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Download When We Were Orphans Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample When We Were Orphans, by Kazuo Ishiguro Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (8,377 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Kazuo Ishiguro Narrator: John Lee Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A masterful novel from one of the most admired writers of our time.

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.

Performed by John Lee

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Quotes & Awards

  • “His fullest achievement yet.”

    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.” 

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Poignant...When We Were Orphans may well be Ishiguro’s most capacious book so far.” 

    New York Review of Books

  • “Ishiguro’s latest novel triumphs with the seductiveness of his prose...Ishiguro shows a new mastery of narrative tension, notably with Christopher’s Kafkaesque experience during the Japanese invasion.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “You seldom read a novel that so convinces you it is extending the possibilities of fiction.”

    Sunday Times (London)

  • “[A]n imaginative work of surpassing intelligence and taste.” 

    Times Literary Supplement (London)

  • “Ishiguro shows immense tenderness for his characters. [The novel] confirms Ishiguro as one of Britain’s most formally daring...novelists.” 

    Guardian (London)

  • “Swift, compelling, moving, irresistible.”

    Baltimore Sun

  • “A compelling novel...Readers will both enjoy and admire Ishiguro’s subtle work.”


  • When We Were Orphans is an extraordinary feat of sustained, perfectly controlled imagination, and in Christopher Banks the author has created one of his most memorable characters. ” 

    Amazon.com editorial review

  • “Atmosphere, historical detail, suspense: Ishiguro’s new book has it all...The writing is just wonderful, at once rich and taut. More writers should take style lessons from Ishiguro.”

    Library Journal

  • “An eerie, oddly beautiful tale...Elegiac, meditative, [and] ultimately emotionally devastating.” 

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “John Lee conveys both Banks’ intelligence and his uneasy depths in this fine performance...The reserved, punctiliously grammatical narrator, a first cousin to the butler-narrator of The Remains of the Day, here again offers a dramatic contrast to the backdrop of the times—the Japanese siege of Shanghai in 1937; the growing unrest and uncertainty of a world moving toward war; and the romance, courage, and resolve so identified with that era.” 


  • A 2000 Man Booker Prize Finalist

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Gary | 2/19/2014

    " Not an ending I expected...! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Malini | 2/7/2014

    " The ending is mundane, even disappointing, but this gets five stars for the way in which it evokes the classic English detective genre, and for its wonderful mise-en-scene all across the globe. Ishiguro gets the idealized English character we anglophiles know and love, and it was interesting to see him play with the idea of Asia. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Megan | 2/1/2014

    " One big meh... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Alisha G | 1/29/2014

    " This is the fourth Ishiguro I've read, and the plot-in-the-form-of-recollections is beginning to feel like a gimmick. This isn't as good as The Remains of the Day, but it is an solid novel. Ishiguro tells an excellent story, and tells it well. "

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