Book Review: When We Were Orphans

When We Were Orphans, by Kazuo Ishiguro

This first-person account of a man’s gradual discovery of his past opens in 1923 London and moves back and forth through time, ending with the protagonist Christopher Banks questioning his ‘great vocation’ as a private detective and understanding that his quest to solve his parents’ disappearance has made him a perpetual orphan, still seeking even after his mission is fulfilled. Ishiguro demonstrates control and subtlety in conveying the unreliability of first-person narration, as he paints more and more detail into each corner of the canvas but never quite reveals the whole.

And for a completely opposite view, here is a review by Philip Hensher in The Guardian, who says Ishiguro resists particular concrete details, and that this book needs more “phrasal verbs.”

That’s the kind of book review that makes me think the reviewer would rather have written the book than have read it. Not to disparage Philip Hensher, who is a novelist himself. But Ishiguro’s a genius.

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Posted on: July 31, 2015