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When We Were Orphans

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  27,674 ratings  ·  2,678 reviews
An English boy born in early-twentieth-century Shanghai, is orphaned at age nine when his mother and father both vanish under suspicious circumstances. Sent to live in England, he grows up to become a renowned detective and, 20 years later, returns to Shanghai, where the Sino-Japanese War is raging.

The maze of human memory--the ways in which we accommodate and alter it, de
Paperback, 320 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Faber & Faber (first published 2000)
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Lisa SPOILERS AHEAD!!! I think maybe we're supposed to be pretty annoyed with the narrator. Ishiguro turns the mystery genre on its head here; the narrator…moreSPOILERS AHEAD!!! I think maybe we're supposed to be pretty annoyed with the narrator. Ishiguro turns the mystery genre on its head here; the narrator is blind to so many concerns besides his rather monomaniacal desire to figure out what happened to his parents. Ishiguro seems (to me) to be pointing that in life, many such mysteries, and their pursuit, lead to very little, with answers we would rather not have (thus turn the mystery genre on its head--mysteries tend to satisfy because answers are found; order is restored; a possibility justice might obtain. But not here. Here finding out the answer leads only to sadness). Banks misses out raising his ward; he thoughtlessly and needlessly endangers people in the conflict; he destroys his memories of Akira....all to find out the ends were sad and squalid for both parents, and they were both beyond saving or avenging.
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Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk, fiction, 20-ce
Second reading. Ishiguro's novels are nothing if not enigmatic. There's disorientation; the reader is never quite sure where he stands. When We Were Orphans is a quasi-Bildungsroman or coming of age/detective story. It is set over a period of fifty years or so in London, Shanghai and then back in London again.

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 believ
Jim Fonseca
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’ll characterize this novel as ‘haunting.’

A boy grows up with his British parents in the enclave of Shanghai where all foreigners have to live. It’s around 1900. Much of the first half of the book involves the man’s reminiscences of his childhood, particularly time spent playing with his next-door buddy who was Japanese. The boy learns bits and pieces of intrigue from conversations among his mother, father and uncle. His mother was an active anti-opium crusader through her women’s clubs. Yet h
Sean Barrs
My favourite Ishiguro!

“On the contrary, it is never too late to, as you put it, pick up the scent”

Indeed, it most certainly isn’t. This book was so, so, deep. I feel like my emotions have been stretched to breaking point when reading. If you’ve not ready any of Ishiguro’s novels before, then don’t be deceived, this is no mere crime novel: this is an exploration of the human soul.

Ishiguro has written such a powerful novel here. In the process of questioning the fleeting nature of the past,
Will Byrnes
Nov 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro - image from his FB page

A pretty good novel. I thought it was outstanding until the back quarter. Renowned London detective Christopher Banks was raised in the International part of Shanghai, sent to England after both his parents disappeared. He is smitten with a social climbing siren who figures in his adventure when he returns to Shanghai intent on solving the mystery of his parents’ disappearance. Of course the Sino-Japanese war, two decades of change in Sh
Jan 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thesis-book-list
Many reviews here have commented on Ishiguro's unreliable narrators (let's let that classification stand, whether or not it is entirely valid or really applies to all of his work), as if this aspect of his fiction is so obvious, or that it has been so exhaustively mined, that there is little to nothing left to say about such a narrative strategy.

Christopher Banks, When We Were Orphans' narrator, is certainly unreliable, yes. But our relationship to him as an unreliable narrator is a strange one,
Ahmad Sharabiani
When We Were Orphans, Kazuo Ishiguro
When We Were Orphans is the fifth novel by Nobel Prize-winning British author Kazuo Ishiguro, published in 2000. Ishiguro himself saying "It's not my best book".

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه آوریل سال 2002 میلادی

عنوان: وقتی یتیم بودیم؛ نویسنده: کازوئو ایشی گورو؛ مترجم: مژده دقیقی؛ تهران، شهر کتاب، هرمس؛ 1381، در 400 ص؛ شابک: 9643630978؛ چاپ دوم 1385؛ چاپ چهارم 1392؛ شابک: 9789643630973؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - سده 20 م

مترجم: مجید غلامی شاهدی؛ تهران، نو
Jul 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
هناك أحداث يُعيد الانسان بعدها اكتشاف الحياة والبشر
ورؤية العالم بكل ما فيه من تعقيدات وصراعات وخفايا
الرواية تدور أحداثها بين شنغهاي وبريطانيا في النصف الأول من القرن العشرين
رحلة بحث يقوم بها الراوي للكشف عن سر اختفاء والديه في الماضي
حياة الراوي انقسمت بين عالم الطفولة والبساطة والوهم وبين عالم الحقيقة والواقع
وخلال السرد يمر ايشيجورو على الأحداث التاريخية.. الهيمنة البريطانية على شنغهاي
تجارة الأفيون, الصراعات بين الشيوعيين والقوميين, والغزو الياباني للصين
سرد هادئ يجمع بين التاريخ والذاكرة والفقد
Nov 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two previous flawless books; expectations were rather high, see. "A Pale View of Hills" is an essential novel to all lovers of books and history and novellas, & "Never Let Me Go" is an instant modern classic (genre splicing done EXACTLY right). This, on the other hand, is B O R I N G...! (This, granted, coming from a genuine fan of all books long & boring.)

A detective's life should certainly include many peaks, scenes of action, excitement aplenty. Kazuo Ishiguro decides to keep all this away th
Jul 12, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: Booker Shortlist 2000
This is my 7th Ishiguro and I am happy for two reasons: (1) I am now an Ishiguro completist and (2) unlike a couple of his earlier books, I actually liked this one. I almost rated this with 4 stars but I could not do that because I found the first half of the book unbelievably boring. However, Ishiguro managed to make the book’s last 50-70 pages truly engaging that I thought I was able to squirt some tears from my eyes when the boyhood friends were back together. It was one of the most poignant ...more
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Obsessions are rarely good things. Obsessions that rely on childhood memories lead to false judgements and delusional thinking. Christopher Banks, a successful London investigator and the narrator of this intriguing book, goes back to Shanghai where he lived as a child to discover the truth about the disappearance of his parents. He is unable to distinguish between what is actual and what he wants to believe. Ishaguro allows the reader to sort this out. Is the Japanese soldier really his childho ...more
Roman Clodia
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

... and already it felt like something consigned to a past era, something I need not remember if I did not wish to.

A superbly crafted narrative that is elliptical and opaque (is that why is has so many so-so reviews?) but which I also found profoundly emotive and deeply knowing about issues of loss, self-delusion (both personal and national) and denial. There are numerous mentions of memory and recall - in fact the book is structured through a series of recollected moments when the
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kazuo Ishiguro’s enigmatic novel, When We Were Orphans, is as complex and baffling a work of fiction as I have ever encountered. Christopher Banks, our narrator, is not so much an unreliable narrator as a naive narrator who believes in the internal world he has created and acts upon it as if it were truth. Through so much of the novel I kept asking myself why he could not see the illogical conclusions he was drawing, but of course that is what this novel is about, his inability to leave his chil ...more
When We Were Orphans made me realize that one can be deceived not only by people but also by books! Honest to God I thought this book was about solving a mystery. The protagonist being a celebrated detective added more fuel to the deception. No wonder I was disoriented by the middle of it trying desperately to understand what the mystery is all about. Well I'm not saying there was no mystery element; of course there is a touch of that, but not the way I expected. So there, I was deceived by a bo ...more
The first thing I noticed about this book was that the narrative voice - belonging to Christopher Banks, a successful detective in 1930s England - is remarkably similar to that of Stevens, the protagonist of Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. While at first this drew me in (I loved The Remains of the Day), I soon began to find it offputting. I had assumed Stevens' voice was unique, so it was a bit of a disappointment to find that what I assumed were facets of that character are actually features ...more
When We Were Orphans explores a wide array of political and personal themes, but its main focus is on memory, nostalgia, and the luxury of innocence. In the final sequence, the novel veers away from strict realism, into somewhat surreal, dreamlike territory. I felt the novel really reaching for something interesting here, and though it seemed to try a few ideas on, it didn't really settle on anything altogether concrete. Yet the surprising, unsettling quality of this latter section was my favour ...more
Majeed Estiri
این رمان را من سال 87 از ایشی گورو خوندم. به نظرم دو انرژی پیش برنده این اثر "نوستالژی" و "پلیس بازی" هستش. که البته و صد البته من با بخش نوستالژیش خیلی بیشتر حال کردم و به نظرم نویسنده هم بهتر تونسته بود حسش را بسازه و منتقل کنه. یعنی این نویسنده به هر حال جنایی نویس نیست.
بهترین و به یادماندنی ترین فصلش همون فصلی هست که راوی به یاد میاره چطور در دوره کودکیش یکی از اعضای باند تبهکار میاد و خیلی با مهربانی دستش را میگیره تا ببره براش یه هدیه بخره. بچه حس خوبی داره ولی مشکوکه. وسط شلوغی بازار اون
Anna Luce
/ / / Read more reviews on my blog / / /

“I had always understood, of course, that the task of rooting out evil in its most devious forms, often just when it is about to go unchecked, is a crucial and solemn undertaking.”

As much as it pains me to admit this...I didn’t particularly care for this novel. While it is written in Kazuo Ishiguro’s trademark prose, which is both eloquent and introspective, the more I read and the less invested I felt in the story and in particular in Christopher Banks
Aug 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
I listened to audio version of this book and kept thinking I was missing chapters or I had somehow obtained the abridged version because the plot wasn't making any sense. So mid-way through the audio, I got the book and read it, and then started reading it again, NOT because I liked it, but because I have never read such a strangely constructed work of fiction.

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
عبدالخالق كلاليب
[لكن بالنسبة لأمثالنا, فمصيرنا أن نواجه العالم كيتامى, يطاردون لسنوات طوال ظلال الآباء الغائبين].
هذه العبارة الحزينة ترد في الصفحة الأخيرة من الرواية. ومن الممكن اعتبارها جوهر الرواية والهدف النهائي من كتابتها, فإيشيجورو كتب رواية عن اليتم كمدخل إلى ضياع الهوية والبحث عن الجذور.
رواة كازو إيشيجورو موصومون دائماً بتشوش الذاكرة. هكذا قيل عن روايات إيشيجورو كلها. ولكن الراوي في هذه الرواية يعاني مما هو أكثر من مجرد تشوّش, إنه يعاني, وعلى حد تعبير الراوي نفسه, من تشوه الذاكرة. ذلك التشوه الذي يعيد ت
Seth T.
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When We Were Orphans was, for me, a pretty fascinating exploration of the difficulties typical to the lens of overgrown sentimentailty through which one approaches the vaguely remembered past. As the narration continues, one wonders just how ephemerally Christopher Banks, the narrator, holds his grasp on reality. Quite clearly his recollections of the distant past are modified to fit his circumstances and the man he's become—and paradoxically, the man he's become is a debt owed to these remember ...more
Barry Pierce
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
Eh, this isn't great. I enjoyed maybe the first 50ish pages but once the plot actually begins it just becomes a mess. It gets the extra star because I enjoyed those 50 pages. Even Ishiguro himself thinks this is a weak novel. It's overall poor.
Matthew Appleton
It took about 200 pages to get out of 3 stars and into 4, but I loved the last 100 pages or so.
Rebecca McNutt
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
When We Were Orphans is an impressive and unforgettable mystery novel, taking readers on a journey to reunite a man with his missing parent.
Nov 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brits
This was not my first read, although it was a while before I realised. After muttering grumpily to myself that Ishiguro surely can't have written TWO books in which someone called Christopher returns to Shanghai where his parents had mysteriously disappeared I had to concede that no, it was the selfsame one that I have a vague memory of reading while ill in bed? Perhaps? Or was it not my feverish, hallucinatory state that I remember, but rather the disturbing unreliability of the narrative...

A celebrity detective had a traumatic childhood in Shanghai which left him an orphan sent back to live and grow in 1920s and 1930s England, where he also feels drawn to a degree to another orphan. This book is about his childhood, his detective years, his singular obsession and several follies, as his world is consumed with solving the ultimate crime of his childhood!

I don't even know where to start! After very much enjoying reading Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day and then been undeni
Nov 18, 2007 rated it liked it
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
This book is something of a weird trip. At first we are in similar territory to The Remains of the Day, in 1920s London, where we find the narrator as a young man making a name for himself as a detective, who has come to England from Shanghai after his parents disappeared. Then we move to Shanghai in 1937, where things gradually get messier and more surreal and develop into a Kafkaesque thrillerish nightmare set in a war zone as the narrator tries to resolve the story of his parents. This sectio ...more
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Πρώτη απόπειρα να διαβάσω τον φετινό νικητή του Νόμπελ λογοτεχνίας, γι' αυτό και επέλεξα ένα από τα παλαιότερα έργα του. Απόλαυσα τον τρόπο γραφής και την ίδια την ιστορία ιδιαίτερα. Μια ιστορία που μιλά για την παιδική ηλικία, τη λήθη, την αγάπη για την οικογένεια.
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Sir Kazuo Ishiguro (カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒 一雄), OBE, FRSA, FRSL is a British novelist of Japanese origin and Nobel Laureate in Literature (2017). His family moved to England in 1960. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor's degree from the University of Kent in 1978 and his Master's from the University of East Anglia's creative writing course in 1980. He became a British citizen in 1982. He now lives in London.


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“All I know is that I've wasted all these years looking for something, a sort of trophy I'd get only if I really, really did enough to deserve it. But I don't want it anymore, I want something else now, something warm and sheltering, something I can turn to, regardless of what I do, regardless of who I become. Something that will just be there, always, like tomorrow's sky. That's what I want now, and I think it's what you should want too. But it will be too late soon. We'll become too set to change. If we don't take our chance now, another may never come for either of us.” 378 likes
“Perhaps there are those who are able to go about their lives unfettered by such concerns. But for those like us, our fate is to face the world as orphans, chasing through long years the shadows of vanished parents. There is nothing for it but to try and see through our missions to the end, as best we can, for until we do so, we will be permitted no calm.” 93 likes
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