When We Were Orphans

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Christopher Banks was born in Shanghai to British parents in the early 20th century while opium was all the rage. His father’s apparent kidnapping is followed shortly afterwards by his mother’s disappearance, and thereafter he is sent back to England. He becomes a successful detective, and eventually returns to Shanghai just prior to the onset of World War II to uncover exactly what happened to his parents. There are revelations, but reaching them takes a long time. Although there is a grace to Ishiguro’s writing, he can also be long-winded, tedious and simply boring. The absurdity he employs may appeal to some readers, but to others it may feel simply like they are trapped in a very literary nightmare. Shanghai lacks the colour it must have had during such a period, and the horrors endured by its citizens are too understated to be shocking. The themes of innocence, family love and the re-writing of one’s history are explored, but may leave readers feeling like they’ve missed something somewhere along the way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *