- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 8 hours and 32 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 4 April 2013
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00C6SWBBK
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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The Crane Wife Audiobook – Unabridged
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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.
Superficially the novel follows the story of the Japanese myth of the Crane Wife, transported to modern day London, but the mix of myth and introspection never quite gelled for me. There's a supernatural subplot which felt always too thinly sketched and almost tangential to the book - I wanted more time with the very engaging real-life people who Ness brought to life so well. I found myself reading very quickly through whole passages of the book, left with the sense that while it felt like it was saying something profound it was, in fact, what Daniel Dennett aptly calls a 'deepity'. In short, the experience was like reading a well-written equivalent of Paulo Coelho - on the first glance it says something deep about love and forgiveness, but when you look too hard it all feels paper-thin.
George is a shy, lonely man who -in possibly the most mundane and ridiculous circumstances- rescues a wounded crane which has landed in his garden. The next day, a mysterious woman, Kumiko (whose mystery is described ad nauseam to the reader) walks into his print shop with a suitcase full of paper-cut artwork. George and Kumiko fall in love, in a relationship meant to restore George's confidence, although it all happens too fast to be believable. Kumiko is too thinly-sketched to ever feel real and while that is meant to be the point, the myth on which the story hangs, it never feels like enough.
Nonetheless, this book left me interested enough in Ness's writing to want to read his young adult works - when he is not trying so hard to be so serious he really comes into his element and I would highly recommend The Chaos Walking trilogy.