Monday, July 29, 2013

When We Were Orphans By Kazuo Ishiguro

When We Were Orphans

This is my fourth Ishiguro novel, with the first three being Never Let Me Go, The Remains of the Day, and A Pale View of Hills. Like the other three novels, this one also has an elaborate prose as well as an unreliable narrator, both of which are elements that I appreciate.

I enjoyed reading the first part of the novel, in which Christopher describes the English high-class society in the 1930s as well as his childhood back in Shanghai. These descriptions, especially the ones concerning Christopher's childhood, are all very novel and interesting.

However, the story kind of falls apart after Christopher goes back to Shanghai. He gives the readers the impression that his return to Shanghai will somehow solve all the problems there, yet he never explains what exactly he is doing.  He also has quite an unrealistic attitude regarding his parents' rescue-- what makes him think that his parents have been held captive in the same location for more than 20 years?

Actually, Christopher's unrealistic assumption about what he can achieve isn't what makes the second half of the book unappealing. After all, throughout the book we see that Christopher has faulty evaluations of himself: he does not think he was a loner, and he thinks he behaved very well during his journey to England. This suggests that Christopher's status as a great detective might also be only a product of his mind.

I think I didn't like the second half of the book because everything is chaotic. There is suddenly this "Yellow Snake" figure, which is only briefly explained. Also, Christopher goes from one location to another, and suddenly he is in the midst of the fighting. In addition, there is a significantly smaller amount of reminiscing-- which is what I think makes Ishiguro's novels so appealing.

So overall, I didn't like When We Were Orphans as much as Ishiguro's other works. Still it was an interesting read and a page-turner.