Customer Reviews for

When We Were Orphans

Average Rating 3.5
( 25 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Complimenting the reader with a subtle pen

It is difficult not to think of Ismail Merchant, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and James Ivory when reading this book. Merchant Ivory¿s films are consistently exceptional in there own right, while never dismembering the book you may have so enjoyed. But to think this is anythin...
It is difficult not to think of Ismail Merchant, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and James Ivory when reading this book. Merchant Ivory¿s films are consistently exceptional in there own right, while never dismembering the book you may have so enjoyed. But to think this is anything less than a brilliant piece of writing would be unfair, and to suggest this is a ready-made screenplay is absurd. Mr. Ishiguro is a magnificent writer. He need not be shrill to make a point, nor profane to shock or maintain the reader¿s attention. The cadence of this novel is leisurely, and being such it produces widely disparate understandings amongst readers. I enjoyed parts of all the 6 reviews I read, as I was not the only one who wasn¿t precisely sure when I had found solid ground when reading this work. I believe if read a second time the truth would be very apparent. That a second effort may be required is yet another testament to the writer, and in no way insulting to the reader. The protagonist suffers painful events as a child. There is no reasonable way they could not cause terrible damage, and then leave their scars. Mr. Ishiguro explores this gently, just as the victim may not overtly manifest outrageous behavior. His careful treatment of Christopher is not vague or deficient, it reads as being appropriate, and exposes the results of his traumas with the time and care they need. ¿Threads¿ are often used to describe the storyline of a work. In many books I would suggest they are more like mooring ropes. In this book threads is being generous, for the first person narrative is not written deceptively, but can be construed differently by a group of readers. I think this is great. It¿s quite rare to read a contemporary work that does not hammer away at a tired theme, disclose the end when the prologue has barely been passed, or just insult the reader by presuming we are encephalitic illiterates. (Not trying to showboat, just loved the sound of those two words) It took what was probably the most jarring event to finally convince me I wasn¿t lost. And the event was much closer to the end than the start. What is real, and what is not will be decided by how carefully you read, and how cautious you are with the limitations of first person narrative. It is not a method that allows for much independent verification. However, I never felt frustrated, as the writer is so good and the read so enjoyable. I wish I could say more, but I would ruin what the book will be for you. I can say you will enjoy the read immensely.

posted by Anonymous on October 4, 2000

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Cold Character in a warm Climate

While the story of Christopher's search for his parents promised so much, the cold pomposity of his character, combined with his self absorbtion and general lack of concern with anyone else's feelings made this a tough read. For a book to really soar one has to have at ...
While the story of Christopher's search for his parents promised so much, the cold pomposity of his character, combined with his self absorbtion and general lack of concern with anyone else's feelings made this a tough read. For a book to really soar one has to have at least some sympathy with it's protagonists, but in this book it was hard from the outset.

posted by Anonymous on July 12, 2002

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2002

    Cold Character in a warm Climate

    While the story of Christopher's search for his parents promised so much, the cold pomposity of his character, combined with his self absorbtion and general lack of concern with anyone else's feelings made this a tough read. For a book to really soar one has to have at least some sympathy with it's protagonists, but in this book it was hard from the outset.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2001

    A story of perceptions and misperceptions

    This story is about a generally dislikeable fellow. He has a high opinion of himself, but very little esteem. He spends the majority of his life trying to prove his worth not only to himself but to others around him. As this story unravels, the last few pages give a glimmer of light that he has finally discovered a bit a meaning in living.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2000

    Complimenting the reader with a subtle pen

    It is difficult not to think of Ismail Merchant, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and James Ivory when reading this book. Merchant Ivory¿s films are consistently exceptional in there own right, while never dismembering the book you may have so enjoyed. But to think this is anything less than a brilliant piece of writing would be unfair, and to suggest this is a ready-made screenplay is absurd. Mr. Ishiguro is a magnificent writer. He need not be shrill to make a point, nor profane to shock or maintain the reader¿s attention. The cadence of this novel is leisurely, and being such it produces widely disparate understandings amongst readers. I enjoyed parts of all the 6 reviews I read, as I was not the only one who wasn¿t precisely sure when I had found solid ground when reading this work. I believe if read a second time the truth would be very apparent. That a second effort may be required is yet another testament to the writer, and in no way insulting to the reader. The protagonist suffers painful events as a child. There is no reasonable way they could not cause terrible damage, and then leave their scars. Mr. Ishiguro explores this gently, just as the victim may not overtly manifest outrageous behavior. His careful treatment of Christopher is not vague or deficient, it reads as being appropriate, and exposes the results of his traumas with the time and care they need. ¿Threads¿ are often used to describe the storyline of a work. In many books I would suggest they are more like mooring ropes. In this book threads is being generous, for the first person narrative is not written deceptively, but can be construed differently by a group of readers. I think this is great. It¿s quite rare to read a contemporary work that does not hammer away at a tired theme, disclose the end when the prologue has barely been passed, or just insult the reader by presuming we are encephalitic illiterates. (Not trying to showboat, just loved the sound of those two words) It took what was probably the most jarring event to finally convince me I wasn¿t lost. And the event was much closer to the end than the start. What is real, and what is not will be decided by how carefully you read, and how cautious you are with the limitations of first person narrative. It is not a method that allows for much independent verification. However, I never felt frustrated, as the writer is so good and the read so enjoyable. I wish I could say more, but I would ruin what the book will be for you. I can say you will enjoy the read immensely.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2006

    Mystery within a mystery

    If you want a conventional story, this is not the author, nor the book for you. But if you love a challenging read, one that you will think about and savor long after you are finished, you will not be disappointed. I wish he would write a book every year.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2000

    A DEFT WRITER AT THE TOP OF HIS FORM

    Nagasaki born London based novelist Kazuo Ishiguro has produced an impressive body of work which has brought him international acclaim. His third novel, The Remains Of The Day, has been called one of the most beautifully written in contemporary English literature. The same may be said of his latest, When We Were Orphans, an unparalleled masterpiece of limitless imagination and impeccable prose. In several of Mr. Ishiguro's previous offerings the protagonist reflects upon his life and the events that have molded it. So it is once more as we meet Christopher Banks, an Englishman who enjoyed an early childhood of comparative luxury with his mother and father in Shanghai, China. Their home was owned by a British company for whom the boy's father worked, a company which seemingly bore some responsibility for the opium trade. At the age of nine, Christopher is abruptly left alone when first his father and then his mother mysteriously disappear. The boy is dispatched to the care of an aunt who lives in England. Upon completion of his schooling Christopher fulfills his dream of becoming a detective. . But the unexplained disappearance of his parents has haunted him and he returns to Shanghai in 1937, at the height of the Sino-Japanese conflagration, to piece this puzzle together. Yet, the heart of Mr. Ishiguro's intriguing work is not to be found in the unraveling of a mystery, but rather in the labyrinth of human mind and memory - what is real, what is imagined, what is wished for? When We Were Orphans is the result of a gifted, meditative author in praiseworthy form. It is a marvel of exquisitely drawn controlled prose, a complexly plotted drama, one to be savored and admired.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    When We Were Orphans unfolds in a very interesting way. On the

    When We Were Orphans unfolds in a very interesting way. On the surface this novel is about our narrator, Christopher Banks, a renowned London detective whose parents were kidnapped in Shanghai when he was a child. We follow him as he builds his name in London society, all the while with the intent of someday returning to Shanghai to solve his parents' kidnapping. Christopher is at first presented as a clear-minded, logical person; a detective in the mold of Holmes. Though even early on we are given hints that he is not entirely self-aware. It is when he finally returns to Shanghai, some 20 plus years after his parents disappeared, that we see who Christopher really is. Amidst the turmoil of the Japanese invasion Christopher's fantasy world comes crashing down, and we see just how emotionally stunted and willfully delusional he is, and has been since the very beginning. As he struggles to maintain his illusions we watch while his characters devolves. Simultaneously the structure and tone of the novel devolve in a powerful echo of Christopher's shattering world. Ishiguro pulls this off beautifully, and while this is not my favorite of his novels it's certainly his most ambitious, and a great read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2013

    Miss Mari

    Miss Mari goes to bed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    To sapphirekit

    Are u there?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2013

    Quality storytelling craftsmanship - a must read!

    Kazuo Ishiguro has mastered the art of creating a slightly surreal mood in his novels. Nothing is as it first seems and one is left pondering the deeper questions in life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2003

    One thing I've learned.

    To tell if a book is going to be good, when purchasing or borrowing, compare the font size of the author's name with the font size of the book's title. If the author's name is the biggest item on the cover, keep on walking. The publisher is trying to sell a runner-up based on past glories. This holds true for When We Were Orphans. Ishiguro has established himself with Remains of the Day. Now, whatever he writes is piggy-backed on that success. Thus, the publishing house is trying to make money off the name. A decent book and I suppose I enjoyed it. I've read worse.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2002

    A major disappointment

    Ishiguro is extremely talented: A Pale View of Hills and Remains are both great books. That's what makes this sad effort so infuriating. While Ishiguro's command of prose is as impressive as ever, the narrative falls apart completely halfway through. (Others have summarized the plot, so I won't do so here.) Once Christopher returns to Shanghai, Ishiguro seems to give up on the book. Perhaps he was uncertain of how to end the book and simply rushed through an incredible conclusion simply to enable himself to pack this one off to the publishers? I have nothing against authors using an evidently unreliable first person narrative to introduce an element of uncertainty - this works acceptably through the first half of the book. But such a device is not an excuse for failing to make the narrative believable, or for having it adhere to some form of logic, even if that logic is oblique. The cartoonish, pulp-novel unbelievability of Christopher's final 'adventure' is silly and tedious, ultimately an insult to Ishiguro's readers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2001

    This is an utterly boring book

    The main character Banks is about as gripping as a live eel. The story is narrated through him and the reader can only guess at how conservative, friendless, boring, and pathetic the Banks hiding beneath a stiff upper lip and a lot of detecting jargon might be. It is hard to have a lot of sympathy or even empathy for a character so unlikeable. As such the one scene which is even vaguely a candidate for poignancy - where Banks finally meets his senile and estranged mother - is rendered useless because you've just stop caring about his quest for his parents. The cold, unexciting narrative style lingers on irrelevant details, spins out events as if they were more profound than they are and attempts to dress up a substancial lack of a cohesive plot. Banks is utterly unbelievable, changing his mind hilly-nilly not to suit the demands of a credible character but to suit the bizarre twists and turns of a random and rambling plot line. The plot for the record is not only random - it is also very boring. The childhood memories are about as nostalgic as a maths lesson - and a maths lesson serves a puropse which is more than we can say for most of these annoying episodes. If you are alone on a desert island and only have this to read I would consider adding it to your fire fuel or supply of bog roll.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2000

    Masterfully worded, lacking depth...

    This book I thought was intricately worded and the author is no doubt great at creating a detailed atmosphere, but the story overall was lacking in depth and I could not find myself really getting in touch with the main character. Not the best read, but in all pleasantly satisfactory.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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