TITLE: THE CRANE WIFE
AUTHOR: PATRICK NESS
PUBLISHER: CANONGATE BOOKS
GENRE: MAGIC REALISM
COVER TYPE: HARD BACK
BLURB FROM THE COVER
One night, George Duncan – decent man, a good man – is woken by a noise in his garden.
Impossibly, a great white crane has tumbled to earth, shot through its wing by an arrow. Unexpectedly moved, George helps the bird, and from the moment he watches it fly off, his life is transformed.
The next day, a kind but enigmatic woman walks into George’s shop. Suddenly a new world opens up for George, and one night she starts to tell him the most extraordinary story.
THE OPENING LINE
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.
I thought The Crane Wife was sublime. The woman George meets, Kumiko is the crane whose life he saves. I’ve never read any magic realism before though I’ve dabbled in the fantasy genre now and then. Ness’s brilliant, original novel is inspired by a Japanese myth. I’m not familiar with Japanese mythology so I want to read up on it now.
I love the concept behind The Crane Wife. I’m fascinated by myth. My personal favourites are Norse, Greek and Egyptian mythology. I love to read non-fiction and fiction based around mythology. This gave The Crane Wife a head start as far as I’m concerned.
Ness effortlessly blends myth and realism in The Crane Wife. The chapters that chronicle George’s and Kumiko’s relationship are interspersed with chapters that re-tell the Japanese myth of the great white crane and her lover. I’m not sure what myth The Crane Wife is based on. I did some research online but couldn’t find out. I loved the chapters that re-told the myth. They were fascinating and really well written. The style was different from the rest of the novel and not to everyone’s taste but I loved these sections.
I really liked the characters in The Crane Wife. George was a really nice guy and Ness managed to achieve this without making him a caricature. He’s the kind of guy it’s easy to root for. I thought Kumiko was great. She changed the life of everyone she met including George and his daughter. There was something otherworldly about her. George’s daughter was a very complex character. I liked her the best.
There were some great scenes in The Crane Wife. I thought George and Kumiko’s relationship was fascinating. He was clearly besotted by her but she was quite surreal and aloof. He wanted to know everything about her and she held so much of herself back. Ness reveals at the end of The Crane Wife that George has known from the start Kumiko is the bird he saved. Kumiko and George make beautiful art between them and local people have a compulsion to buy it for ridiculous amounts of money. They become quite famous because of it. George’s daughter is a pretty complex but messed up person. She has quite an abrasive personality caused partly by a broken heart. Kumiko opens her up and changes her life. I actually wept.
Ness is a skilled writer. Every word was perfect. His descriptions were great. I got swept up in The Crane Wife and carried effortlessly along.
I thought Ness could have come up with a better title than The Crane Wife. I felt it gave away the game a little bit. I felt the title makes it clear Kumiko is the bird George rescued. That’s my only gripe.
The Crane Wife ticked all the boxes and pushed all my buttons. It made me laugh and cry in equal amounts. I felt overjoyed as I read every brilliant, lovely word written by Ness. Ness offered something truly different with The Crane Wife.