Friday, March 20, 2009

When We Were Orphans

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro was originally published in 2000. My hardcover copy has 336 pages. The narrative switches between chapters set in the present where Christopher is a detective in London, and his past as a child in Shanghai. The chapters set when Christopher was a child provide the background for when Christopher decides to return to Shanghai as an adult to search for his parents. The novel is as much psychological as physical. Ishiguro appears to have borrowed some of the hallucinatory world of The Unconsoled in that Christopher is an unreliable narrator and parts feel like a dream world. Basically, this novel throws in to question Christopher's childhood memories as well as his observations. Recommended

Synopsis from the publisher:
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.
Within the layers of the narrative told in Christopher's precise, slightly detached voice are revealed what he can't, or wont, see: that the simplest desires—a child's for his parents, a man's for understanding—may give rise to the most complicated truths.

"In fact, it had become a matter of some irritation to me that my schoolfriends, for all their readiness to fall into banter concerning virtually any other of one's misfortunes, would observe a great solemness at the first mention of my parents' absence." pg. 6

"However, for all my caution, I can bring to mind at least two instances from school that suggest I must, at least occasionally, have lowered my guard sufficiently to give some idea of my ambitions. I was unable even at the time to account for these incidents, and am no closer to doing so today.
The earliest of these occurred on the occasion of my fourteenth birthday....What I did eventually uncover was a weathered leather case, and when I undid the tiny catch and raised the lid, a magnifying glass." pgs. 8-9

"I never heard any further talk concerning my aspirations to be a "Sherlock," but for some time afterwards I had a niggling concern that my secret had gone out and become a topic for discussion behind my back." pg. 10

"Even now, if I were for a moment to close my eyes, I could with ease transport myself back to that bright morning in Shanghai and the office of Mr. Harold Anderson, my father's superior in the great trading company of Morganbrook and Byatt." pg. 25

"We children, he said, were like the twine that kept the slats held together. A Japanese monk had once told him this. We often failed to realise it, but it was we children who bound not only a family, but the whole world together. If we do not do our part, the slats would fall and scatter over the floor." pg. 77

"Here, in other words, at the heart of the maelstrom threatening to suck in the whole of the civilised world, is a pathetic conspiracy of denial; a denial of responsibility which has turned in on itself and gone sour, manifesting itself in the sort of pompous defensiveness I have encountered so often." pg. 173

"She wrote of how our childhood becomes like a foreign land once we have grown." pg. 297

1 comment:

samantha.1020 said...

I read this one awhile ago and enjoyed it. I've been meaning to read more by this author but just haven't picked up any other books by him yet. Great review!