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.
First published: 2013
Disclaimer: I read the Dutch translation of this novel, so I will not be commenting on the prose.
I’ve never read anything by Patrick Ness before, but I’ve read that he’s most known for his YA books. Perhaps I should pick one of those up some time soon because I really enjoyed The Crane Wife. The combination of modern day love story and ancient legend (sort of) worked really well for this novel. Every time I thought it was starting to get a little too “out there”, so to speak, some ordinary every day problem George or his daughter Amanda faced made me change my mind.
The predictability factor of Kumiko’s true identity was quite high, but not in an annoying or distracting way. It is so incredibly obvious that Ness must have written it this way in purpose, and it only makes you pay more attention to the details of this identity which remain vague until the end. Besides, the unexpected but very thrilling climax throws you off for minute.
While George and Kumiko are both quite interesting characters, I feel like they could’ve been fleshed out a little more. Of course it was necessary for Kumiko to have an air of mystery about her, but George’s character could definitely have gotten some more attention. You get to read a lot about his past, especially his youth in the United States, but somehow he still seems like a bit of a flat character, whose every move is about his love for Kumiko. A part of this was necessary for the story, but his complete and blind devotion becomes quite annoying at times. The only character that is really well presented is Amanda, George’s daughter. She’s the only one who really goes through some sort of development in the story, and is therefore most like a real person.
Despite these little flaws I really enjoyed the story, which is a bit like a modern day fairytale — something I always enjoy. I’d definitely recommend The Crane Wife to anyone who likes this as well.