Wednesday, February 3, 2010
When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
Having enjoyed other novels by Kazu Ishiguro’s when I was offered the chance to borrow a copy of When We Were Orphans written in 2000 I decided to accept. An agreeable read which although I found slow to start with it 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 expat 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 over as a bumbling tragic character and it is difficult to imagine him as the well respected detective he has become.
Since the age of nine when he was orphaned Christopher has always been haunted by the unresolved case of his parents disappearance, which he has always believed was a kidnapping. Having become a detective he is now more than ever determined to return to Shanghai and solve the case, despite the fact that the city is now under attack by the Japanese Army.
His memories of the city and the difficulties he encounters especially in trusting the people around him make this latter part of the novel much more atmospheric reading than the earlier parts.
By the end I was thoroughly drawn in to the story that had slowly built and which the author manages to bring to a convincing conclusion.