When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
Having enjoyed other novels by Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go), when I was offered the chance to borrow a copy of When We Were Orphans – written in 2000 – I decided to accept. This is an agreeable read which, although I found it slow to start with, made me think about childhood loss and how memory can play tricks.
The protagonist is Christopher Banks, born in Shanghai to a British couple early in the twentieth century. There he led the happy sheltered life of an expatriate of the time until the mysterious disappearance of his parents. The story is narrated by Christopher as now some twenty years later he is living in London, having been sent to England after becoming an orphan. He comes across as a bumbling tragic character and it is difficult to imagine him as the well-respected detective he has become.
Since he was orphaned at the age of nine, Christopher has been haunted by the unresolved case of his parents’ disappearance, which he has always believed was a kidnapping. Now as a detective he’s more determined than ever to return to Shanghai to solve the case; this despite the fact that the city is under attack by the Japanese army. His memories of the city and the difficulties he encounters – especially in attempting to trust the people around him – make this latter part of the novel far more atmospheric than the earlier stages.
By the end, I was thoroughly drawn in to this story that had built slowly but which the author managed to bring to a convincing (and satisfying) conclusion.
This review was written by LindyLouMac and is reprinted with her permission. She is an expatriate who lives in Italy with her husband. Read more of her informative reviews at http://lindyloumacbookreviews.blogspot.com/ .