The Crane wife by Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness is usually a YA author and previously I’d only read the fabulous a monster calls but I do follow him on twitter and when he read out some of the novel at a Kitschies event I was at last year I thought it was interesting enough to get when it was available. Then my favourite bookshop – Mr B’s Emporium of reading delights in Bath got him in to speak about the book and I knew I had to be there. The book is based on a Japanese folk tale, a man saves a Crane and shortly after a woman enters his life and he falls in love. Through her they become rich and yet the man has a growing dissatisfaction with the woman’s secretiveness. Ness spoke about the fact that some of the episodes in the book, Minor Spoiler (like the car accident) actually happened to him and his approach to writing. If a book you are writing cannot inspire emotion in the writer, how do you expect to inspire emotion in the reader. And this story is emotional. Ness interweaves a mythical story throughout the book in 32 short snippets of a love tale about the Crane and a Volcano which really underpins and informs what happens in the “main” plot.
George is a divorcee approaching 50 who runs a print company with a deliberately incompetent Turkish assistant and makes art from cutting up old books. His marriage broke down as he was too nice but has left him with a daughter, Amanda. Amanda has a flaw in that she speaks her mind and cannot make lasting friendships, she does however love her son fiercely and is also still in love with her French ex-husband. When the mysterious Kumiko enters their lives George and Amanda are changed. Kumiko makes art out of feathers and when her art and George’s art is combined it creates something that is much more than the sum of its parts.
A story is not an explanation, it is a net, a net through which the truth flows. The net catches some of the truth, but not all, never all, only enough so that we can live with the extraordinary without it killing us
Ness has woven together two narratives and like Kumiko & George’s art the sum is greater than the parts. This is a story about love, but not just a love story, it is also about possession and loss and the nature of stories.
Overall – Highly recommended modern ancient tale