Research The Crane Wife, and the majority of the results will pertain to an album recorded by The Decemberists in 2006. Research performed prior to this date, however, would have yielded a Japanese folk tale on which this novel is based.
George Duncan is an American expat living a quiet life in London. His marriage and subsequent relationships have ended because George is too nice and never really puts up a fight. He spends his days working in his print shop, being bullied by his angry daughter, and watching his grandson. He also uses a blade to turn books into shapes… not quite art, but something unique.
He wakes one night to a keening sound in his back garden. He assumes it’s his bladder until he hears it again and discovers a crane that has been pierced by an arrow. George removes the arrow, and the crane flies away, leaving him to wonder if the experience really occurred.
The next day, a woman named Kumiko visits the print shop with the intention of reproducing her artistic tiles. When she sees a crane that George has created out of book cuttings, she takes the crane and incorporates it into her art. The result is a stunning piece that captures the attention and imagination of all who see it. George and Kumiko collaborate on many tiles, which sell for exorbitant amounts of money, but they never work on the pieces together. Kumiko has an air of mystery about her, and even though she keeps him at arm’s length, George falls in love with her. In fact, *all* who meet Kumiko fall in love with her.
Patrick Ness’s retelling of the myth is alternately ancient and modern.
The old Japanese myth is divided into 32 segments which are interspersed throughout the chapters, and the modern day version is both magical and humorous. Ness has a knack for timing; even the silence in conversation has a rhythm.
Myths, fables and folk tales tend to require a willingness to suspend disbelief. Readers who are willing to do so will enjoy this lovely re-imagined folk tale.