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When We Were Orphans Paperback – May 29 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (May 29 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067697306X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676973068
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #198,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 8 2002
Format: Paperback
Christopher Banks is an unusual detective in Kazuo Ishiguro¡¦s latest novel, When We Were Orphans. The story is not about Banks¡¦s investigation of a shrewdly planned murder or a cunning theft; he is attempting to solve the greatest mystery in his life: the disappearance of his parents when he was a boy in early twentieth century Shanghai. Certainly not a conventional adventure story, it nonetheless has the feature of a mystery tale ¡V one can never know the truth, or at least, a portion of the truth, until the last pages.
When the novel opens in 1930, Christopher Banks has become a renowned private detective in London. His first person narration begins innocently enough, with a classically correct, ¡¥realistic¡¦ fashion:
It was the summer of 1923, the summer I came down from Cambridge, when despite my aunt¡¦s wishes that I return to Shropshire, I decided my future lay in the capital and took up a small flat at Number 14b Bedford Gardens in Kensington.
This opening echoes that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle¡¦s A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story: ¡§In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London ¡K¡¨, and both narratives similarly give an impression of rational, orderly narrative to the readers, fitting for a detective novel. Indeed, our principal character Banks has mentioned reading about the ¡§foggy streets of the Conan Doyle mysteries¡¨. Banks¡¦s account is not unlike that of Dr. Watson, with a matter-of-fact style, and complete with the most ¡¥correct¡¦ English attitude.
¡§I¡¦d like to oblige you, Miss Hemmings. But unfortunately I¡¦ve already replied to the organisers some days ago.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 26 2002
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro's When We Were Orphans. It was well written. The dialogue and descriptions of people and places were excellent. The ending was shocking, surprising, and fast-paced. That being said, I regret that I bought it and would not recommend it to anyone else.
The plot was thin, perhaps because it was stretched over too long a book. Until the last tape the pace was too slow for a mystery. A few leaps backward and forward in time are acceptable but he made so many it became a bit difficult to follow the story line. Worse, he sometimes jumped from "A" to "C" in situations without going through "B," or even referring to it in "C" so we knew how he got to "C." An example of this was his acceptance of, and seeming agreement with, the assumption of the city councilman, his old schoolmate Morgan, and the Chinese family in his old home, that Christopher's parents were not only alive but still being held prisoner in Shanghi. We were not told about anything Christopher had discovered either in London or after arriving in Shanghi that would have justified that assumption.
In fact, we were not told about anything he had discovered in England that would indicate he had reason to believe his parents were still in Shanghi or even still alive. Yet there is an implication that he had discovered something, some lead or information that might make a trip to Shanghi worthwhile.
The great buzz that his arrival in Shanghi created and his VIP treatment was not believable. Even if he were a British detective of Sherlock Holmes' stature there would not be any reason for people living in Shanghi to be so impressed by him or to be so interested in his case---especially since the case was a personal one involving his parents.
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Format: Paperback
Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki in 1954 and moved to Britain at the age of five. He was awarded the OBE in 1995 and the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1998. "When We Were Orphans" is his fifth novel, was first published in 2000 and was shortlisted for that year's Booker Prize.

The story is set in the 1930s and is told by Christopher Banks. Born and raised in Shanghai until the age of nine - when, within a few weeks of each other, both his parents disappeared - Banks then moved to England, to be raised by an aunt. Now grown up and based in London, Christopher is based in London and working as a high profile and very successful private detective. His celebrity has eased his way into fashionable London society, though some - such as Sarah Hemmings - are initially a little resistant to his appeal. Fashionable society, however, isn't Christopher's main concen : although it's been many years since his parents disappeared, the case is still (apparently) open and unsolved. Christopher has taken it upon himself to complete the investigation - "When We Were Orphans" sees him not only move forward with the case, but also look back on his childhood memories of Shanghai. Obviously, his parents feature prominently in these memories - but his friendship with a Japanese boy called Akira was also very important to him. As the book goes on, however, it becomes clear - though unfortunately not to Banks himself - just how unreliable his memories are. Ultimately, the investigation leads to his return to Shanghai - where he hopes to close the case. The trouble, of course, is that while his investigation may uncover the truth, the truth may not be quite what he is expecting...
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