Audio Review: When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

29 Sep

When We Were OrphansMy rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I really wanted to give this 3 stars. I spent the whole book telling myself this was good writing because it was Kazuo Ishiguro.  But really, in the end, I can’t quite say I liked it.

Christopher Banks, an English boy born in early-20th-century Shanghai, is orphaned at age nine when both his mother and father disappear under suspicious circumstances. He grows up to become a renowned detective, and more than 20 years later, returns to Shanghai to solve the mystery of the disappearances.
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.

The only other book of Ishiguro’s that I’ve read is Never Let Me Go, which may be one of my favorite books, it certainly makes my top 20. Given that I’ve heard so much positive buzz about him, it’s then something of a surprise that I haven’t read anything else he’s written.

When this book appeared at in a sale at, I figured it was time to change that. Nevertheless, it sat on my MP3 player for another 4 months before I figured I should try to clear out some of the books I own before buying new ones.

I just didn’t enjoy this book.

I’m sure there is supposed to be some deeper meaning behind the crazy unreliability of the narrator, but his delusions kept getting in my way. He was also self centered, and although I found him interesting in his saner moments, I never quite trusted them either.

The plot was interesting, and the writing was good, overall. I just couldn’t cope with the character telling the story.

I kept listening, hoping that something brilliant would pull the whole thing together for me, but sadly, it never did.

Audio Notes

Narrator: I think John Lee did a good job, but his voice didn’t appeal to me for some reason.

Production: I can’t believe that my download was split into two parts mid-sentence.  That’s just nuts.  Other than that, I think it was fine.

Audio vs. Print:  I wonder if I would have liked it better in print.  I can’t put my finger on any reason for thinking I would.  Since I can’t really recommend the book, I won’t recommend a format.


Posted by on September 29, 2010 in books, reviews


Tags: , , ,

4 responses to “Audio Review: When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. Ruth

    September 29, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    I did so like Never Let Me Go – it’s disappointing that this book doesn’t work as well.

  2. Shelley (Book Clutter)

    September 30, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I’ve read and enjoyed a few of Ishiguro’s books, and have wanted to try this one. I’ll try it in print if I ever get to it and see if I like it any better than you did. It’s sometimes kind of nice to go into a book with low expectations.

  3. Amanda

    October 1, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Yeah, I’ll stay away from this one, like I was saying back on Twitter…


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