ...more
May 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
"If there hadn't been a war..."

This is my second Shusaku Endo novel and I'm taken by the sparse, emotional writing, and the author's ability to create a universal world in a Japanese setting--but then I guess shortcomings (greed, social climbing, deception), and attributes (selflessness, kindness) are universal, and easily recognized in any culture.

I have never read about WWII from the Japanese perspective. Though very little of the actual war played out in this novel, the effects and devastati
Dec 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Earlier this year, I read Silence, and when I came across another Endo I was eager to check it out. When I Whistle alternates between the stories of a man and his son. Ozu is now a middle-aged under-achiever in post-war Japan. He is prompted to reminisce about a friendship in his youth just before and during the Second World War. Ozu's son Eiichi is a ruthlessly self-promoting young physician, resentful of his father's inability to assist him in fulfilling his ambitions. The translation is perio ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Muted tones of storytelling, like a sad beautiful black and white movie. The contrasting lives of a father and son unfold in pre and post war Japan. The father, a loyal and simple man and the son a brilliant bitter and manipulative surgeon
don't so much clash as live disconnected from each other until a medical crisis sees their lives overlapping. The tender scenes of growing up as Japan begins to ready itself for war
were by far my favorite. The son's life, all cold cynicism, were chilling. My on
Elena Mooney Graham
Aug 03, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the patient among us
Ok this was pretty good, very good actually. It had that whole "I totally cant relate to either Japanese generational zeitgeist compared and contrasted here, and lets face it most Japanese literature is crazy as a bag of cats, and Wow how come Japanese stuff is smarter than our stuff and I wonder if its true when Kevin says guys who like asian chicks are really gay, and what does that mean for me because I do like asians?" feeling that everyone gets when they read Japanese Lit.

Mono no aware, bab
Sepsun Pasaribu
Mar 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, aimer
I read this book to help my friend's final assignment in college. Never heard of Shusaku Endo or his books. But when I've finished it, I totally love it. It tells simple story but something we can relate to (well at least for me). A story about friendship, perseverance, innocent, diligent and gaps between generation. The Themes may have been told many time before but in this book it's funny, touching and memorable. ...more
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this more for its historical than its literary value and it really is a rare and fascinating perspective of life during war time for the Japanese. The writing is spare, simple and sometimes beautiful. I couldn't help thinking that maybe the translation didn't do it justice, but how would I know? If you are looking for action then this is not for you. If you want to slowly begin to feel the sensations and differences of a different time and place then I recommend it highly. ...more
Shahd Fadlalmoula
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
The way he bounces from old to new, from the now to the gone and back is simply ingenious! It's an interesting read with a lot to show for the itsy bitsies, and the moral message he gives is a strong one. The language, had me at times and then at times it didn't, but the fact that he makes it an easy read at strategic moments of the plot makes that all the more fun! (If you're a literary quirk). ...more
Christine Shan
Jul 17, 2016 rated it liked it
A story that captures the differences between generations. The father Ozu's relationship with Flatfish and Aiko is unimaginable to the son Eiichi and Eiichi's plots against his rival is incomprehensible to his father. ...more
akhwan j.s
Jan 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Very impressive
OZu and Flatfish...hahaha
Mar 25, 2011 added it
I enjoyed reading this book which highlighted cultural and generational differences but was still completely relatable as the human experience.
Jeffrey Stalk
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
A chance encounter brings back memories of a friendship and young love. A father and materialistic son are in conflict.
Benjamin Harris
Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Endo is one of my favorite Japanese novelists, and this is one of his finest books
Hobart Frolley
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The ending of this book nearly made me cry. A very tender and decptively simple rumination on tradition vs. modernism, memory and the role that interpersonal relationships play in our lives.
Gina Havier
Mar 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Tragic, sad, nostalgic, romantic, friendship, all in one book. And the best part? Is when the protagonist whistle.
Big Pete
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Extremely powerful and an underrated Endo.
Jack Deighton
A chance encounter on a train with a former schoolmate forces a man called Ozu (I can’t remember being told his first name) to think about a boy at school who was dubbed Flatfish. Flatfish, a new arrival in Ozu’s class (not the top set by any means,) unfortunately had an odour but, because he was seated next to Ozu, by default became his best friend. Ozu had to explain to him all the unwritten rules but Flatfish continually managed to get himself in trouble both by accident and by being himself. ...more
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
What a lousy book. Really. Okay-the friendship between two school boy-launches the novel-is interesting although even that has a creepy crawly feel to it as the underachievers manage to unachieved even in attracting a reader's interest or concern. (Creepy crawly is a literary term.) When the interweaving of past and present kicks in, the present is unpleasant, gloomy, repulsive - the callous barbarity of the doctors is presented so strangely. None of the philosophic appeal of other of his books ...more
Stella Richards
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
maybe 4 stars is too high, but I'm partial to Japanese fiction. this novel looks at new, post-war Japan from older eyes and guess which is favored? ...more
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Life and Times of Michael K
  • Thousand Cranes
  • Il rumore dei tuoi passi
  • The Broom of the System
  • Tracks (Love Medicine. #3)
  • Lawrence and the Women: The Intimate Life of D. H. Lawrence
  • The Forgotten Waltz
  • Yesterday's Weather
  • A Sport of Nature
  • Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects
  • 1984
  • Read for Your Life: Literature as a Life Support System
  • Summerwater
  • Dusklands
  • The Woman Who Walked Into Doors (Paula Spencer, #1)
  • A Star Called Henry (The Last Roundup, #1)
  • Charlie Savage
  • The Calligrapher
See similar books…
Shusaku Endo (遠藤周作), born in Tokyo in 1923, was raised by his mother and an aunt in Kobe where he converted to Roman Catholicism at the age of eleven. At Tokyo's Keio University he majored in French literature, graduating BA in 1949, before furthering his studies in French Catholic literature at the University of Lyon in France between 1950 and 1953. A major theme running through his books, which ...more

Related Articles

Danielle Evans was just 26 when she released her short story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self in 2010, a multi-award-winning...
17 likes · 1 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »