I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Canongate Books on 4-4-2013
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance
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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 is a story about George and his daughter Amanda. One night, George discovers a wounded crane in his yard that he nurses back to health. Later, he meets a mysterious woman named Kumiko, who wants his help with some artwork she is making. Eventually they fall in love and agree to be married. But Kumiko harbors a number of secrets and is more than she seems.
There are a few story lines interweaved: George, Amanda, George and Kumiko, and the Crane and Volcano.
Having read most of Patrick Ness’ novels and enjoying them, I wanted to give this one a try. I listened to the audible version. The narrator did a fine job, although this is probably one of the most down-keyed depressing narrators I’ve ever heard, but it fit with the tone of the novel.
The writing itself was fairly well executed in as far as it was very poetic and fluid. But…it often went on way too long and thus the pacing was just glacial. There isn’t a whole lot of action in this novel. It is mostly about the characters feelings and conversations. And then there is this whole mystical story line about the crane and the volcano, a couple apparently eternal who are outside time, but whose story doesn’t always make much sense, and who seem to be unable to carry on a natural conversation with each other. Anytime one answered the other, the answer was always self-contradictory (yes and no). This mythology would have been interesting to me, but it answered nothing and didn’t always make any sense at all. And not only was the plot just too slow in places, but there were parts put in that were baffling. The book opens with an extended description of George peeing, there are several places where Amanda is peeing and hears noises outside (nothing becomes of that), a whole subplot about Amanda being pregnant that goes nowhere, and an extended chapter exploring a ton of different ways a house fire could have started (just pick one already). Also it had a very nice logical ending place, and then continued on for chapter after chapter.
Character-wise, all of the characters are mostly well developed, and all very well detestable. George is described as a nice, giving wonderful man. But as the story continues we learn more about this man, and see that in reality he is self-centered, quick to anger, unfaithful, and generally a low life. And his daughter Amanda is selfish, negative, and really has nothing to say positive about anything. We feel a bit of sympathy at the way she is treated on the street by people but by the end of the novel, she isn’t much better, but instead has found people under her to pick on, and peers to share her negativity. She is the kind of person who might leave her son alone with a mentally-unstable woman while she ran into a burning house without any thought that she might die and leave her son motherless. I wish I could say that the characters all experience growth and redemption, but really I could only say that about Rachel, the boss and semi-friend of Amanda. Even Kumiko is hard to completely like since she spends most of the story lying to everyone about who she really is, and making promises to George she can’t keep.
It is a very interesting take on the traditional crane story, and it is not a bad book at all. But I felt it just went on way too long with too much filler, the characters were just too unlikable with little redemption, the mythology was shallow and unsatisfying, and there were many things tacked into the book that just didn’t fit. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it was half the length it was. But in the end, it was an experience and certainly has a unique mood and prose that are worth giving a try.