When We Were Orphans

  • by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Narrated by John Lee
  • 10 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.A feat of narrative skill and soaring imagination, When We Were Orphans is Kazuo Ishiguro at his brilliant best.


What the Critics Say

"John Lee conveys both Banks' intelligence and his uneasy depths in this fine performance, which far surpasses the print version as a reading experience." (AudioFile)
"Goes much further than even The Remains of the Day in its examination of the roles we've had handed to us... His fullest achievement yet." (The New York Times Book Review)
"With his characteristic finesse, Mr. Ishiguro infuses what seems like a classic adventure story with an ineffable tinge of strangeness." (The Wall Street Journal)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Just short of 5 stars

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read...whatever is the equivalent of a "page turner" in audibooks. Part of the pleasure comes from the way the narrator, Christopher Banks, looks back on his life and tries to piece together his faded memories. The way that Ishiguro writes this is what makes it so enjoyable. The book is full of colorful recollections of a childhood in Shanghai, as well as a series of adventures as Banks returns as an adult to try to discover how and why his parents had disappeared (thereby making him an orphan) when he was a young child in Shanghai. He undertakes his quest just as the Japanese are invading Shanghai in the late 1930's and parts of the city are war zones with terrible destruction and danger. His insistence on endangering not only himself, but everyone who offers him assistance, sometimes struck me as implausible. Perhaps, I am missing an obvious point being made about the protagonist, but this was the one shortcoming of the novel and the reason I gave it 4 stars, rather than 5. It's really a terrific book to listen to, and the narration is superb. Highly recommended.
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- Everett Leiter

A Great book well read

I've read other listeners' comments that the audio quality was bad and, perhaps its been corrected, but the quality and editing on the version I downloaded in Feb. 2010 was great. As for the dropped pot lines, I'm simply baffled. This is not by any stretch a typical mystery novel and perhaps those comments were submitted by disappointed fans of tidy stories where all details are wrapped up in the last chapter by the omniscient sleuth - who usually gets the girl. Here, our hero is a flawed, accidental, and sometimes pompous, British imperialist who just happens to be a detective but is really just a man trying to understand his place in pre-WWII history in Shanghai. Ultimately he is just an orphan who is trying to find out what happened to his parents who disappeared when he was just a boy. A great novel set in an all too neglected setting in 20th century Asia.
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- Jim

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-27-2005
  • Publisher: HarperAudio