This review has no spoilers.
I have dedicated this week to Japanese authors. Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki. Although he was raised in England and all reviews refer to him as British, I do think it is precisely his Asiatic background what has allow him to write such beautiful pieces of literature.
Kazuo Ishiguro is the Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017. I can say that he has great stories, and this one is of my favourites, “When We Were Orphans”. The time-lapse is the 1930s and some memories from before that, finishing the book in 1958. The protagonist, Christopher Banks, a British renowned crime detective born in China. His skill is that he can solve any crime, even if it is a cold case. He is a solitary. He is single. He frequents high society parties, only to get bored or adulated by some guests. The only one that pays no attention to him is Miss Sarah Hemmings. They met at a party. They had another encounter a couple of years later. And they kept meeting in those parties, only to have small conversations, that with time became more and more intimate. She got engaged with someone else. She then married a third older fellow. Christopher knows everything as their relationship unfolds only by those encounters. He learnt to guess her feelings. He sees only sadness.
But his mind is also occupied by his own celebrity status and something more sinister. His memories of China, his parents and his best friend from childhood. Those memories don’t let him settle and he returns to China. He wants to find out what happened to his mother, an activist against opium trade, who disappeared one day from their home to never return.
All the story with its characters moved then to an unknown territory, Shanghai. The new circumstances affected them all. China was in war with Japan. Miss Hemmings was also in the city with her husband (an old-drunk-high society-abuser guy). Banks was outside all nights, looking for old acquaintances that could guide him to his own history, and other nights he was trying to save her. He did, and at the same time, he didn’t. He also found the right person that guided him to the whole story about his mother.. He connected all the pieces. All of it inside an ambiance of war, adventure and sentiment. Heartbreaking, and at the same time beautiful.
I cannot recommend this book enough. I don’t think there would be one person who can resist this author and his stories. It has everything, great literature, action, love, hate, sadness and happiness. It involves children, adults, different countries, cultures, superstition, rationality.
I give him its deserved five starts. If you are thinking for a good gift on Christmas think no further.