When We Were Orphans: A Novel (Vintage International) (Paperback)

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When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro is set in England and China. Banks lived with his parents in the Internation-al Settlement of Shanghai until his ninth year when both his parents disappeared, one after the other. The orphaned child was taken to England to live with relatives. Sent off to boarding school Banks embraces everything British, and as an adult achieving some renown as a private detective. The first half of the story shifts time frames from Banks’ childhood in Shanghai and his life as a bon vivant private eye in London. His life’s work was set the moment his parents disappeared, the mystery there to be solved. In 1937 Banks realizes his career has been leading up to this moment, that the mystery he has been training to solve is the disappearance of his parents. His mother was openly critical of the opium trade, an unpopular notion at the time. Banks has the idea that if he can find his parents he can avert the storm clouds of war fast closing in, that they are all tied up together. The novel now shifts as Banks encounters people from his past in Shanghai and the reader realizes he may be an unreliable narrator. A major theme of the book is the question of reality, as Banks sees himself in one way while others may see him quite differently. This adds a deeper element of suspense and a surrealistic feel to the story. The writing is absolutely brilliant, the story drawing the reader in and going unexpected places, not only entertaining but also giving much to think about long after the last page is finished. Ishiguro can be a playful writer, while also exploring such weighty concepts as self-awareness and whose version is reality. His earlier book, Remains of the Day, winner of the Man Booker Prize, is a masterpiece. This is an author well worth reading, he challenges and entertains.

— Deon Stonehouse


From the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of the Booker Prize–winning novel The Remains of the Day comes this stunning work of soaring imagination.
Born in early-twentieth-century Shanghai, Banks was orphaned at the age of nine after the separate disappearances of his parents. Now, more than twenty years later, he is a celebrated figure in London society; yet the investigative expertise that has garnered him fame has done little to illuminate the circumstances of his parents' alleged kidnappings. Banks travels to the seething, labyrinthine city of his memory in hopes of solving the mystery of his own, painful past, only to find that war is ravaging Shanghai beyond recognition-and that his own recollections are proving as difficult to trust as the people around him.

Masterful, suspenseful and psychologically acute, When We Were Orphans offers a profound meditation on the shifting quality of memory, and the possibility of avenging one’s past.

About the Author

Kazuo Ishiguro is the 2017 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His work has been translated into more than 40 languages. Both The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go have sold more than 1 million copies, and both were adapted into highly acclaimed films. Ishiguro's other work includes The Buried Giant, Nocturnes, A Pale View of the Hills, and An Artist of the Floating World.

Praise For…

"Swift, compelling, moving, irresistible."
--The Baltimore Sun

"Goes much further than even The Remains of the Day in its examination of the roles we've had handed to us... His fullest achievement yet."
--The New York Times Book Review

"You seldom read a novel that so convinces you it is extending the possibilities of fiction."
--Sunday Times (London)

"Poignant... When We Were Orphans may well be Ishiguro's most capacious book so far."
--Pico Iyer, The New York Review of Books

"[A]n imaginative work of surpassing intelligence and taste."
--Joyce Carol Oates, Times Literary Supplement

"With his characteristic finesse, Mr. Ishiguro infuses what seems like a classic adventure story with an ineffable tinge of strangeness."
--The Wall Street Journal
Product Details
ISBN: 9780375724404
ISBN-10: 0375724400
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: October 30th, 2001
Pages: 352
Language: English
Series: Vintage International