Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Book Review : When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

I read this book years ago when I still resided in England. I was intrigued by Ishiguro-San’s The Remains of The Day and wanted to experience his other works. I liked it, as it was haunting, just like his Never Let Me Go.

I re-read it again about a month ago and just finished it. I don’t remember how I felt when I read it then as but now it has renewed my vigor for his books. I will endeavor to read all his writings.

Anyway, this book is about Christopher who lived in Shanghai in the 1920s with his parents. His father worked for a British company that surreptitiously sells opium to the Chinese. His mother hated the fact that they are doing it and is a strong advocate for the practice to stop. His mother held meetings in their house, fighting for the cause while pressuring his father to try and put a stop to it all.

One day his father disappeared. Sometime later, his mother too vanished. Christopher had to return to England to live with an aunt, leaving behind his still missing parents and best friend and neighbour, Akira, a Japanese boy.

After his parents’ disappearance and through out school, he developed investigative tendencies and to no-one’s surprise became the most celebrated private investigator in England. But of course, his biggest case would be to find out what happened to his parents.

This is a good book. I like the way the daily happenings in his life reminded him of occurrences and incidents in Shanghai, some leading to the fateful day his parents vanished, somewhat giving him more clues to investigate. I also, rather bizarrely I might add, like the silly way Christopher and the British government was portrayed during his investigation. His parents had been missing for a good 20 years, in suspicious circumstances due to opium trading and I think at that point, he had just returned to Shanghai to start his investigations. Imagine my surprise when upon his arrival, they were planning a party of Mr and Mrs Bank’s return. A notion that he did nothing to dispel. Even I was skeptical that he might ever find his parents alive. At that point, the only smart cookie who grasped the absurdity of it all was the wounded Japanese soldier that Christopher thought to be that of his friend Akira. Before they were found by the Japanese army, he tried telling Christopher that they could have been dead !!

But at the end, one guy held the answer. A person whom he looked up to, so much so that when his father went missing he thought things will be all right because uncle Philips is around. It turned out the Banks' disappearance was not sinister at all. Well, at least on his father’s side that is. His mom’s circumstances were pitiful and sad and he did find her in the end. 1 month before her death, he found his beautiful mother but sadly, she couldn’t recognise him. She was suffering from dementia and living in a care home. She couldn’t identify his name either, only when he mentioned his pet name, Puffin, did her eyes lit up and she was so happy, thinking about the little boy she had to leave behind, never realizing her beloved Puffin was in front of her.

Sad and haunting.