When We Were Orphans

London 24/Jul./1930, but starts in the Summer of 1923, where the Narrator has gone against his Aunt’s wishes to return to Shropshire, rents a flat in Kensington, and being quite happy by himself. During a stroll he meets an old school chum, James Osbourne and invites him to come by sometime. The Narrator, or Christopher Banks (as we learn later in the chapter) describes his quaint accommodations, and when Osbourne comes by one morning, Christopher is able to entertain him without it seeming he were his first guest (which he was). Osbourne compliments his room, they catching up on their classmates lives, as well as their own. Then they have an intellectual discussion about German philosophy, showing off either’s studies from different schools, Osbourne then sharing his plans for his career, unbelieving Christopher hadn’t an idea what he’d do yet. He then alluding to having an inkling and would confide further when they developed. Near noon Osbourne readies to leave, then remembering to invite Christopher to a party for a well-known man, Christopher at first not answering and then agreeing after a candid thought from Osbourne about what he was like in school bringing some bitterness. Then a flashback of the moment Osbourne must have been referring is shown, and Christopher having finally asked about Osbourne’s “well connectedness”. Christopher goes into why Osbourne’s evaluation of he being a bit of a fish out of water, bothered him, since he hadn’t felt like he stuck out at all. He didn’t make obvious his interest in private investigating crime, which was also why he didn’t share his career plans with Osbourne.

Although, it becomes clear Christopher may have been more transparent than he realized, when a birthday present from his school chums revealed a case with a magnifying glass inside. The boys fates are shared after this, both dying young, one from war, the other, illness. The only other instance of his ambitions being noted amongst classmates, being when he’d walked into the middle of a conversation about himself which a boy had broken the silence upon his entering, of he not seeming a Sherlock type. The last moment being an overheard discussion between his Aunt and her friends, she deciding she would nip his flightiness in the bud when seeing him using his over-active imagination playing a game he used to play with a boy called Akira. After, Christopher notes his discomfort by Osbourne’s words were only momentary and goes for a walk soon after, he imagining some of the people who could be at the party could possibly including some well-known detectives and fantasized they would take a paternal interest in his career. Whilst his attendance of the night’s coming party would be fruitful, not so much when regarding the anti-social habits of detectives. Instead, the “well-connected” people Osbourne referred were from the business and government-based world. Christopher was flustered with his feeling out of place, and when finally separating from Osbourne, meets an older gentleman whom offers to identify some of the people there, the man noticing Christopher’s attention being captured by a young woman, not for her beauty (oh, no), but because of certain characteristics and body language which suggested a dark underbelly, which intrigued him.

The man, whilst being thorough with names and occupations of others in the room, only provided a name for the lady, Sarah Hastings, they moving on and the man inquiring about what sort of career Christopher was aiming, after the man learns this, he attempts to advise a back up career due to how flighty dreams tend to float away. After not learning much after, Osbourne was able to shed a little more light on Sarah’s history, most recently her ending an engagement. As Christopher attended more hoity-toity functions, his list of facts of Sarah grew, she an opinionated, celebrity-seeking sort. He continued to follow her movements, until finally getting a chance to speak with her two years later. Once he’d made one headline, he felt confident enough to approach her in a hotel they’d both been occupying the dining area of, he officially introducing himself. She wasn’t particularly receptive, and he felt like a rube when leaving her, questioning whether his friends had been taking the piss when congratulating him. He did come to learn he’d been taking interest in a social way he shouldn’t concern himself with, from then on focusing on learning more about previous detectives and how they came to their own notoriety.

Christopher then mentions a chance meeting with a Colonel Chamberlain, whom he’d known when he was a boy, this occurring a couple months after Sarah had embarrassed him. They both were in a small bookstore and the man stood next to him for some time before Christopher looked up and recognized him. They chatted a bit, he noting how timid and uncomfortable Chamberlain seemed compared to his memories. When they were readying to part, Christopher offers to entertain him at a nice restaurant the next night, he having to push fairly hard for Chamberlain to agree. When they met on the designated night, Christopher does what he’d planned, aiming to impress the Colonel, the man referring to the last time they’d spent time with each other being on a ship, Christopher’s change, obvious to the way he’d been back then. Christopher flashes back to his journey from Shanghai, Chamberlain in the room as his voyage is discussed. Then his parents fates are alluded to, causing his journey to England, but he not wanting to leave since the “best detectives in Shanghai” were on the case to locate his missing parents, not thinking he’d need to be sent away in the likelihood they’d succeed. Chamberlain regards the boy’s words as a possibility, but thinks perhaps he should go anyways and his parents will decide to move with him, the Colonel listening soberly to Christopher recounting his memories. He in turn shares his own, seeming to almost say something which conveyed the odd nature of his parents going missing, but then Christopher gets caught up on how he’d been perceived, again, he only recalling one occasion he actually could’ve been a “sniveling little squirt”, but the Colonel presuming the whole voyage had been rife with these qualities.

As their night of reminiscences ended, Christopher felt insouciant toward the man, most likely due to the circumstances of their meeting, feeling only a minor amount of guilt when hearing of the Colonel’s death a year later. Then back to listing his minor encounters with Sarah, the next a few more years down the road, another high profile case under his belt, and testing a walk-by near her as he left. He plays at not caring about her reaction much, due to his busy life and only beginning to experience his notoriety, he truly making a name for himself about a year later. He claims he would’ve forgotten Sarah completely if not for bumping into Joseph Turner, whom invites him to a dinner party which he declined in attending, Joseph mentioning how Sarah had asked after him, she then discovering him after he’d heard similar stories from other friends. She accosts him in the middle of his examination of a pond, where the victim of his current case had been found in. Her reasons for being there were in relation to she knowing the family of the victim, and after talking back and forth she shares how, if Christopher succeeded in pointing out the culprit, the town would be so grateful, they’d make Christopher a legend. After this buttering up, Sarah asks to be invited to a social function as Christopher’s guest, he passive-aggressively denying her after making an excuse and then she referring to them as ‘such good friends’, apparently taking the cake since Christopher was well aware what they were and weren’t.

Christopher detected the mystery behind the death of the man murdered, he not giving much thought to Sarah’s statement of meeting him at the dinner. She living up to her word, though, Christopher entertaining her flattering small talk until being no longer amused by it, but not showing this change in attitude, instead disengaging her arm from his, she approaching him again to deny he’d ditch her in such a way, but he also living up to his actions, walking off. Only after being in the room fifteen minutes does Christopher notice Sarah had made it to the check-in area, she attempting to be allowed in. Eventually she gets her way, Christopher being sure to stay away from her whilst feeling somewhat guilty for his inaction, but after noticing a genuine smile from her, he thinks perhaps she had no hard feelings for having succeeded in her goal to attend. Christopher also had his chance to speak with the guest of honor, he finally taking a moment to ask if he’d met an Akira Yamashita during his visit to Shanghai, the diplomat confirming he hadn’t. When Sarah appeared, Christopher makes up an excuse to leave, and moves off. Later, he runs into her again on a balcony, she stating the greatness of the night she’d had, the two having a somewhat enlightening chat about Sarah’s needs and intentions for why she felt it obligatory she be present there, it stemming from discovering a man whom planned on helping the world be greater, Christopher not holding her actions against her since now having a better understanding of her, especially after she mentioned his childhood buddy Akira, throwing him off, he leaving her there, only considering momentarily to offer his accompaniment out.

Then 15/May/1931, in London, Christopher remembers an argument Akira and he had over the word ‘chip’ and Akira meaning ‘chap’, he having started his English lessons and was too proud to give in. When they next hang out together, Christopher had pretty much forgotten the argument until Akira called him chap, Christopher not pressing the issue, he stating whilst he believed he was the more intelligent of the two, Akira had more experience beyond the Settlement where they resided, Christopher not having been in the true city of Shanghai, but protected within the International colony boundaries, Akira confessing stories of his gruesome experiences. When sharing one with his mother, he didn’t like her response of disproving the tale so from then on kept them to himself, Akira acting reverentially toward his mother, he deciphering why this could be possibly having to do with a time the health inspector came to their house. When Akira came by after the inspector, the two moved indoors to Christopher’s playroom, the two halting their game when hearing his mother and the inspector raising their voices near the room. The two witnessed as Christopher’s mother defended the integrity of their loyal servants regardless of the city they came from having an outbreak of opium addiction, Akira seeming to have gotten a strong impression of his mother during this argument. Christopher then remembers his mother’s part in opposing the company they worked for over their small-minded policies. He then regards his decision to confide in Sarah about Akira no longer bothering him. Another chance meeting is related when both were invited to a mutual buddy’s lunch, it going fine until one of the ladies eventually gets everyone’s attention over giving advice about how to deal with her mother, Sarah leaving when the topic stuck, Christopher following to learn of a painful realization from Sarah about her own mother, the two then going on a double-decker bus, enjoying the ride, he not having gone before since being overwhelmed by being transported somewhere he didn’t know and getting lost by himself. They spoke of random, pleasant topics, he divulging more about Akira without meaning to, but in the end wondering if his memories of Shanghai were as exact as he thought, believing a question he originally believed was posed to the health inspector, now could have been directed at his father during a verbal dispute between his parents.

Whether this was before or after the health inspector’s visit, Christopher couldn’t remember, but he was studying in an anteroom which was used as a library, when he heard his parents arguing, he attempts to hear more, but only deciphers phrases when they forgot to keep their voices lowered. Christopher then hears the same phrase his mother used, it seeming to fit better with the other snippets more so than her argument with the inspector’s, but who knows. After this argument, it stayed cold between his parents for longer than normal, and during a chat with Akira at his home, which was uniquely mixed Japanese with Western style, Christopher posed his question to him, whom had an interesting take on the reason parents didn’t talk to each other, it connected to the child not living up to their heritage, and how the child’s part was being the glue to the family staying together, Christopher having the opportunity to speak with his Uncle Philip on the subject. He shares of Philip not being a blood relative, but a family friend whom had worked at the same company for a number of years before leaving and starting an organization to help the conditions of the Chinese sections of the city. Uncle Philip helped ease his mind a bit over his becoming more English for his parents.

The same summer, Akira was wearing down his likability by constantly bragging of Japan’s greatness compared to English, this happening more since his upcoming enrollment in a Japanese school, by the time he had to leave, Christopher not feeling bad to see him go. At least not until starting to hang out with some other English boys he would periodically chum around with and they making him feel like the odd man out when there school friends came along, Christopher the only one whom goes to a different school. He relates some important memories of the fall during Akira’s transfer, one regarding a day on one of his mother’s meetings, Uncle Philip in attendance, and when the meeting had ended, his mother and Philip staying behind to pore over some papers until his father entered (he not joining these meetings) and began conversing amiably with Philip, Christopher’s mother leaving the room looking peeved. Later, Philip offers they should go to the racecourse, and whilst nine-year-old Christopher was aware he was the sole one to decide whether he, his mother, and Philip would go, or stay with his father, he ended up being coaxed to decide to go, with his mother’s influence. Christopher then remembers an out of the ordinary mannerism uncommon to his father, he bragging about himself, once around the dinner table, the second when they were all attending a brass band playing in the park, both times essentially ignored by his mother, but Christopher made aware of another memory with an incident his father alluded to him whilst the band played, he remembering of a day when he and his mother were near his father’s study naming the vessels in pictures on the wall when his mother stopped and abruptly opened the door where they both viewed his father slouched over his desk, he speaking loudly about the being stuck there and wouldn’t be able to return to England. Other than his father’s odd speech, nothing much of interest happened during the fall or winter until Christopher received the news from a servant of Akira’s return.

Christopher learned Akira wouldn’t be returning to his new school, but would continue at his old one, which made Christopher happy. Akira refrained from speaking of his time at his new school, the two picking up where they’d left off, but Christopher witnessing a change in character when the boys were playing and Akira had noticed a tear in his kimono, he becoming withdrawn over the “bad thing” he’d caused, believing his parents would send him back to Japan, where Christopher soon learned and sensed the extent of Akira’s being singled out by school staff and students, as well as the family he had stayed with, so much so, his parents had taken him out of school in the middle of term. What also caused Akira apprehension was knowing he was the only one wanting to remain in Shanghai, his sister and parents wishing to move to Japan. The torn sleeve didn’t cause such a dire repercussion as Akira feared, but as he continued to make small mistakes during the next few months, Christopher comes to the “robbery” incident which had brought Sarah’s curiosity on their bus ride. First is explained how Akira reacted with fear toward one of his family’s longest employed servants, Ling Tien, Christopher not asking why Akira hid whenever the man passed them any longer. When they got older, Akira shared the man’s obsession with severed hands, human and ape, alike. Ling apparently having discovered how to change the hands into spiders. After this, the eight-year-old Akira would periodically dare Christopher to get closer to Ling’s room. Akira would go as far as he could and then had Christopher do the same, he not having much fun when going to Akira’s house because of this. The two finally reach Akira’s goal of entering Ling’s room when they are ten, they stealing something which the two didn’t consider the repercussions, this also being Christopher’s last year in Shanghai, unbeknownst to him, yet. On the day they finally enter the room, Akira waited for the maid to fall asleep downstairs, the boys going into the room, and Akira claiming the spiders were in a chest, the lotion on the side table, magic, the longer they lingered, the more Christopher became paranoid they’d be seen. Akira swipes the bottle, and the boys hasten out, they proceeding to test the lotion, and Akira hiding it with other treasured belongings before putting it back.

The next day when Akira came to Christopher’s house, he looked bothered, Christopher not asking, but once doing so, Akira shares of having confided in his sister of their deed, she worrying him with further claims of previous people disappearing for attempting the same, and Akira not having the guts to put the lotion back, Ling coming back in three days. Akira was visibly upset, but Christopher placates him with putting the bottle away the way they’d taken it, Akira looking relieved. They make plans to meet up the next day, late afternoon, Christopher remembering partially how his father left for work, his mother going out, and he lunching with the maid before biding his time until three. After climbing a tree higher than he ever had, he goes home to check the hour, finding his mother out front speaking with policemen, his mother relating this to him when she came in to instruct he wait for her within the library, his father not having arrived at his office. By the time his mother came in to inform him of the police searching for his father, and he may well turn up by dinner, it was too late to help Akira with returning the lotion, Christopher peeved by being waylaid and knowing Akira would be mad. Christopher’s mother had from then on showed moments of aloofness in the coming weeks and offhandedly spoke of Christopher, on the subject of his father, being “proud of what he’s done”.

The next few days Christopher contemplates what he’d say to Akira when he saw him next, finally hearing him riding his sister’s bicycle, Christopher approaching and blatantly apologizing, but couldn’t confess his father missing, instead retreating back to his home. Another few days pass, when Akira comes to call for Christopher to play, he realizing he’d heard about his father. Then Christopher remembers a chat with his mother after this in relation to the statistics his father was safe and to stay optimistic. Akira and Christopher’s imaginative game plays of detective search for Christopher’s father would ensue. He then mentions this would continue during his first days in England. Christopher, after a month finally is told what happened with Ling’s bottle, Akira owing his sister, now, he then asking if Christopher would have to go back to England, he sure his mother wouldn’t want to return without his father. Christopher also shares a memory which at first he believed had no bearing on his parents’ disappearance, but upon the recollection resurfacing, sees it in a new light, he having the motivation to continue the search himself someday, but he being too busy to take the time off. When he’d requested more information on the opium trade from his source in Shanghai, he receives a newspaper clipping with picture, he believing he recognized one of the men, remembering later the man had come to their home a few weeks after his father had gone missing. Next he heard his mother shouting insults at the man as he retreated to his car. Christopher not entirely certain the man in the picture and the one whom came to his home were the same, but his face and the events implying it was (those particular pieces of information seem more sound than Ishiguro attempts to let on, oddly). He now thinks this information would enlighten him to what happened, and where his parents were now.

Christopher then confides what his young self suspiciously supposed Uncle Philip had in common with the man whom came by, which brought into what had ended up happening to their relationship, Christopher having decided to go with his Uncle Philip one day, he having amped up his anxious watchful eye on his mother, and believing she was safe with him, the two calling for him and Uncle Philip asking if he was interested in going off to acquire an accordion, Philip’s behavior odd, but not worryingly so to Christopher, even after being told to wave to his mother a second time, and Philip’s silence on the ride. When Philip stops the carriage and explains they’d walk, Christopher realizes, especially after Philip mentions of not wanting to have him get hurt, but sounding disappointed after Christopher responded of knowing where they were, Philip dashes of, and Christopher runs for home. He discovers no on, but Mei Li, crying at Christopher’s work table, he disgusted by she not having any power to control the situation which had occurred. Christopher, now having finished putting down his recollections, considers when he does return to Shanghai, all the places Akira would show him, then thinking of the work he’d need to make up for due to his bus ride with Sarah.

London, 12/April/1937 – By this time, Christopher’s Aunt has died and left him an inheritance with which he bought a house. A Miss Givens with a young lady, Jennifer have come back from shopping, and Christopher is gladdened by a letter he’s been sent. When he does finally go down to greet them properly, Jennifer makes clear Christopher is an Uncle figure, Miss Givens playing a household role, but not the maid, whom had recently concluded working for Christopher. Soon it’s hinted Miss Givens is a guardian of Jennifer. Then Christopher goes back to explain how he’d discovered Jennifer through Osbourne three years back. Christopher was speaking with one of the guests of her charity work with orphans and mentioned Jennifer’s “situation”, after everyone was ready to leave, he informs the woman he’d like to help her, if not take her in himself (her story similar to his own). After a few meetings, Jennifer is delivered to his home, she having an opinion on the nanny to be hired for her. Jennifer also reminded Christopher of himself, she being wise beyond her years and positive in the odds of negativity ( perhaps on the lofty side for attributes to Christopher, I still feel he’s made up some nice, cool moments for himself during his childhood). Christopher then began planning a trip of indeterminate length, spurring him on being a perceived coldness he sensed from those he spoke with, a relation to a case of dead children and the inspector’s reaction to Christopher’s conclusion and support in the strength it took to work the sort of jobs they had. Another memory of a lecture and subsequent conversation between he and a clergyman he’d recently worked with about the larger issues in Shanghai outweighing much of England’s current issues. Christopher recalls many similar situations, one other involving Sarah at a wedding they’d both attended.

The wedding took place over a year previous, Christopher seeing Sir Cecil Medhurst, whom now was married to Sarah, entering the church, and after the ceremony, Sarah approaches, this having also been quite awhile since they’d spoken, she inviting him to visit with them some time. She then relating it would most likely need to happen after their trip to the Far East, later on she divulging they were going to Shanghai, Christopher seeing this as the push he required to make real his plans to go back. Christopher speaks with Miss Givens of his plans, he deciding to break the news to Jennifer himself. He reminisces his first visit with Jennifer at her new school to deliver what he’d found of her missing luggage, and only hopes his next visit won’t be too difficult for her.

Cathay Hotel, Shanghai 20/Sept./1937 – Christopher relates how different Shanghai seemed due to certain customs, he being led into a hotel to watch a cabaret show recommended by his hosts. They go to their table, the walls occupied by high society resident and International guests, Christopher getting the idea he was being noticed because of those around him looking at the men seated, but he believing they were staring at him. Christopher, over the evening soon became suspicious of one of his hosts, of whom attempts to have him accept “assistants” with his work, Christopher bringing up his interest in the Yellow Snake killings, the other host not having heard of this before. Christopher then requests to speak with the informant, the one host discouraging, but responding he’d ask. Then the other host begins speaking of a welcome ceremony for his parents, everyone then becoming distracted by the gunfire outside, and after the music began, Christopher meeting Sarah. He doesn’t put together the possible double meaning of she and her husband being rescued from Shanghai.

Christopher is shown working a case all day, then goes to a club he’d become acquainted with, along with the doorman he spoke with, soon being instructed where he could locate Sarah and Sir Cecil. As he walked, he thought of how he’d believed he’d seen Akira a few nights after his arrival and hoping he’d see him again and in a way he thought would be a more meaningful beginning to their first meeting. Christopher lets it go and thinks of the case, leaving the possibility of locating Akira for later, and believing it possible to run into him once more due to Shanghai’s size. Christopher continues on to the hotel of Sarah and Cecil, but soon discovers it’s more of a casino, and believes Cecil wouldn’t bring Sarah to such a place, when finally seeing him in one of the rooms, Sarah seated in a corner. She greets him, surprised he’d found them there, she asking after his dreary day, he not having made any progress, yet (I realize now, the problem with Christopher is he constantly seems to have to correct the exact reasons of what he’s feeling when someone guesses about how he looks, it’s constant). Soon Christopher spots how drunk Cecil is, whilst gambling his money away, Sarah asking if Christopher could go find their driver outside, and once he’d done so, overhears the tail end of a conversation where Cecil is putting down Sarah for making him look bad inside, his mood getting no rosier when they reached their hotel and he’d asked a similar question of whether his young wife looked more like an escort to those within the casino. When Sarah puts him to bed, she again insists everything between she and Cecil were fine, Christopher leaving her there, but still wondering of her earlier words.

Cathay Hotel, Shanghai 29/Sept./1937 – Christopher was on his way to confront MacDonald, on of his hosts on getting his interview with Yellow Snake, when interrupted by Grayson, the other host about Christopher’s role in the ceremony for his parents, he leaving Grayson with encouragement for his plans so far, and then considering his current case, and how an old school acquaintance, Anthony Morgan brings the case to the forefront of his mind. A few nights after his arrival in Shanghai, he’d met up with Anthony, the two catching up, and the latter sharing his experience thus far in the city, mostly to do with his chauffeurs not being up to par. Anthony soon has Christopher accompanying him somewhere, and when Anthony made the same mistake of thinking Christopher was similar to himself in the old days, “a miserable loner” Christopher is quick to put him to rights. When they arrive at a home, Christopher realizes wherever they were going would be a small group affair, the two apparently having interrupted a Chinese family’s dinner. Christopher then realizes Anthony has taken him to his old home, he having forgotten an agreement had been made years ago in regards to his eventual return, the head of the house, an old man, ready to show him around.

Christopher met most of the rooms with no recollection, until seeing the library, it having been altered, learning the owners who had lived there, including those currently, had renovated many areas of the home. Speaking with the old man made Christopher think of some of his plans for the home, in regards to whom would take what room, his mother, Jennifer, and Mei Li, whom he’d locate and offer a place with them again, as promised. The only other relation in his old home, being of a memory of he and his mother racing in the park, Christopher getting upset for not successfully showing how much faster he’d become as a runner, his mother keeping up easily, and not noticing. The rest of his visit is glossed over with parting ways with the family amicably after more pleasant chat, it not going so smoothly with Anthony, Christopher debating possibly taking responsibility it having started with a question of whether Anthony had heard of Inspector Kung. Anthony then realizes Christopher was speaking of a man whom had drastically changed his lifestyle, and hadn’t shown reverence for his detective work through his comments. Christopher denies the man Anthony spoke of could hardly be the same, he getting defensive and implying Anthony’s head had gone soft. They part on respectful, but sober terms, Christopher not having the guts to look for Kung until further research brought up his name, and on top of this, after speaking with MacDonald about him and getting a similar response, he getting overly irritated since an interview with Yellow Snake still hadn’t been set up. McDonald, refers him to the head of police, even though they didn’t have him in custody, Christopher insisting on some move being made by MacDonald, he threatening his credibility, so the man promising to look into it, and perhaps Christopher needing to look into speaking with the French which he admitted to having potential, but deciding if MacDonald still didn’t make progress, he’d work him over once more, and with more finesse.

Cathay Hotel, Shanghai 20/Oct./1937 – Christopher currently didn’t know his exact location, other than being in the French Concession. He was riding in a limo through narrow alleys, feeling foolish due to his automobile looking out of place, but he arrives at an Inn, and shown inside by a Chinese man with a single eye, going to a room and opening the door immediately after knocking. Someone was lying in a bed behind a screen, but moving when Christopher gets closer, former Inspector Kung described as emaciated, he not seeming to notice Christopher until after he’d repeated whom he was and his reasons for being there, Kung respectfully replying in English about having no tea for them, but to excuse his appearance since he planned to soon recover. Christopher agrees, and offers his compliments for once having been one of the best in his field, Kung humbled by his kindness, speaking of the difficulties of doing detective work in a seedy city like Shanghai, Kung offering Christopher a cigarette, but he declining. He then mentions how much he and his childhood friend had admired him, Kung all the more regretful for not having anything to offer his guest, Christopher reassuring him he may be able to provide a service more valuable, his memory of a particular case of a shooting in 1915. Kung acknowledges to knowing the one he mentioned and having fond memories of it being a part of his best work, Christopher mentioning how Kung had interrogated a man whom confessed to other crimes, Kung remembering this, Christopher asking about the addresses given in regards to where kidnap victims had been kept, Kung knowing and confiding nothing had been found. Christopher accepts this, but supposes the possibility of Kung not searching a house if powerful people had gotten in the way. Kung admitting this had happened with one home, but being lax on its search due to the case being worked on taking priority, Kung hesitantly inquiring about the house, Christopher supplying his opinion his parents were being kept there, he laying no blame on Kung for not attempting further inquiry, Kung then deducing Christopher must wish for him to locate the house, he attempting to conjure any details, but unsuccessful. Christopher pushes about whether Kung could remember whether the district had been in the International Settlement, unfortunately Kung not recalling, informing him sometimes he remembered much, and perhaps in a day or two he would know more.

Christopher gets back by nightfall, reviewing his notes and forgetting his uninformative visit, going to the dining room late, ready to leave after not having eaten much, when receiving a note from Sarah. At the time, he unaware it had to do with a disturbance at a Mr. Tony Keswick’s home, the note saying to meet her on the platform between the third and fourth floors. They had seen each other shortly three times after the night at the casino, the two not having the chance to mingle, but the night at Keswick’s seeming to be a significant event for the two. Christopher remembering when he’d arrived and most guests, including Sarah were locating their seats, Christopher leaving her to it, and after waiting for the proper time for across-the-room mingling, is trapped in a conversation with the lady seated next to him, by the time he’s able to see Sarah, the host is introducing the first entertainer, many guests having a turn on stage. When one particular man had reduced the room to hysterical laughing, Christopher thinks he sees Sarah laughing along, as well, until after some time, realizing she had actually been reduced to tears and crying quite hard. He walks to her table and gives her his hankie, she returning him with a grateful and quizzical look, but wipes her eyes and hazards a laugh with the rest, Christopher going back to his seat and not speaking with her until their formal goodbye when the night was over. Christopher had forgotten their exchange by this time, she turning to him when he knocks into a chair, and beckoning him closer so they could speak softly, she then confiding she was planning to go to Macao without Cecil, and was scared to go alone, asking if Christopher would join her, surprising him, but also tickling his sense of adventure which also relieved him, what with his current responsibilities building with pressure. Christopher then began to suppose she was baiting him somehow, he responding soberly about his work needing to be finished and how it’d look if he abandoned it here, Sarah attempting to have him see he shouldn’t let his project rule him, and not to wait anymore, otherwise the chance to leave would pass, and the need would be replaced with settling for less. Christopher only seeing roadblocks, what with he also having Jennifer to think about, he about to remember their last meeting, but Sarah responding with believing once they’d decided where they’d stay, she’d be sent for, Sarah convinced she could be a mother to the girl, Christopher then taking a turn in his decision and agreeing to go, she having planned how he should pack light and she would set up his transport to get him to where she’d wait for him. Christopher kisses her hand and awkwardly laughs, she taking her hand back and thanking him for agreeing, suggesting he leave before they were spotted.

Christopher had gone to sleep with plenty on his mind and upon waking the next day, had decided to get as much done as time would allow, he meeting his own expectations by lunch and noticing all of those interviewed leaving him feeling unsympathetic to the government’s current mess, since none spoken with conveyed responsibility for their actions being the wrong course. Due to this, Christopher felt he’d decided rightly and was gratified when imagining the upheaval his leaving would make. He then recalls his last conversation with Jennifer, she taking his news calmly and promising to “help” him when he returned from Japan, which made him wonder how she planned to do so, he then informed of a call from Kung for him. Kung is excited to share news which had resurfaced, he using a rejuvenating smoke to aid him, the location Christopher inquired being across from a man’s house, he sharing the details. When he gets off the call, he returns to his room to pack rather than finishing his lunch, the new information not affecting him like it normally would. He finishes early and is met by a young Chinese driver to escort him on his way.

On the ride, he flippantly asks the driver if he’s heard of Yeh Chen, the man mentioned by Kung, the driver confirming he had, Christopher letting the exchange lie there, until reaching the meeting place and asking the man to wait. He goes into the gramophone record store only seeing the Swiss worker behind the counter, he offering to play Christopher a song, he agreeing and after it’s on, gestures for him to go behind a curtained area, Sarah waiting inside. She explains (sort of) why she had three suitcases, one being dedicated to her teddy bear, then they share another kiss, longer and awkward, he then learning Cecil didn’t know any of Sarah’s plans, he setting out early for another round of fun and games. Christopher seems to become stressed over their few minutes wait, he informing her his need to speak with the driver once more, and learning Yeh Chen wasn’t living far from where they were, Christopher accepting the ride there, but the driver seeming to get confused when having to take a detour, they soon hearing gunshots, the driver then mentioning how they were no longer in the Settlement and Christopher going off on him by letting him know how much of a fool he thought the young man was, the kid getting out and walking away, Christopher going after him to apologize, attempting to have him return to the car, but when failing, tries getting the address to Yeh Chen’s, he being one of those without one. Christopher suggests directions being acceptable, the boy relenting, then pointing out a police station when asked, then returns in the car’s direction.

When going inside the station, Christopher supposed the place was mostly deserted other than the few cops who remained, one of them going to the back to share with whoever else of the reason for Christopher’s visit. The man returns to lead Christopher in back, he introduced to the Lieutenant and Captain, Christopher sharing his need of help, but would also be assisting them with his mission, as well (presumptuous). He then shares of the directions he’d been given, needing someone to show him where it was, he explaining the necessity of it being the end of a years long case in the search for his parents, the Lieutenant agreeing to lend him a few men upon their return due to the few they had to spare, Christopher conveying gratefulness, but also asking if it wouldn’t be possible to do so with a few already present for a minimal time, the Lieutenant denying this due to their inexperience, he then asking to see the directions and upon reading them, noting how whilst they were quite close, may be behind Japanese territory already, and difficult to get to, the Lieutenant then leads him to a spot he could see what he meant. They climb to the roof where the Lieutenant focuses Christopher’s attention to a length of smoke where factory workers lived, he describing how the families lived in cramped quarters, sometimes with three other families to a room, the Lieutenant showing where his men needed to be placed and how they’d keep “the warren” safe, it important to their victory. He then confides of the house Christopher wished to get to being in there, directing his gaze roughly to the roof of the building, also providing him with landmarks to help him stay on course. The Lieutenant then had to make clear how difficult Christopher’s mission would be with all the fighting going on, Christopher getting sidetracked by wanting the Lieutenant’s name so as to thank him at the upcoming ceremony for his parents, he instead having him accompany him back down to where his men had hopefully returned by now since believing the part he played being minor. When getting an update, the Lieutenant shares how his men had gotten stuck outside, Christopher asking the Lieutenant to guide him, and the man agreeing even whilst knowing the danger it brought to his mission’s success, the two setting out after he provided Christopher with a pistol.

As Christopher remembers being led by the Lieutenant, it seemed easy, but the moment was difficult, the ground hurting his footsies, and having to negotiate his way through holes in the walls, tired after only going through one, but having more to go. As he walks through areas with demolished homes, he grew angry about the men in charge of the International Settlement who had shirked their duties, the Lieutenant stopping soon after to declare they’d made it to their first landmark, the West Furnace, their second being the East and would then be close to Christopher’s destination. The Lieutenant then ushers him on so they could get out before sundown. They reach a place where they meet more soldiers defending a wall, and after the Lieutenant speaks with them, he shares with Christopher of they having gotten most of the Japanese to retreat, with the exception of a few stuck nearby. Christopher attempts to show disappointed indignation at the Lieutenant’s caution to stop where they were until the men were pacified, but the Lieutenant only states of the possibility it may not take long, then returns to the wall at the behest of a solder, gunfire breaking out, and the Lieutenant saving Christopher from getting hit by gunshots hitting the wall behind him. After the danger seemed to have passed temporarily, Christopher goes back to criticizing how the Lieutenant was running his defense, this after denying Christopher the idea of bringing the men they were with, along to where his parents were being held. Christopher then goes off on the Lieutenant for he feeling guilty by the reason they were fighting in the first place, believing the Lieutenant blamed him, but then making excuses for why he hadn’t cracked his case sooner, ending by belittling the man’s profession and intelligence (hwhat a schmuck). The Lieutenant takes this all in stride, by the end allowing if Christopher was resolute to move forward, despite the danger, it was more likely he’d be safer without him (a good idea, regardless), he then leading Christopher to a detour, by this time Christopher regretting his snotty explosion, but going along, the Lieutenant also giving him a flashlight, leaving him with the advice of waiting as long as possible before using it, claiming neutrality if he ran into soldiers, and ask the locals for directions (more than he deserves). He stops taking the Lieutenant’s advice when he doesn’t go through a certain passage for the smell, he getting stuck going further in the wrong direction. When coming across locals, he was able to get back on course, but no one could understand him so he could get a better idea of his surroundings.

Christopher comes across another group of people, children surrounding something, and when Christopher gets near enough, he recognizes Akira, unconscious and bound (a little let down with this reunion, but the upcoming moments between them are the most entertaining, at least in a comedic way, in this book). When the kids begin to gather again to prod Akira with a stick, Christopher keeps them at bay, and when Akira regains consciousness, Christopher attempts to show him whom he is, but Akira doesn’t catch it, (Christopher taking on a Bertie Wooster-like persona) Christopher seeing his finding him serendipitous, Akira then requesting to allow death to claim him, Christopher stating he isn’t close to death, only having “a rough time of it lately” (really, Christopher??), and help could be found, Akira responding with porky oaths, and attempting to spit at him again, Christopher responding by deciding getting him untied may help with his memory, but Akira vowing to kill him if he lets him loose, Christopher ignoring his threat for rationalizing the people around them would as soon kill him, and Akira needed his wounds tended before infection hit. When an old woman approaches them with a reaping hook, Christopher attempts to have her understand (in English), of Akira being good, and his friend (a woman whom doesn’t understand English). Then when it obviously fails to connect and he points his revolver at them (good plan), an old man steps forward whom speaks bloody English! (Where the fuck, fella?) He explaining why Akira was bound being for he killing an Aunt and stealing, Christopher arguing the impossibility and asking for him to confirm it was the same man they had. Meanwhile, after another attempt from Christopher to get Akira to recognize him works slowly, an argument arises in the crowd of people and Christopher again threatens them with his gun after he takes a young boy’s knife to cut Akira loose. When Christopher then has the old man translate of the group making a mistake and Akira would be helping to solve his case (pointlessly), he eventually has the man get the people to stay away, they panicking for Christopher swinging the gun around, and the two making their way out, (after a funny moment of Christopher and Akira almost falling).

As they stagger on, Christopher becomes overwhelmed with happiness for finally seeing his ole buddy and laughs giddily a few times, Akira joining in and it feeling like the old days. When Christopher gives them both a moment to rest, he checks Akira’s wounds again, but can’t tell if the bad smell was coming from them anymore or if it was caused by something he’d laid in. He attempts to clean the wounds, then gets into why he was there being to find his parents, Akira now able to help him get inside the house (like Ling Tien’s room? I wonder if one will flake out on the other…), Akira agreeing, but then making a confusing statement after admitting to knowing where the East Furnace was. Christopher catches it, as well and presumes the place he spoke was the International Settlement. They soon get back on their way though, Christopher now dealing with a cut foot from his shoe getting torn. Meanwhile, Christopher had mixed feelings about the circumstances around their meeting, wishing it had happened in gentler accommodations, they limping along until Akira hears soldiers, they closing in on the front lines, which needed to be passed in order to reach the house, but Akira then insisting they needed to rest and wait for light before continuing due to the fighting, Christopher giving in (even though he wanted to argue, more).

They stay put for awhile, until Christopher decides to move them to a safer area in their bombed shelter, Akira deciding Christopher must learn Japanese immediately in case Akira died or was unconscious, Christopher refusing anything so finite would happen, Akira then teaching him one word, since more was too difficult, they laughing over his pronunciation, and then Christopher passing out. When he wakes, dawn has broken, he accidentally waking Akira when attempting to examine him again, Akira wanting to relay a message to his child should he not make it, again Christopher refusing to accept the possibility and deciding they should move along before Akira got too deeply into a funk. The going was rougher due to both their energies being sapped overnight, and before setting out, Akira warns they must be more careful since the Chinese were near, the two seeing their handiwork involving spilled intestines. Soon after getting them to the East Furnace, Christopher leads them down the alley the Lieutenant pointed out, Akira weighing him down so much, they soon stop again, he seeing a broken sign and asking Akira what it said, he not knowing for certain for his Chinese not great, Christopher supplying the idea of it perhaps saying Yeh Chen, Akira allowing the possibility, but when Christopher begins to plan for the both of them to enter, Akira considers how many years have passed, and the fates of Christopher’s parents, the two not able to discuss anymore for a little girl emerging from the house and seeming to want them to come in, Christopher stepping forward since it seemed she was bleeding, after she goes back inside, Christopher urging Akira to come with him.

When they go through to where the girl leads them, they view many dead bodies, the little girl going to a dog, and speaking Chinese, Akira translating she wanted help for the dog, Christopher giving her encouraging words, but then going about in search of his parents until Akira warns him of soldiers nearby, Christopher losing his shit and not comprehending due to his desperate search. Akira hides in a half open spot, Christopher unable to let him know since the soldiers then entered, but he finding it hilarious, and once Akira realizing they were Japanese, makes his presence known, he not looking happy to see them or vice versa, he being led out with only a smile to Christopher as he left, he then explaining the reason he was there to the Captain, the latter commanding he leave immediately. The Japanese kept Christopher at their headquarters where he recovered from his injuries, which also gave him a fever for some weeks, but when he recovers, a Colonel speaks with him, and Christopher feels he has a clear concept of what he’d been through for his case. The Colonel was ready to lead him to the British Consulate, but Christopher had another idea involving his return to the gramophone shop, the Colonel denying this due to they being on a schedule and Christopher not able to explain why, the Colonel then passes the time by speaking of his admiration of Dickens and Thackeray, their country beautiful.

Christopher changes the subject to Akira and whether the Colonel knew his fate, he advising Christopher to let it go, but of course he not doing as requested, the Colonel sharing how Akira was quite likely in cahoots with the Chinese due to where he was found. The Colonel and he then discuss how soon the world would be battling a war. When Christopher speaks with the British consul-general, he gets to the point of needing to speak with MacDonald whilst he cleaned himself up. People came and left from the room they’d given him, a doctor most likely giving him medication to sleep, he being told of MacDonald not being found, yet. Upon waking, he goes off in search of MacDonald’s office and sees Sir Cecil, the two discussing the disappearance of Sarah and how he and others thought Christopher was connected, he there to apologize and sharing how he’d gotten word from her currently being in Macao, they being interrupted by Grayson, Christopher disheartened, but he there to show Christopher to MacDonald’s new working office. When they get to an empty office, Grayson nudges Christopher forward, closing the door behind them and making it clear Christopher wanted to speak with him (wink-wink), the interview with Yellow Snake more possible and Christopher feeling like he’s finally getting somewhere. He then relays his interview occurring the previous night, the Chinese secret police, his escort and they confronting more guards when getting to the large house, he waiting inside for a half hour, when finally being shown to a study where he is greeted by someone he knows.

Yellow Snake even shows how he’d been made to stay armed in case Christopher attempts to attack him, he knowing he owed Christopher some explanations. They start with Christopher’s father, after he gives his own opinion of what he thought happened, when asked, needing to play nice. His mother had planned to share the truth with him regarding his father when he was older, he learning where his father had gone, whom he’d been with, why he’d left, and how he’d lived his life. When Christopher asks about where his mother was, Yellow Snake again asks for what he knew, Christopher sharing how he’d thought the two were being held captive, Yellow Snake then backing up to explain a memory Christopher shares earlier, and explaining how his mother had been working to end the opium trade in China, how he didn’t have her exact location, but knew a good place to start, the man Christopher had been researching being involved. Christopher now realizes whom had his mother and the reason she had been taken, he then learning whom had been taking care of his financial needs, he about to tell what his mother endured whilst living with the drug kingpin, but Christopher having enough, Yellow Snake then confessing how he’s stayed alive so Christopher could kill him, but after refusing and having to pull away from him for his insistence, the man shares his deepest secret, he getting off in knowing his mother was essentially a sex slave since he knew he couldn’t have her and didn’t save her. Christopher ignores this and only focuses on making sure he knew everything about his mother, the man whom had her now being dead, so his search being difficult, but onward he would go, leaving Yellow Snake.

London 14/Nov./1958 – Christopher relates how a trip to Hong Kong marked his longest trip in a long time, he exhausted a couple days after arriving, the place not being as homey as Shanghai was, he dealing with joint pain and Jennifer accompanying him for needing the break. She offered having them visit Shanghai, as well, but Christopher knew the changes made to the city would be painful to him. By the third day, Christopher was off for a visit to a convent inside a manor without Jennifer joining him, as requested. When meeting a nun in an office regarding a woman called Diana, whom had been institutionalized and stranded in China for many years, and then brought to their convent, the woman leads him to where she was, so he could discover whether she was his mother. When he first sees her, the nun shares how she didn’t usually understand something unless continually repeated, she smiling at them a moment before going back to her card game. Christopher gets a moment alone with her, and when she smiles up at him again, Christopher senses a note of fear in her gaze, he telling her whom he was a few times and apologizing for locating her so late, he then trying his pet name, she recognizing it, but not him, only sharing how she’d heard he was fine, but one couldn’t know for sure with him and worrying her. Christopher then has this discussion with Jennifer regarding the rest of Diana’s life there, they currently in England and he not happy with her current living situation, she having had some type of break down at thirty-one and having had, but lost a family, she ready to take it easy and not be bothered with finding love again. Christopher being posed the same question and making him reminisce of his lost love, feeling guilty and apologizing to Jennifer for leaving her so long when she was young, but she making him realize how grateful she was for all he’d done for her. She then comes up with a compromise involving the plan of whether she were able to get another husband and have some kids, he would have to live with them in the country, he agreeing. At the same time, Christopher also thought how he’d miss London, he still being recognized, one time whilst out with the Osbournes and a lady approaching him for knowing Sarah quite well, and what had become of her and her new love. The last correspondence Christopher had of her by letter a couple of years after the war, he still second guessing whether her words of her own happiness were genuine, and after relating how regretful he’d feel if he left London, would give good thought to Jennifer’s offer.

After reading this book as sections of it had been broken from the spine (presumably done whilst it was stepped on by cretins), was oddly liberating, only since I hadn’t an attachment to it for not knowing whether I’d want it for keeps (fortunately I didn’t, Christopher not being a character I care to periodically re-encounter, I having given him the benefit of the doubt at first, but he being pompous, which makes him describing the powerful men of the International Settlement in similar terms, seeming like he truly doesn’t recognize the similarities in his own personality. Too much of an ego as well, which he would most likely state how wrong I am in describing it in such a way, blah; also, I don’t believe I’ve ever felt like seeing a main character die and not feeling let down). So, minus Christopher being a stuck-up, know-it-all, the story itself is what drove interest-level. The two main mysteries being his parents fates and his best buddy, Akira; one being more fully realized than the other. I also enjoyed the time period and locations which helped the value, but I do now see why so many people found this piece annoying, especially since Akira gets left behind, and if Christopher had found out whether or not he hadn’t made it, why he didn’t do as Akira had requested of him by going to see his family to give his last words? Oh well, I’ll give Ishiguro one more chance since it was well-written.

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