22 June 2009

When We Were Orphans (Kazuo Ishiguro)

Deepest and most profound apologies for the lack of posting last week. I had a ridiculous week that included attending a roller derby where I felt lucky to have left with all limbs accounted for and a concussion-free head, only to get a blinding headache when I lost my contacts in the ocean the next day and couldn't see for the rest of the afternoon. And I don't know what Earhart has been up to, apart from being deliriously excited that Michael Schumacher was announced as The Stig, only to have her buzz killed when I sent her this link.

THUS, I have had little time to read, let alone post about reading. I am making a triumphant return with this review of an earlier work of Ishiguro's- When We Were Orphans. I LOVE Ishiguro. His stories appear to exist separately from the physical book, Ishiguro merely acting as a narrator of sorts. You can imagine him seated around a campfire with a bunch of friends, marshmallows dripping heavenly globules of sweetness onto the coals as he relates these brilliant tales... tales that are patently honest and true, made more interesting with the poetic spin Ishiguro puts on them.

I think 'natural' is the best way to describe Ishiguro's writing. Considering his prose borders on magical realism a lot of the time 'real' doesn't seem to be the right term, although if anybody could make magic believable it's Ishiguro. He is able to find a place for everything he writes about in the reader's mind and heart, even if the concept is completely alien to them.

That being said, When We Were Orphans is a bit meh. It's crime fiction which is not really my cup of whiskey and the story is constructed in a way that leaves the reader a bit apathetic to the outcome of the story. The novel is about Christopher Banks, a young man who was born in Shanghai but brought up and educated in England after his parents go missing when he is very young. Christopher grows up to become a famous detective, Sherlock Holmesing it around England solving crimes, all the while planning to go to Shanghai and find out where his parents have got to. What he subsequently discovers in Shanghai is quite depressing and involves corruption, death and forced prostitution... not the happy ending we were all hoping for.

The novel is written wonderfully but the story left me a bit cold. For truly heart-wrenching stuff, I'd pick up The Remains of the Day, one of my favourite books EVER.

Rating: 7/10.
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