Book Review: “The Crane Wife” by Patrick Ness

Warning: If you have not read “The Crane Wife” by Patrick Ness, do not read this review if you do not want spoilers!

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m looking at “The Crane Wife” by Patrick Ness! I’ve reviewed a past book of his entitled “A Monster Calls,” so it’s nice to come back to a familiar author. Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“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.”

I was somewhat familiar with the original “Crane Wife” story, so I thought it would be interesting to see how someone else had their take on it. Unfortunately, I was hugely disappointed in the development of the characters. Amanda, George’s daughter, acted like she was entitled to everything she wanted and acted very immature when handling things that happened for the whole first half of the book. I also didn’t really understand her in the second half of her storyline—did she actually get pregnant again? Was she just dreaming of it? It feels too unclear to call.

Speaking of plotlines, Kumiko’s artistic tiles tell a secondary story about a volcano who destroys the earth (but also creates mountains), and a bird called “the lady.” I was confused as of why this storyline was put into the book until about the second half—George is supposed to represent the volcano, from what I understand, while Kumiko is the bird. I thought it was interesting, though I’m not sure if it was really needed.

George, though portrayed as a decent guy, clearly lets his curiosity and, as Kumiko put it, his “greed” to want more of her, overcome him and essentially ruin the relationship he builds with Kumiko throughout the book. Unfortunately, there’s nothing much else to his character. He’s literally just there to implant the lesson that pursuing knowledge doesn’t always end well, and that some things are better left unknown. Heck, Kumiko and the other characters practically tell him variations of this, and he keeps ignoring them until it’s too late! The way Ness wrote out this kind of lesson of pursuing knowledge leading to a bad ending felt like I was being hit over the head with it, and this got rather annoying by halfway through the book. I liked his writing style in here a bit better than in “A Monster Calls” despite that, though, because there was something more lyrical about his writing that appealed to me.

There were other drawbacks to his writing style in this book, though—there were flashback moments throughout the book where we start with a present scene, suddenly get taken to a scene that happened either a week or two minutes or some time before that present scene, and then get whisked back to that present scene. In past book reviews, I’ve mentioned time and time again that the use of flashbacks can either be a huge hit or a miss, depending on how clearly they’re written, but this time it was a miss for me.

Overall, I’m rating this book 3 out of 5 stars!

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