martes, 10 de febrero de 2009

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

In When We Were Orphans Kazuo Ishiguro constructs the life of Christopher Banks via a series of episodes, ostensibly written by the character himself, between 1930 and 1958. We first meet Christopher as a young Cambridge graduate through his own recollections, recorded from a perspective of several years past. We discover how he was introduced to London’s elite society. It appears that he always hovers on the edge of this group, having neither the birthright nor the connections to penetrate its layers. He does have a pedigree, however. We find ourselves convinced of that from the start.

He has already become a success in his chosen career. It was a Japanese boyhood friend who bought him a magnifying glass when he announced his ambition to be a private investigator, a detective whose individual effort would unearth truths the combined wisdom and talent of armies of police had overlooked. Thankfully, for it could never have succeeded, Kazuo Ishiguro resists the temptation to offer any forensic evidence to support Christopher’s claim of talent in the area. The character’s skill, achievement and eventual fame are therefore taken as read. This, I emphasise, is a strength of the book, not a weakness.

Christopher’s background provides the crucial setting for the book’s plot. He was born in the international settlement of Shanghai, his father an employee of one of the grand colonial era corporations. It is an era when fortunes are still being made from the opium trade, a trade Christopher’s mother vehemently and publicly opposes. The unconventional uncle Philip is an influence on the young boy, as is a Japanese friend, Akira, with whom Christopher seems to spend many hours in limited, rather competitive relationship.

When Christopher’s father disappears, decisions are made about the boy’s future. One day Uncle Philip takes him out and leaves his in the care of strangers, orphaned. He is eventually well catered for, however, is brought up in England and goes to Cambridge. There have been worse fates.

Many years later, Christopher Banks returns to a war-torn Shanghai to solve the mystery of his parents’ disappearance, which he does with unconvincing ease. But throughout, Christopher seems removed from, even above any reality that admits him. He seems to find precisely and only what he wants to find. He demonstrates a separateness that seems so aloof it even allows him to cross lines of conflict whilst apparently remaining above them. On more than one occasion, Ishiguro suggests that this might be naiveté. An interesting point…

When We Were Orphans describes a life that began in an expatriate enclave. Christopher is thus perhaps a cultural orphan as well. He uses his detachment to advantage, but even he cannot fully comprehend the nature of his separation from his parents. When he has discovered all the facts, he realises that he was never less than central in other’s plans, despite remaining ignorant of their motives.

Kazuo Ishiguro’s book is engaging, but ultimately disappointing in that it does not seem able to sustain the momentum or the logic of its own plot. It is beautifully written, but well before the end Christopher Banks seems to retreat into a world of his own, far away from his reader.

View this book on amazon
When We Were Orphans

2 comentarios:

Janet Grace Riehl dijo...

Dear Phillip,

I love your idea--and definition--of a commonplace book as a mental scrapbook, rather than a "what-I-had-for-breakfast" diary.

Your book reviews are extraordinarily literate. I am touched by your biography and what you've made of your life and its work.

I heard of your work on Published Authors.

I have a connection with Africa as well...five years in Ghana and Botswana...and two trips back in 2008.

Janet Riehl

Siladitya dijo...

Did Steve Harvey copy the book title Act Like A Lady Think Like A Man

and theme from an earlier book?

Book with same title & theme copyrighted and published by Sharon P. Carson in 2003

CHICAGO, IL – Sharon P. Carson the author of the original title: Act Like A Lady –Think Like A Man, watched the February 27th episode of the Ophra show on which Steve Harvey was promoting his book of the same title. She was hoping that Steve would reveal to Oprah where he got the title and the theme for the book. It just seemed odd to her that his book had the same title and theme as her book that was copy written in 2003.

Upon subsequently purchasing the book, she found some interesting parallels and realized that it is not unusual for a high profiled person to take a great title and theme, rewrite a book and use their celebrity status to sell it. This she says happens too often to the unsung poets, authors and entrepreneurs of the world.

Steve wrote in his book that his hope was to “empower you with a wide-open look into the minds of men”. Sharon P. Carson wrote in her book in 2003 that her hope was for women to gain some insight into how men think in terms of relationships. Sharon also noted that in chapter 8 of Steve Harvey’s book titled “Why Men Cheat” he came to the same conclusion that she did in chapter 37 of her book, titled “Why would a man cheat”, and the answer was, “because they can”.

Sharon actively promoted her book before the release in January 2009 of Steve Harvey’s book, and would not like to see her promotion efforts hindered. She feels that her book has much to offer from a woman’s perspective and seeks to empower women to practice self love and tough love in relationships.

Before the publication of Steve Harvey’s book of the same title, Sharon bought the domain name: from which she has been selling her book. She has also held seminars with women at a Chicago University in promotion of her book, and can be viewed on the following youtube clip as she was being interviewed on a cable television program about her book in 2007

Mindful of all the self - published poets and authors who have a hard time finding publishers for their works, Sharon is currently consulting with attorneys regarding her options, and hopes that her book with the first and original title of Act Like A Lady Think Like A Man will finally receive the recognition it deserves for the wisdom, encouragement, and empowerment that it provides to women.