Within the layers of the narrative told in Christopher's precise, slightly detached voice are revealed what he can't, or wont, see: that the simplest desires, a child's for his parents, a man's for understanding, may give rise to the most complicated truths.
A feat of narrative skill and soaring imagination, When We Were Orphans is Kazuo Ishiguro at his brilliant best.
©2000 Kazuo Ishiguro; (P)2000 Books on Tape, Inc. and HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
"John Lee conveys both Banks' intelligence and his uneasy depths in this fine performance, which far surpasses the print version as a reading experience." (AudioFile)
"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)
"With his characteristic finesse, Mr. Ishiguro infuses what seems like a classic adventure story with an ineffable tinge of strangeness." (The Wall Street Journal)
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read...whatever is the equivalent of a "page turner" in audibooks. Part of the pleasure comes from the way the narrator, Christopher Banks, looks back on his life and tries to piece together his faded memories. The way that Ishiguro writes this is what makes it so enjoyable. The book is full of colorful recollections of a childhood in Shanghai, as well as a series of adventures as Banks returns as an adult to try to discover how and why his parents had disappeared (thereby making him an orphan) when he was a young child in Shanghai. He undertakes his quest just as the Japanese are invading Shanghai in the late 1930's and parts of the city are war zones with terrible destruction and danger. His insistence on endangering not only himself, but everyone who offers him assistance, sometimes struck me as implausible. Perhaps, I am missing an obvious point being made about the protagonist, but this was the one shortcoming of the novel and the reason I gave it 4 stars, rather than 5. It's really a terrific book to listen to, and the narration is superb. Highly recommended.
I've read other listeners' comments that the audio quality was bad and, perhaps its been corrected, but the quality and editing on the version I downloaded in Feb. 2010 was great. As for the dropped pot lines, I'm simply baffled. This is not by any stretch a typical mystery novel and perhaps those comments were submitted by disappointed fans of tidy stories where all details are wrapped up in the last chapter by the omniscient sleuth - who usually gets the girl. Here, our hero is a flawed, accidental, and sometimes pompous, British imperialist who just happens to be a detective but is really just a man trying to understand his place in pre-WWII history in Shanghai. Ultimately he is just an orphan who is trying to find out what happened to his parents who disappeared when he was just a boy. A great novel set in an all too neglected setting in 20th century Asia.
I am reading all books by this amazing author, after rereading "Remains of the Day".
This novel and the narrator were a perfect match.
John Lee is a superb narrator. His flawless expertise with a myriad of accents provides an unparalleled listening experience. Moreover, I am a fan of Ishiguro's writing, sometimes a dreamy, flowing experience which lends itself well to being read aloud. So, I'm happy with my choice here.
However. WHY did audible.com announce at the beginning of my download---in a very chirpy kids' chorus--AUDIBLE KIDS!! Did someone look at the title of this novel and incorrectly ASSUME this was a children's book? What happened, Audible??
Fight the Power
Someone decided that all it takes to make an audiobook is to DUMP the CDs to a audio file. They were WRONG.
DON'T buy a book that is broken into multiple files in MID-SENTENCE. They didn't care, why should you!
I liked the concept of the story, the dependence on an unreliable narrator for the story. However, the story really didn't make sense at time, because you never find out why people treated the narrator the way they did. He got into strange situations that nobody in their right mind would have helped him with, and we never get an explanation as to why.
He could have written in something other than the same voice he used to write the female character for Never Let Me Go.
Sort of. His accents for various non-English characters bordered on racists stereotypes at time.
I'm torn. I'm glad I read a piece with its perspective, but I wish it had been better.
If you have enjoyed reading Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go (both by Kazuo Ishiguro), you will appreciate When We Were Orphans.
Written with beautiful language, the plot is very creative. Characters are orginal and very human.
John Lee read the book in the most wonderful way, bringing characters to life.
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