19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
The first edition of the Crane Wife had a beautiful cover with rich, deep colours and a striking image. It screamed to be read.
It is difficult to categorise the novel. For much of its part, it is a standard novel of an everyman (George) who runs a print shop in London, his troubles with his irritating employee Mehmet, and a parallel story of his socially awkward daughter Amanda and her work colleagues Rachel and Mei. It's a standard offbeat drama with a small cast of slightly eccentric characters and everyday issues of disappointing love lives and horrible bosses.
But there's more. There's a magical realist vein as George rescues a crane with an arrow through its wing. This may or may not be related to a woman, Kumiko, who comes into George's print shop with some artistic feather cuttings. By an amaaaazing coincidence, George likes to indulge in paper cutting and the two hit it off in a big way. Together, George and Kumiko produce a set of tiles, depicting a Japanese story of love between a volcano and a crane. This is brought to life in a series of vignettes that intersperse the main text. They are, for the most part, opaque and pretty weird.
As the novel progresses, the surreal gradually starts to take over the mundane. At times, it can be hard to follow, particularly when dream sequences add a third dimension of reality. But Patrick Ness pretty much holds it together. The strength is in having extraordinary things happening to very ordinary people. As much as George's life transforms, he remains true to himself and continues to act like a well-intentioned Bromley print shop proprietor.
There is a love story at the novel's heart, but this is not some slushy romance. Men need not be afraid. Rather, the story is heavily stylised, with focus being as much on loss and impossibility as on the joys of spring mattresses.
The novel is essentially a retelling of a Japanese folk take. This may account for some of the strangeness, but prior knowledge of the Japanese tale is not necessary to enjoy The Crane Wife.
Overall, The Crane Wife is an enjoyable and relatively quick read. It poses questions but doesn't force answers.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is a difficult book to revue; I find my feelings towards it are ambiguous, but then again ambiguity is integral to the book itself. The skeleton of the book is that George finds a crane having fallen to the ground, shot with a huge arrow. He saves it and the next day meets a strange lady called Kumiko who (ambigously) may or may not be Japanese. Between them they create unique works of art. The book charts the development of their relationsip and how it affects George's family. The unfolding story resonates between literal and metaphorical, inhabiting an uncanny space between the two. There is no simplistic resolution. Love, freedom, forgiveness, sadness and transience are all found together, not as as alternatives, but as integral parts of each other.
The blurb tells us that this is a retelling of a Japanese folk tale; maybe there is a Buddhist influence of loving kindess, with imperminance, kindness, love and lack of attachment at the core. Though the author admits this is a retelling it has a newness and feshness about it, and is intriguing and thoughtful. In many ways it ought to be a five star book but in keeping with the themes of ambiguity, for some reason there is something not completely satisfactory in its totality. Nevertheless I will be looking out for more by Patrick Ness.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
THE CRANE WIFE by Patrick Ness is part fantasy, part romance and part cautionary tale. Parables and symbolism depict the destructive effects of curiosity, anger and jealousy as well as the happiness and love derived from understanding ourselves and accepting life as it is.
Each of the characters in this novel is a little more interesting than the last. George is a forty-eight year old print shop owner whose "go with the flow" attitude is attractive to some and a turn off to others. Amanda, George's daughter is an outspoken, angry, divorcee and mother who longs for acceptance by others but has created a protective wall around herself that is next to impenetrable. Her co-worker Rachel is another "wounded bird" lurking beneath a shrewish, manipulative exterior. Finally, there is George's assistant in the print shop, Mehmet whose general apathy and deliberate sabotage of customer orders makes one initially wonder why George continues to employ him. The lives of all of these characters are affected by the unexpected appearance of Kumiko, the human embodiment of the crane George rescues in the opening pages of the story. The human Kumiko enters Georges life via her feather art, in which she feels there is something lacking. She demonstrates to George how the inclusion of his "paper cuttings" in her art tiles completes them. It is with the tiles that she visually relates her allegory of the volcano and the lady - a separate tale that is interposed between chapters in the novel. The effect of the dual tales is initially a bit jarring, due in some part to the different writing style and presentation, but the reader soon becomes used to it.
Just as curiosity killed the cat, George's incessant search for the truth about Kumiko becomes a destructive force in their relationship. The story relies heavily on coincidence as well as unlikely situations and the reader must be willing to suspend logic and disbelief for this tale to work.
Ultimately, each character discovers their own truth in their search for a more fulfilling and fulfilled life but this knowledge does come with a price. Perhaps the best way to describe this novel is in Kumiko's own words to George where she tells him "A story is not an explanation; it is a net through which the truth flows. The net catches some of the truth, but not all, never all". If we look closely enough, we should each be able to see some truth about ourselves in Patrick Ness's story.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is a beautifully written book. I'm new to the work of Patrick Ness, and chose this book because it came highly recommended by Ottakers bookstore in Witney. George Duncan is a lonely, divorced, 48 year old male who runs a small printing firm. He's also a book lover and an artist, who creates pictures by cutting text and images out of books and gluing them together. His ex-wife, Clare, is a civil service solicitor. The two of them remain friends. George's 25 year old daughter, Amanda, is divorced from a Frenchman, Henri, and is raising her son Jean Pierre (JP) as a single mum, spending her free time with single office colleagues who are on the prowl for men. One night, a crane bird falls into George's back garden, having been shot through the wing by an arrow, and George rescues the creature, removing the arrow, so that it can fly away. The day after the visit of the crane bird, a beautiful woman, a teacher aged in her thirties named Kumiko, who's possibly Japanese, walks into George's printing firm, and very soon they start dating. She too is an artist, who creates beautiful images using collages made of feathers. She is cautious, secretive, refined, enigmatic. George is swiftly besotted, notwithstanding his daughter's reservations. You soon start pondering, what's the connection between the crane bird and Kumiko, and indeed, is there one? Who and what is Kumiko? Is she a human, a ghost, a goddess, or something else? At certain points, the book is a bit confusing, which is the only reason why I've knocked one star off the rating, but it's still a rewarding read. The author's prose style is creative, elegant, vivid in its depictions of character and life, not formulaic or prosaic, and it's always beautiful. Just like the two artists in this tale don't do painting by numbers, Mr Ness doesn't do writing by numbers, as it were, unlike many authors I can think of. This story had me hooked from page one, and I then read it straight through in a couple of days over the course of one weekend. As I was reading this book, I was (very) vaguely reminded of James Herbert's Fluke (a story about a man who thinks he's a dog, or a dog who think's he's a man, the reader's left to guess). In any event, The Crane Wife is thoroughly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2014
Giving Patrick Ness a 1* feels like heresy but this novel just didn't work for me. I found the main characters tedious and the writing didn't engage me. After 50 or so pages I decided I would rather just stop reading this than destroy my trust in Ness's writing skills..
If you are coming from the Chaos Walking series you may react similarly. (This is an adult fable set in the real world.) If unsure, perhaps try a sample.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Let it be enough that I have lived and changed and been changed. Just like everyone else."
This is my first Patrick Ness novel, and it seems it is atypical of his work to date which is generally for a young adult audience and of a darker persuasion in terms of subject matter. The Crane Wife takes a Japanese folk tale as its central theme, extrapolating it into a novel of just over 300 pages, with the strapline: "the extraordinary happens every day". It is a love story that may or may not be magical depending upon how you read it ...
George Duncan is a print shop owner and all round regular "nice" guy who hears strange noises one night and discovers an injured crane in his garden. Not long after, the enigmatic Kumiko comes into his life, and together they start creating beautiful works of art (tiles) that are capable of bewitching everyone who looks at them into parting with vast sums of money for the honour of owning one. Meanwhile the best character in the novel, Amanda Duncan (George's daughter), is struggling with anger, bad luck, and being misunderstood in a world that seems to be wilfully setting itself against her.
The story burns slowly for the first three quarters of the novel and then kicks off with flying colours towards the end when the "something big" that is on the horizon, "terrible" and "wonderful" at the same time, finally happens. I preferred the character development and human interaction throughout to the rather top-heavy drama of the grand finale, and think Ness did a fine job in creating Amanda Duncan with all her fury and humour and awkward humanity. I saw in an interview that Amanda's character draws heavily from his own way of being ... perhaps this is why?
The Crane Wife is well written but I remain on the fence in terms of its narrative devices. The multiple viewpoints work well, and it's interesting when we see the same incident through the eyes of others. There are sections which tell the tale of the 32 "tiles" that Kumiko is designing that worked less effectively in my mind; it's true that they tell a brilliant tale of a crane and a volcano, but I still felt they signalled their presence in the text too strongly and weighed the narrative down. Likewise, when the cause and effect of the ending are written several times in several different ways, I can appreciate that the writer is questioning one definitive view of events, but found this a rather heavy-handed way of doing that.
For me, Ness is at his best when writing about human interactions in the real world. I never got tired of the sections with Amanda, out picnicking with friends, or meeting her ex-husband; she's a brilliant creation. Equally, when Ness writes (what turns out to be another event based on his own life) of the car accident that George experienced as a child, it makes for compulsive reading. The infiltration of elements of magic realism and narrative experimentation are where I feel the novel stalls and as a reader I am snapped back into remembering that this is a work of fiction that I'm reading. This may be the point, but I didn't enjoy that aspect of it.
It's clear Ness is a good writer, though I didn't really see evidence of him being an "insanely beautiful writer" as the Time Magazine quote states. Ness excels by investing his (on paper) least likeable character, Amanda, with empathy and charm, and the rest of the novel and its characters don't really reach the same standard. The Crane Wife is an interesting fable on the meaning of love, greed and desire, but not really memorably so.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
I should declare up front that I was predisposed to love this book. Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy is one of the finest rendered dystopian visions in print. The middle volume, The Ask and the Answer is one of my all-time favourite books.The Crane Wife by the Decemberists is one of my favourite albums. Both book and album draw their inspiration from the same Japanese Folk-tale. Ness opens his novel with a Decemberists lyric and acknowledges their brilliance in his afterword.
The novel opens with divorcee George being woken by a keening sound from his garden. Investigating he finds an injured bird. A white crane, its wing pierced by a long and ancient arrow. Shortly afterwards he meets Kumiko. His life is never the same. Before Kumiko George's life is prosaic, but together they make fantastic art. Their relationship is passionate, yet unearthly. It causes ripples in every corner of George's life. Kumiko touches everyone she meets.
The Crane Wife is a pitch perfect tale about the hazards of love. Love in every sense; familial, romantic and in friendship. The greediness of love; the need to possess, the need to be possessed. The selfishness, the selflessness. Love with all its contradictions. It is also story about stories. How the same story can be told a different way for every viewpoint. This theme is picked out beautifully at the beginning and remains lurking at the back throughout the entire novel.
The writing is sublime. Funny, razor sharp and devastatingly accurate. Interleaved between the main narrative is a folk tale, central to the main story yet entirely separate, it is very different in style, and may not suit all tastes. Towards the novel's climax the folk-tale and real-world narrative dove-tail, giving the book a sense of magic and wonder. I'm not always a fan of magic realism, but this is both gentle and in keeping with the book as a work of art.
To unpick The Crane Wife for review is to diminish it. It is a tale about the beauty found in everyday life. Compelling from start to finish, I was unable to stop reading, even after switching out the lights. The characters and their incomplete travails played upon my mind in the dark of the night. The only way to find peace was to turn the lights back on, and devour the conclusion. Exceptional.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I adored Chaos Walking, More Than This, A Monster Calls so it was interested in Ness's adult work. I listened to the audiobook and found the narrator easy to listen to but wonder if I kisses anything. With talk about images and screens that the characters create, I don't know if I issed illustrations or not.
I found the story interesting but didn't warm to the crane story that Kumiko tells. George sees and saves a white crane one night in his garden and next day an enigmatic woman, Kumiko, enters his store. She is an artist and soon the two are working together and falling in love. George's daughter Amanda isn't sure how he feels about this. Possibly because of issues in her own life - divorced, single mother to JP, she has problems at work and hasn't met the women her dad is moving in with.
Their stories are good, you want to know what will happen to them all. I just didn't enjoy the crane wife story. I was reminded of The Snow Child which is also based on folk stories and which I also had mixed feelings about. I also am not a great fan of magic realism where the everyday world and magic sit uneasily together in my mind.
It's beautiful at times and sad. But I definitely prefer his Chaos Walking books. He is definitely a talented writer, but this one wasn't for me.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It is not often I can describe a book as beautiful, but this is one such - a touching modern fairy tale, based very loosely on an ancient Japanese one, which tells the story of George and the mysterious Kumiko who enters his life.
It has a constant thread of melancholy, of unmendable fractured hearts, and is written with a lightness of touch which stops it every becoming cloying.
It is a brief read, seeming much shorted than its 300 pages, and urges you on with a storyline which keeps you looking for more.
Ness is clearly a writer of profound talent.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
THE CRANE WIFE is a strange and beautiful tale, a story which is loosely based on a Japanese folk tale. When you read this novel, as with any fairy tale or folk tale, you do have to suspend your disbelief. But, what I think it tells us is that, sometimes, life can be more extraordinary than we might imagine.
The tale is about George; a divorcee, one night he comes to the aid of a crane which has been shot by an arrow. Following this act of kindness, a mysterious woman comes into his life, changing it in every way. This is a tale which is obviously about love but there is also a studied examination of art. George and Kumiko create separate pieces of art which, when combined, become hugely popular and bring them instant success. The art that they create shows a dichotomy which is often present in life - there is beauty, delicacy, supplication against power, force and the threat of destruction. In a sense, this is a reflection on love too.
As a lover of fairy tales and folk tales, I really enjoyed this novel. I would recommend it to others who also enjoy the genre, but if you prefer your fiction to be more believable, you may want to pass this one by.