The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

February 27th, 2014 Kimberly Review 74 Comments

27th Feb
The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
The Crane Wife
by Patrick Ness
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

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

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness is based on the Japanese folk tale, “Tsuru no Ongaeshi” and influenced by a contemporary Decemberists‘ song, also inspired by the lore. Ness delivered a beautifully written tale as he weaved in magical realism.  The story Ness shares is not a romance but instead it is a tale about love, loss and forgiveness itself. While I struggled with certain aspects it had equal parts that were powerful and brilliant. Mini review: beautifully written, sorrowful and yet hopeful.

The tale is told from multiple perspectives and begins when we meet George an American living in London. He awakens to strange noise in the middle of the night. He discovers a beautiful Crane in the backyard. The Crane has been shot in the wing with an arrow and the two share a moment as George helps the creature. The next day a woman named Kumiko arrives at his shop and asks for help with her artwork. George finds himself falling desperately in love with this secretive woman. We also meet Amanda, George’s twenty-five year old daughter who has an incredible knack for finding and losing friends. The tale that unfolds is strange, beautiful, simple and yet complicated. There weren’t many characters and I liked this uncomplicated aspect. George is a likable enough character. He is very ordinary; a hard working divorced stiff who never quite made a relationship last. Kumiko is mysterious and perhaps only two-dimensional, but I think that was the author’s intent. Mehmet, the shopkeeper, is a hoot, and he added lightness to the tale. Amanda is a colorful character who is quite the misfit. I enjoyed her tale and found myself sympathizing with her. She trudges through life to the beat of her own drum and sadly it keeps her out of the “inner circle” with regards to friendships. She has a foul mouth and is quite open in sharing her opinions. I found her to be hilarious and outrageous at times. Her opinions are not wrong per se but different from those of her gender. For example, she loathes The Wizard of Oz.

The Crane Wife was unique with lyrical passages and beautiful prose. I found myself rereading parts and becoming mesmerized in the rightness of the words lying before me. Yet at other times I felt Ness repeated himself especially with regard to how nice a guy George was. I get it! George is nice and good.  But I am still not impressed. I absolutely loved the thread regarding the artwork that George and Kumiko created and how it interlaced with the story itself. This was very clever and added a little suspense to the tale. While reading, I was reminded of novels such as the Snow Child and Lost Lake. However, I felt those were executed more smoothly and will appeal to a much broader readership. Despite that, Ness had me suspending belief and accepting all that was set before me. The tale is presented in pieces almost as if Ness is showing us parts of his newest painting. As the book draws to a conclusion we are presented with this completed picture and his message is clear. While not perfect for me, it was an easy read and one whose messages I shall ponder.

The Crane Wife is a novel that some will adore, and others will shake their heads and wonder what all the fuss is about but I think all will agree that Patrick Ness is a wonderfully talented writer whose stories stay with you long after you closed the book.

Three and half cups of coffee out of five
One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

74 Responses to “The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness”

  1. Stephanie

    This cover is so different that it drew me in right away. It sounds like a story that will make me think. 🙂 Awesome to know the writing is so good!

  2. Jessica

    The Crane Wife is one of my very favorite albums by The Decemberists. I’m really interested in reading it now that I know it was inspired by the music and the lore behind it. I also love reading magical realism so this book seems right up my alley. Thanks for the great review!

    Jessica @ Tales Between the Pages

  3. Lily B

    Hummm I keep hearing that this one was a bit disappointing thought I did hear the writing is beautiful. Glad to hear from you that there was parts that made you want to reread it.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Parts are just brilliant, but yes this one has reviews all over the place from adore to loath

  4. kara-karina

    I’ve never read Patrick Ness before, but what a beautiful cover! Thanks for a great review, Kimba! 🙂

  5. Ginny

    Terrific review. I haven’t read anything by this author before but your praise for his beautiful prose has me interested. I’m not sure this is the book for me but I will definitely check out his other books.

  6. Dre

    I may be a biased reader now because I loved Chaos Walking, A Monster Calls and More Than This. I bought this book, but haven’t read it yet. I won’t be surprised that Ness wrote this beautifully, he does have a way with words. Magical realism is a hit or miss, hopefully this will be a hit for me. I’d have to get into this with an open mind and a clean slate to present a fair review. Thanks for your thoughts, Kimba!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Dre his writing is beautiful and I hope you enjoy this. Despite some parts that annoyed me I am still glad I read it 🙂

  7. Lauren

    I agree that Ness pounds you over the head with George’s niceness, and sometimes it’s a bit much. I loved this one for the writing, and was very impressed with the artwork and the update on the classic fable, even if it wasn’t perfect. Glad you enjoyed it for the most part too. Lovely balanced review!

  8. Jenea

    Wonderful review. I love the romances that just draw you in to all it has, the love and the trials. Glad you enjoyed this one.

  9. Faye

    I adore Patrick Ness (okay, I loved his The Monster Calls, but still, his writing there pretty much tugged my heart strings and made me ugly cry all day long), so I’ll probably check this one out. I’ve grown fond of Magic Realism after reading really good stuff (The Golem and The Jinni as well as One Hundred Years of Solitude) so I’m excited how Ness will play out. And come on, books with values and lessons? Who can possibly pass something like that? I’m in!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Golem and the Jinni was of my favorite reads last year!

  10. Trish

    I haven’t read anything by this author yet but I really want to. I love all the elements in the synopsis and am curious to see if this author is for me or not.
    I must read The Snow Child as well, it’s on my buy list and I love the sound of it.

  11. Giselle

    Oh Patrick Ness! I’ve been slowly getting through the Knife of Never Letting Go on audio and it’s good and so weird (in a good way!). This one sounds very different, too! And very well written! I also like the bit with the artwork but it reminds me of Graffiti Moon though obv it’s a very different genre. Glad you liked it! 🙂

  12. Michele

    What? Who can loathe The Wizard of Oz?? LOL! But aside from that, this book sounds so wonderful! And this: “The Crane Wife was unique with lyrical passages and beautiful prose. I found myself rereading parts and becoming mesmerized in the rightness of the words lying before me.” Good gravy, woman! That is stunning! Beautiful, beautiful review, my friend!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Michelle, sometimes it is so hard to describe how beautiful some authors are with the written word.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It had parts that were wonderful and others that were meh, but I am so glad to have read it.

  13. Melissa (Books and Things)

    Yes, I’ve wanted to read this one for all the reasons you state. I also know about that kind of repetition can get on your nerves, but I’m willing to risk it to read this one myself. I love that cover too. Would make a great animation to go with the story!

  14. Heidi

    I have read one other book by this author and liked it. I am curious about this one, but disappointed you didn’t love it more. I am such a sucker for beautiful prose, so I know I will love that part!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      The prose and stories were wonderful, despite the issues I had.

  15. Carmel

    I’m not sure what’s gotten into my lately, but I’ve been on a bit of a Fantasy kick. Maybe it’s my new associate reviewer rubbing off on me… Regardless, your description of this author’s writing style reminds me of Stiefvater whose books I LOVE. Another one to add to the pile. LOL

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Magical realism is very different from fantasy Carmel. It has a contemporary fiction feel with a glimmer of paranormal and unfolds slowly with very little increase in tempo. If you want to try Fantasy, try Red Rising, Throne of Glass, and Bone Season. They are light to mid-fantasy with a blended of other genres and all made my top ten lists with amazing world-building and kick-ass characters.

  16. Courtney

    Great review! I was one of the ones who adored it but over half my book club was shaking their heads wondering what the fuss was about. Patrick Ness is one of my favorite authors and so brilliant at times it blows my mind.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I am so glad you adored it Courtney and parts had me over the moon so I landed smack in the middle on my thoughts. Ness is brilliant though.

  17. Pamela D

    I need to read a Patrick Ness book so badly. I’ve only heard amazing things about him. I will have to check this one out from the library.

  18. Christa

    We had such similar thoughts on this book! Like you I enjoyed the writing but grew tired of George’s characterization. Overall felt pretty mixed about the whole thing.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Great minds think alike and all that. I am so glad to hear you shared similar thoughts because it’s Ness we are talking about and sometimes he writes such brilliant lines I am in all 🙂

  19. Jenny

    Hmm. I’m thinking this might not be the story for me Kim though I’m sure Patrick’s writing is beautiful. It almost sounds like it might be too literary for me if that makes sense – I tend to gravitate toward more action packed or romantic stories that a book club would likely never pick up to discuss:) I can’t help it!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Totally sense Jenny, if not for the beautiful prose I would have lost interest 🙁

  20. kindlemom1

    “The Crane Wife was unique with lyrical passages and beautiful prose.”

    That right there makes me want to pick it up and try it. I am a sucker for beautiful writing.

  21. Mary

    Hmmmm…I just don’t know about this book! Loved your review and I do like when the writing is gorgeous but…maybe? I think I’d have to be in the right mood to read it, especially with the sorrowful elements.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Yes, this is a mood book and one that needs to be matched to the right reader. Thanks Mary, you might like his Chaos Walking series better and it would introduce you to his writing style.

  22. Nick

    Japanese folklore? That’s so interesting. I’ve heard good things about Patrick Ness and his writing seems wonderful from the sounds of your review.
    Great review, Kim!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Yes, I have his Chaos Walking series and I am anxious to try it 🙂

  23. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    Ooh, I haven’t seen this cover for this book before! I like it though. Patrick Ness does have his way with words so I’m not surprised that you found the prose beautiful here!

    Lovely review! <33

  24. Jessica

    So here’s the thing: Japanese folktale-type stories<—not my favorite. Especially the ones that are "sorrowful." HOWEVER, you made this book sound positively enchanting. Also–I love the Decemberists 😉 I may not be 100% sold on this book (it's close), but I definitely recognize the need to read one of the two Patrick Ness books I already have. Awesome review!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Go with his Chaos Walking series, I think you would enjoy those 🙂

  25. Melliane

    it sounds like a beautiful book. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like that yet but it’s intriguing. Japanese folk tale? It’s a nice idea. I would be afraid by the multiple perspective because I’m easily lost but when it’s well done it’s perfect.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      The multiple pov worked fine since it was only a few characters in the novel.

  26. Jackie

    Sounds very intriguing. Magical realism is something that is usually hit or miss for me; I usually don’t understand the fuss, but when I do, and I like it, I love it. I’ve never read anything by Patrick Ness, and I should remedy that. Great review as always. 🙂

  27. Jennifer Bielman

    Okay, the concept isn’t really my thing but the beautiful prose makes me kind of want to read it. I love when an author makes art with his/her words.

  28. Camilla

    I have grown increasingly fond of Patrick Ness and really enjoy his way of writing and th the strange and unusual stories he comes up with.
    This sounds just like another of his odd yet endearing ideas, and I have no doubt that I will be one of the people who will love it!
    Thanks for a great review! 🙂