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3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-10 of 10 reviews(1 star). See all 130 reviews
on April 12, 2002
Oh how I hated this book. Sometimes I give up on a book when it is written poorly or with poor story craftsmanship. But in the case of When We Were Orphans, I was so disgusted with the poor quality of the story itself that I willed my self to finish it just so I could come home one day and write a review for Amazon. ... Ishiguro has written like a high schooler who has good technical ability but is not mature enough to actually think his story through. I kept finding myself chuckling at the absurdity of still thinking one's parents were alive and in the same darn house after having been kidnapped 30 years earlier. Huh?? I was also constantly reminded of the Belgian comic hero TinTin and his two-dimensional journies around the exotic regions of the globe....all 11 year old adolescent fantasy and thinness. Maybe the meditations on a child's memories make this the actual point??
A highly respected journalist friend of mine has one primary test for the quality of a story: do all the dots get connected in the end? And in the case of When We Were Orphans, the dots are not only disconnected - they keep disappearing as the story unfolds. Weak characters, simplistic plot devices, lazy story construction, offensive simplicity, etc. etc. I admit my vitriol is in large part motivated by a sense of disappointment after the oft praised Remains of the Day and even An Artist of the Floating World. Sorry Ishiguro....this is terribly weak and I suspect you know it. I'll give you another chance on your next novel though.
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on January 4, 2001
If you pick up this book because of the reputation of this author based on his prior works, please read this review. I want to share my experience so people don't have to go through the same disappointment I had on this one. The story happened in Shanghai and London in the 30's to 40's. Although the author has collected much depiction of lives then and there, he has failed to exercise logic and common sense in developing his storylines, especially toward the ending of the book.
For example, the main character of the book, a famous detective from London, went back to Shanghai to solve the mysterious disappearance of his parents that happened nearly 20 years ago. He also expected to "solve the problems in Shanghai", as if him along represents utmost power and justice for the world. With the background set in the war-time Shanghai, isn't it absurd that he would get any attention and support from the British government, and the Chinese police force in the middle of a blood bath? Why would they care about this private detective and his aged case while so many lives were endangered, and bombs flying around? But the author continued to build his dreamy storyline with something I can only call arrogance, which totally ignored the relevance and significance of the background. This book is created in a most absurd and illogical setting that makes finishing it quite a painful experience.
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The only reason I read this lame novel is because of the reviews it received. Boy, was I misled. What are you people thinking? This was an absolutely boring and stupid story. In an effort to justify your glowing reviews, you artsy intellectual types are trying to invent non-existent motives and intentions behind Ishiguro's work. Lets face it, the book made no sense and the plot lines were difficult and pointless. For example, after several years the "great detective" Christopher Banks still thinks kidnappers are holding his parents in a house that is in the middle of a war zone! Give me a break! The love interest is equally stupid. Every two to four years the main character has a breif chance incounter with an aggresive female social climber and from this we are to assume that they are deeply in love--wow!! What a leap!! Now I know that some of you philisophical types are thinking that I just don't get the deeper underlying meanings behind the trauma that afflicts Christopher Banks. But how can I invent some explanation that is not made clear by the author. If this book was as good as some of the reviews suggest, then why are its sales so poor? The reason why this book is no longer on the front racks of my local Barnes and Noble book store is because it is bad! My only consolation is that I was able to check it out of the local library (there was no wait to check it out) and I did not have to waste money on a purchase.
Dr. Robert D. Petersen Ph.D. Educational Administration
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on March 7, 2002
We read this book for book club, with high expectatations. 6 out of 6 women agreed that they had never met a character more unlikeable than that of Christopher Banks - self involved, conceited, and lacked any self perception!!
Additionally, the characters did not tie together at all. What was the point of Jennifer? How absurd was it that Christopher stumbles across his long lost friend Akira just in time to force him on to a house where he honestly believes his parents were being held captive for something like 30 years?
The most interesting character was Sarah, who was also the only figure with any character development along the way.
Skip this book. A big waste of time.
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on December 25, 2000
I have never written a review before but felt compelled, in this case, in the hope of sparing someone else the torture of this book. The storyline becomes more preposterous as it progresses culminating in the last quarter of the book in a mishmash that seems to be either a dream or a hallucination. I forced myself to finish it since, after all, it is a mistery and I wanted to know the ending. However Ishiguro seems to insist that all is real by transitioning to a believable (albeit very disapointing) ending. In effect, he appears to be saying: "that's my story and I am sticking to it". When I finally put the book down, I felt I had been cheated of the time it took to read it.
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on January 27, 2002
A couple of years ago when this novel was first published in England, I purchased it at Heathrow Airport before getting on my flight home. Unfortunately, it was the only book I had on the plane. Otherwise, I could not have gotten past the first 20 pages. This is one of the worst novels I have ever read. The plot is implausible. The prose is strained. The characters are wooden. It insults the reader's intelligence over and over. Ever put a joke in the middle of a college term paper to test whether your professor would really read what you wrote? I wonder if Ishiguro let someone ghost-write this novel to test the integrity of book reviewers.
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on April 27, 2002
I admit that I have not yet finished the book, and so perhaps should reserve judgement, but I won't. There are so many absurdities, unexpainable assumuptions made by the characters, both major and minor that I finally concluded that Ishiguro was attempting to write somthing Kafkaesque and, for me, only succedding in making Banks and many of the other charactrers appear deliberately obtuse. Like other reviewers, I am terribly bored by the book, which is admittedly very elegantly written, but I am put of by its abusurdity, which is tiresome and not at all compelling.
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on November 8, 2000
Having read Remains of the Day I was excited to see that he had written a new book. The first chapters were interesting as they described his boyhood friend and their days of play.
The final chapters were disappointing. Expecting to find his parents after 22+ years of no contact really left me amazed that he expected to find them. Improbable and this got in the way of the enjoyment of the story.
It was as though it was written by a student of his, using his signature. I won't rush to read the next one if this is what I can expect.
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on January 15, 2001
"When We Were Orphans" is passionless. My sister and I both received the detective novel for the holidays, and when we discussed it over lunch the other day, I discovered that I was not alone in my confusion about key plot points and storytelling devices - and my lack of empathy and sympathy for its protagonist. I always break the binding of books with a desire to love them - not find fault in them. I do not often feel as dissatisfied as I did while reading and after finishing "When We Were Orphans".
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on October 30, 2000
A major disappointment -- A fan of Ishiguro's earlier work, I really wanted to like this book and forced myself to plow on through but found so many elements that were outrageously ridiculous (the use of the magnifying glass by the adult Christopher, for example; I found myself laughing out loud!) and unforgiveably irrelevant (the fits of giggling by Christopher and Akira in the ruins) that any loyalty I had developed for these characters in the first half of the book was completely destroyed in the second.
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