Excerpt from The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Crane Wife

by Patrick Ness

The Crane Wife
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2014, 320 pages
    Dec 2014, 320 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

'Please,' the man whispered. 'Please.'

He broke the arrow.

* * *

A massive sound rent the air, not from the breaking arrow but as of an enormous flag slapping in a gale. The crane surged to its feet, flinging wide both its wings, and the man fell back in surprise onto the concrete slabs at the edge of his lawn. He threw up an arm to protect himself as the pointed end of the arrow flew free, bouncing harmlessly off his arm and leaving a smear of the crane's blood across it, the other half disappearing into darkness. He would never find either, always firmly believing that the blood had been too tempting for a starving winter fox not to carry them off.

The bird stood above him now, reaching its head up into the night and calling silently again at the moon. Its wings, fully unfurled, were wider than the man was tall. The crane flapped them in long, slow, powerful movements. It shook the damaged wing once, then once more. The man could still see blood staining the feathers from the wound, but the crane seemed satisfied with its performance.

It stilled itself, its wings reaching out as far as they could go.

It turned its head to regard him with that unblinking eye, a shock of gold under its dark, red crown. The man wondered for a fanciful moment if it was going to reach down and scoop him up in those wings, as if this was some kind of test that he'd passed, one that, had he failed, he would never have remembered taking.

Then he found himself saying something stupid, something that made no sense at all.

'My name,' he said, 'is George.' He said it to the crane.

As if in answer, the crane bowed its long, long neck low towards the ground, keeping its shoulders up and wings out. It began flapping them in a different way, one that caused it to almost fall forward onto the man. He scooted back some more, and when the crane left the ground its burning white breast soared an inch from the man's upturned nose. He looked back to watch it veer sharply upwards to avoid running into his house, carrying on up to the peak of his roof and alighting there for a moment. The moon was bright behind it, cutting it into a frozen silhouette.

It ducked its head once more, unfurled its wings, and swooped down over the back garden, its thin black legs trailing behind it, then up and up and up and up and up, until it was nothing more than one star among many in the night sky and soon not even that.

The man, George, rose slowly from the icy ground, a worrying ache starting to curl through his bare torso. He was shivering so badly now it was all he could do to stand, and he wondered if he was falling into shock. He would need a warm bath, and he'd need it soon, though he was already wondering if he'd have the strength to make it back inside–

A jolt ran through his body as he heard it, one more time. The keening, the mournful call that had brought him out here in the first place. It echoed through the frosty, clear air, as if it was the night itself calling out to him. The crane was saying its goodbye, its thank you, its–

And then he realised that the call hadn't come from an impossible bird vanishing from his garden and life and out of the whole world for all he knew. The keen had been set free from his own body, cried out from icy blue lips, torn from a chest that suddenly seemed to hold his irreparably broken yet still beating heart.

Copyright © 2013 by Patrick Ness

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Legend of the Crane Wife

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
  • Book Jacket
    by Tom Jackson
    Growing up in Mumbai in the '70s, I still remember herbs kept fresh in small glasses of water, ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Cruel Beautiful World
    by Caroline Leavitt

    A fast moving page-turner about the naiveté of youth and the malignity of power.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.