Thursday, December 15, 2005

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

This was an interesting book. In some ways, the first half or a bit more reminded me of Mark Haddon's 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime'. Not that Christopher (Puffin) had autism, but that he reports his memories in such a way that we can see clearly he is confused as to the actual facts. The reader (listener) knows more of what is going on than the character, although not everything, and the book is an opportunity for both the reader and the narrator to find out what is actually going on.

The part that broke my heart the most was when Christopher vented his suspicion that the Leftenant (I don't know how it's spelled in the book as I listened to it in Audible) blames him not only for the mess they are in at the time, not being able to cross into Japanese lines, but for the whole entire war. He has spent his life trying to battle the evil, and when people say certain things to him about cutting the evil off at its heart, he takes it to mean that they believe HE and HE ALONE has this responsibility. I assume that is because he feels responsible for what happened to his parents. He carries the entire world on his shoulders. I think this came from the day he realized that something was wrong, and he ran home to save her, but was too late. He then believed it was entirely his fault, and that his mother would feel the same way. It's very unfortunate that Christopher did not get to meet his mother until it was too late for her to really comprehend, but he was able to finally learn that he was not to be blamed for what had happened to her, and that in her heart, she never for one second blamed him or expected him to save her. She loved him unconditionally and only wanted him to be well, and sacrificed everything to that end.

This feeling of responsibility also provided blessings in his life, specifically Jennifer. He felt a responsibility to correct, and also an understanding of, her situation. The indication at the end of the novel indicates that she attempted suicide shows that this has not had some "happily ever after" ending, yet obviously Jennifer is much better off for having had Christopher as her "uncle".

I don't think the soldier Christopher met was Akira, but his memories of Akira did work in his favor in that he was able to find the house he had been searching for. This led to his understanding that he was wrong about where his parents were, and also led to his finding his Uncle Philip finally. That was the only real way he was going to learn the truth of what happened to his parents. I knew there was never a chance that he would kill his uncle.

I liked this book and think it's a great read. I would probably like to read it again with an understanding of what happens at the end, so I can see the "clues" during the first part of the book.

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