Summary and book reviews of The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

The Crane Wife

By Patrick Ness

The Crane Wife
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2014,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: 30 Dec 2014,
    320 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

A magical novel, based on a Japanese folk tale, that imagines how the life of a broken-hearted man is transformed when he rescues an injured white crane that has landed in his backyard.

George Duncan is an American living and working in London. At forty-eight, he owns a small print shop, is divorced, and lonelier than he realizes. All of the women with whom he has relationships eventually leave him for being too nice.  But one night he is woken by an astonishing sound - a terrific keening, which is coming from somewhere in his garden. When he investigates he finds a great white crane, a bird taller than even himself. It has been shot through the wing with an arrow.  Moved more than he can say, George struggles to take out the arrow from the bird's wing, saving its life before it flies away into the night sky.

The next morning, a shaken George tries to go about his daily life, retreating to the back of his store and making cuttings from discarded books - a harmless, personal hobby - when through the front door of the shop a woman walks in. Her name is Kumiko, and she asks George to help her with her own artwork. George is dumbstruck by her beauty and her enigmatic nature, and begins to fall desperately in love with her. She seems to hold the potential to change his entire life, if he could only get her to reveal the secret of who she is and why she has brought her artwork to him.

Witty, magical, and romantic, The Crane Wife is a story of passion and sacrifice, that resonates on the level of dream and myth.  It is a novel that celebrates the creative imagination, and the disruptive power of love.

And all the stars were crashing round

As I laid eyes on what I'd found.

The Decemberists


In her dreams, she flies.
I.

What actually woke him was the unearthly sound itself – a mournful shatter of frozen midnight falling to earth to pierce his heart and lodge there forever, never to move, never to melt – but he, being who he was, assumed it was his bladder.

He huddled under the covers, sending out mental feelers to see how urgent the call was. Urgent enough. He sighed. Forty-eight still seemed too young to be having to get up in the night so often to relieve what was patently an old man's need, but there would clearly be no getting back to sleep until the matter was addressed. Maybe if he was quick about it he wouldn't even really need to wake all the way up. Yes. All right, then. Here we go. Upright, down the hall.

He gasped as he stepped onto the bathroom floor, cruelly cold against his bare feet. The room had no radiator, just a mysterious flat pad-type thing on the...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Readers familiar with Patrick Ness's fantasy works may be primarily surprised at his adeptness with realistic fiction, but Ness's real skill here is in balancing out all these elements, which could have resulted in a confusing mishmash of themes and tones but instead combine in some surprising and satisfying ways. The Crane Wife is an exploration of artistic creation as well as of the creative power of love.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

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Media Reviews
Shelf Awareness

A very modern fable about making sense of the world and the stories we tell ourselves, Ness's artful exploration of generosity and greed, creation and destruction, dreams and practical magic will leave you transported by what W.B. Yeats called tragic joy.

Publishers Weekly

Despite its imperfections, the book will win over adventurous readers with its originality and intensity

Kirkus Reviews

A magical realist meditation on how to love and be possessed by love.

The Guardian, Ursula Le Guin

This essentially light, good-natured book tries to invoke powerful, elemental emotions using a vocabulary and imagery too trite to do the job.

The Independent (UK)

Ness touches on themes including the subjectivity of stories and the difficulty of ascertaining truth; unrequited love; and the use of anger as a defence mechanism. I found myself mildly impatient to rush through the more ethereal, mythical parts in order to feast on his talents as a realist.

The Daily Telegraph (UK)

The Crane Wife is a special novel: a perfect fusion of surreal imagery and beautifully crafted internal logic. Turning it over in my hands once I'd finished, I began to think of it as the literary equivalent of a Japanese puzzle box with poetry, ideas and jokes twisting and sliding out of it at surprising angles

Author Blurb Eowyn Ivey, New York Times bestselling author of The Snow Child
This poignant novel echoes with the longings and sorrows of the ages. But what came as a most delightful surprise is the humor and humanity that Patrick Ness brings to this story.

Author Blurb Matt Haig, author of The Radleys
Patrick Ness is on top form here...The Crane Wife is a tale full of bittersweet wonder with a very human soul. A treat.

Author Blurb Ali Shaw, author of The Girl with Glass Feet
This is a novel that treads with feather-deft steps through ordinary lives touched by magic, then takes flight on wing beats of powerful storytelling.

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The Legend of the Crane Wife

"And all the stars were crashing round / As I lay eyes on what I'd found." The epigraph to Patrick Ness's novel comes from The Decemberists' 2006 album also entitled The Crane Wife. Clearly artists of all sorts have been inspired by the Japanese folktale on which Ness's novel is very broadly based.

The legend, known as Tsuru no ongaeshi, tells of a young man who rescues a crane that has been injured by a hunter's arrow. Later that day, the young man is surprised by a beautiful young woman on his doorstep, who introduces herself as his wife. Admitting that he is poor and cannot support a wife, the young man is surprised to discover that the mysterious woman can support their new family by creating beautiful weavings that sell for a high ...

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