The Crane Wifeby Patrick Ness Published 04 Apr 2013
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The extraordinary happens every day...
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.
Wise, romantic, magical and funny, The Crane Wife is a hymn to the creative imagination and a celebration of the disruptive and redemptive power of love.
"The Crane Wife" Reviews
The Crane Wife, quite simply, didn't work for me.
I've been highly anticipating this book since I learned of it's coming existence for no other reason than the fact that Patrick Ness wrote it. Ness is easily one of my favourite teen/YA writers and I find myself having to read everything he writes - even when he ventures out of his comfort zone and writes a novel for adults. Not only was I eager to jump back inside Ness's brilliant mind, but the promise of a retelling of an old Japanese folktale really called to me. My knowledge of Japanese myths and stories is limited, so I was sure the experience would be something unique and refreshing. And I suppose on some level it was.
The story is about George Duncan who is woken one night by a strange cry. Going outside, he discovers an injured Crane. George finds himself overcome with compassion and rushes to help the bird, removing an arrow from it's wing. The very next day, he meets Kumiko - a mysterious woman whom he falls in love with and together they create beautiful pieces of art. But George is dissatisfied with this existence and feels he needs to know more about the strange woman he loves. This desperation for knowledge is George's ultimate downfall; where the male character in the original story is ruined by his lust for money, it is George's need to know more that is his undoing.
It seems like I am being very harsh and critical to say that I think Ness should stick to his more subtle tales for young adults like A Monster Calls but I don't see it that way. The Crane Wife, though Ness's most ambitious work in terms of language and complexity, seemed somewhat pretentious and overly concerned with the reiteration of its own depth. Ness has evidently tried to take his writing a step further and play with language - but this story feels a lot more strained. The message in A Monster Calls was gentle, sad and powerful. The Crane Wife made me feel like I was being smacked repeatedly in the face with lessons in the philosophy of knowledge. So, yes, I do say that Ness should stick to more subtle tales or maybe he shouldn't write for adults - who knows? - but I don't mean this as a criticism. Ness is brilliant at handling poignant tales for children, whether it be about a boy with a dying mother or an adventure in a dystopian world, but his experiment in the different here was, in my opinion, a failure.
The Crane Wife really plays on the theme of knowledge and truths. I actually love and agree with the idea that the truth is not absolute but dependent on the person telling the story. I expect to see lovers of this book pulling up quotes like these:
"There were as many truths – overlapping, stewed together – as there were tellers. The truth mattered less than the story’s life. A story forgotten died. A story remembered not only lived, but grew."
"No one wanted to hear that people other than themselves might be complicated, that no one was ever just one thing, no history ever just one version."
But I come back to the lack of subtlety again. I feel like Ness keeps making this point again and again throughout the novel until I just wanted to be like "I get it! I swear, I get it!!" I don't know why Ness was so concerned with our ability to understand the message he was trying to put across when he's managed to weave them so gently and brilliantly into his young adult works.
Another thing I really didn't like was George. George is a nice guy, don't you know? Everyone loves George. George is a do-no-wrong, wonderful, women-treat-him-like-crap-cos-he's-such-a-sweetie type of guy. I can't stand that. For one, I can't stand unrealistically nice and good characters (whatever that male equivalent of Mary Sue is - I can't remember); for another, I hated the suggestion that there is something wrong with all the women who come into George's life for not appreciating him.
"a pleasant enough man, but lacking that certain something, that extra little ingredient to be truly worth investing in. It was a mistake women often seemed to make. He had more female friends, including his ex-wife, than any straight man he knew. The trouble was they’d all started out as lovers, before realising he was too amiable to take quite seriously. ‘You’re about sixty-five per cent,’ his ex-wife had said, as she left him.’ And I think seventy is probably my minimum.’ The trouble was, seventy per cent seemed to be every woman’s minimum."
George is that "friend zone" guy that all women adore but cannot be with for any length of time because they're too busy screwing bad guys. Why can't women just notice the nice guys standing in the wings, waiting to be awarded with sex and love for being such good friends? Ugh. This post is a fantastic discussion about the friend zone issue.
The Crane Wife isn't an awful book and, like I said, there were some beautifully written parts that I'm sure many will rush to quote. For me, though, I think I'm going to stay away from any future adult books by Ness and hope he delivers more of what he's good at. It's not an insult to say his power lies in younger books with simpler language; J.K. Rowling is no Proust but there are millions of children and adults around the world that will be forever grateful that she isn't.
Three and a half stars for me.
There was some lovely writing here, and I enjoyed the strong themes around family, love and relationships that Patrick Ness explores. I love the wonderful human insights he brings to life, especially in relation to the characters of Amanda and George. It made these characters seem very real. I also liked that this was based on a Japanese folktale, which I wasn't familiar with before reading this book.
Overall though, I wasn't a huge fan.
An act of kindness gets payed forward, a series of hearts become warmed and love takes reign.
The story successfully grabs you by the first page with a scene unfolding that’s visceral and magical in its compassion and kindness.
This story Crane Wife was inspired due to it being a folklore tale told to author in his youth. The author has used a unique original way to tell this tale and has used his way of retelling it and his own rules which worked and connected for me, he unorthodoxly tells two stories in one, he weaves a folklore lore story in a separate realm and world in separate chapters but in a parallel with the main protagonists real world story.
Dreams and realities take the storytelling to great places some mysterious, others tender and heartwarming.
There is a great tale here in the whole picture.
This starts off like a mosaic very small carefully made pieces, meaningfully put together and then the grand finished picture.
Put together like a jigsaw puzzle, when you final come away from the story that final piece that painting it formed in your mind every reader or onlooker may come away with something different, another interpretation and muse over it, some may see the beauty and the love it leaves you with in its grand poignant love story.
It’s the kind of story that may have you grabbing your loved ones close or seeking out humanity in need of company and cherish one more last breath before the curtain drops. This final piece, this novel is a memorable and meaningful work on the combined elements of kindness, love, regret, loss and forgiveness.
A illuminating heart, of a splendrous tale.
Review also @ http://more2read.com/review/the-crane-wife-by-patrick-ness/
Beautifully written. I just didn't connect well with any of the characters. I felt too much like an outsider when reading this. But wow dies Ness know how to build a book before your eyes. I think I'm just not at an age yet to appreciate this fully.
I just want to start this review by saying that this cover does its contents no justice. It is not that I dislike the cover, but I feel it doesn't match the poignancy of the book too well. But, hey, the lesson here is to never judge a book by it's cover, kids!
I read one paragraph of this book and I instantly knew I was falling in love. Having previously only read Ness' YA fiction, I was intrigued as to how his adult fiction would translate. I am so pleased to say that it had the same delicacy and poignancy incorporated in the writing. The opening paragraph sums up Ness' writing entirely and beautifully - vividly piquant, heart-achingly descriptive and quietly witty. His writing continually shocks and enlightens me as he constantly pushes the boundaries of the reader's expectations, whether that's from something as simple as sudden humour or something as dark as a sudden plunge into death and despair. Here, it was the former, but that did not mean it set the tone for the entire book. There was plenty of the latter thrown into the mix too, in true Ness style.
The Crane Wife is the story of George Duncan, who is the epitome of the average man. That is until he is awoken at night by the distinctly unaverage occurrence of a crane crash-landing in his back garden, after being hit through the wing by an arrow. This mix of the fantastical and the ordinary is where the power of the book lay. It is a book full of ordinary, everyday people, the ones unlikely to have a story written about them at all. But here they are. And here it is.
It is sometimes a little arduous to dissect the truth of the story in amongst the overlying sub-plots and side-story. But, to quote Ness himself, "there were as many truths - overlapping, stewed together - as there were tellers. The truth mattered less than the story's life . A story forgotten died. A story remembered not only lived, but grew ." And I wholeheartedly agree.
Sadly disappointed by this book. George is a boring, bland character that I couldn't stand, and the writing has that certain quality that I often find in adult books - the kind that make me want to bang my head against the wall. They're filled with endless descriptions dithering around for ages, talking about nothing with a hint of pretentiousness permeating every scene. And then when the themes and messages come in, they're communicated in a heavy-handed way. I don't hate this book, but I do get an overwhelming feeling of: meh.