Yurij Mikhalevich
December 5, 2019

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

TL;DR: 8/10. I like the book; it is a captivating story written in a fantastic style, which I completely fell in love with! There are a few weird moments in the second part of the book, but they can be perceived realistically, depending on your perspective. Also, the climax of the novel truly deserves a “what a twist” meme reaction :-D

I think it would be no bad thing if boys like you all grew up with a bit of everything. We might all treat each other a good deal better then. Be less of these wars for one thing. Oh yes. Perhaps one day, all these conflicts will end, and it won’t be because of great statesmen or churches or organisations like this one. It’ll be because people have changed. They’ll be like you, Puffin. More a mixture. So why not become a mongrel? It’s healthy.

The author tells us the story of a boy named Christopher, who spends his childhood in Shanghai, loses his parents under mysterious circumstances, and grows up with his aunt in London to become a successful and renowned detective. That was a summary of the first half of the book. The second half, or more precisely, the last third of the book starts with Christopher moving to Shanghai to once and for all finally close his parents’ case, and, hopefully, find them. By that time, he gathered all the evidence he thinks he needs, and, most importantly, enough confidence to finish the mission that is about to bring quite a few surprises and reunite him with a childhood friend.

“I can see it might look that way. At least to someone observing me with a cynical eye.” “I hope I don’t observe you in that way. It would upset me to think I did so.”

The number one thing I love about the book is the author’s style. It makes me want to read his other books. I also like the plot and that the story develops along two different timelines in parallel to each other for most of the book. I enjoyed the “detective” aspect of the book. In addition, it is interesting, and adds to the story a lot, that the author touches the subject of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the implications it had. Furthermore, I like a lot of small scenes through the book due to the combination of style and story.

Here, in other words, at the heart of the maelstrom threatening to suck in the whole of the civilised world, is a pathetic conspiracy of denial; a denial of responsibility which has turned in on itself and gone sour, manifesting itself in the sort of pompous defensiveness I have encountered so often. And here they now were, the so-called elite of Shanghai, treating with such contempt the suffering of their Chinese neighbours across the canal.

What I don’t like about the book is a few weird moments in the last third part of it, which made me question Christopher’s sanity. However, maybe it was the intention of the author. Also, the main plot twist was unexpected and didn’t resonate with the mood of the book for me.

Overall, the book is a great entertaining read; the style is fantastic, and I recommend it!

Builds the future at Lightning AI, creator of the Move Fast and Break Things community of software engineers, DeepLearning.AI mentor, creator of rclip, writes about tech, software engineering, books, what to watch, and beyond, practices creative writing and captures moments through photography
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