When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

About the book

1930s, England. Christopher Banks has become the country’s most celebrated detective, his cases the talk of London society. Yet one unsolved crime has always haunted him: the mysterious disappearance of his parents, in old Shanghai, when he was a small boy. Moving between London and Shanghai of the inter-war years, When We Were Orphans is a remarkable story of memory, intrigue and the need to return.

Reviewed by Shipton Bellinger W I Reading Group

This book was enjoyed by the majority of the group. It was well written and very atmospheric . . . The part of the book dealing with pre-war Shanghai was enjoyed by all. As in ‘Remains of the Day’ the main character was a flawed personality, the outsider, but then as someone pointed out ‘aren’t we all’. Well worth reading.
Star rating ***

Reviewed by U3A Book Group 4

Most of the group liked it enough to finish it but found it slow and somewhat confusing.
Star rating **

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2 thoughts on “When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro”

  1. Reviewed by New Forest/Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature
    Having engaged in not one, but two discussions of this book, the general feeling emerged from within the group that we had either misunderstood what novel writing is all about, or the numerous complimentary critics listed on the back cover were suffering from mass ‘the king’s new clothes’ syndrome. In writing style and plot structure Ishiguro is not so much ploughing new ground as clearing a brown field site. As for interesting imaging of war and its effects on ordinary people; Pat Barker does it much better. If the style of writing was meant to highlight the disjointed nature of the lives of orphans or virtual orphans its success was doubtful, since it irritated most readers almost to the point of giving up early on. Clearly Christopher and Sarah did not move out of their childhoods until late in life, but this is not a complaint exclusive to orphans: Jennifer fared better than many. This book benefits from the reading discipline a group imposes. One lady enjoyed it unreservedly!
    Star rating ***

  2. Reviewed by Southampton U3A
    We did not enjoy this book as we though it had a ‘nightmarish’ quality. We thought it was written in a stilted style and the author shows he is unaware of English idiom and social structure.
    Star rating ***

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