Audiobook Review: The Crane Wife

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: The Crane WifeThe Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
Narrator: Jamie Glover
Length: 8 hrs, 34 mins
Published by Penguin Audio on January 23, 2014
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Retelling, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible

A magical novel, based on a Japanese folk tale, that imagines how the life of a broken-hearted man is transformed when he rescues an injured white crane that has landed in his backyard.

George Duncan is an American living and working in London. At 48, he owns a small print shop, is divorced, and lonelier than he realizes. All of the women with whom he has relationships eventually leave him for being too nice. But one night he is woken by an astonishing sound - a terrific keening, which is coming from somewhere in his garden. When he investigates he finds a great white crane, a bird taller than even himself. It has been shot through the wing with an arrow. Moved more than he can say, George struggles to take out the arrow from the bird's wing, saving its life before it flies away into the night sky.

The next morning, a shaken George tries to go about his daily life, retreating to the back of his store and making cuttings from discarded books - a harmless, personal hobby - when through the front door of the shop a woman walks in. Her name is Kumiko, and she asks George to help her with her own artwork. George is dumbstruck by her beauty and her enigmatic nature, and begins to fall desperately in love with her. She seems to hold the potential to change his entire life, if he could only get her to reveal the secret of who she is and why she has brought her artwork to him.

Witty, magical, and romantic, The Crane Wife is a story of passion and sacrifice, that resonates on the level of dream and myth. It is a novel that celebrates the creative imagination, and the disruptive power of love.

For all that Patrick Ness is one of the most-loved authors in the YA world, I was a bit nervous about his adult offering. To some degree, it seemed too good to be true. Perhaps it was, for it’s not quite the book of my dreams. However, I did end up liking the audiobook version. The Crane Wife is much slower-paced than The Knife of Never Letting Go or A Monster Calls, and will likely be a shock to Ness’ YA readers.

Though it’s harder to talk about the specifics of the writing in an audiobook review, I can say with assurance that he’s still bringing his marvelous talent to bear. There were several lines that I wished I could have immediately jotted down, but I tend to audiobook listen while I’m actively engaged in a task.

The Crane Wife opens with an epigraph of two lines from the Decemberists’ album of the same name, which, incidentally, I am currently listening to. Patrick Ness won so many bonus points for also loving one of my very favorite bands. Yes, I will shamelessly plug them, just like he does in his author’s notes. Seriously, The Decemberists are like historical fiction/mythology in song form, and it’s brilliant.

I must admit that I struggled with the opening of The Crane Wife. George is an older man and he’s peeing, and I’m just like “why do I care about this?” but then he finds an injured crane in his backyard. Not a usual site in London, I imagine. He heals the crane, unsure almost whether those events were real life or some sort of dream. Shortly thereafter, George meets Kimiko, and falls in love with her and with the art they create together.

Although the story seems to predominantly be about George, Kimiko, and their art, it’s also heavily about George’s daughter Amanda. Likely due to my age and our similarities, Amanda’s story line was much more interesting to me. She has trouble relating to people, because she’s not as friendly and can’t play the small talk social games. The end result is that people think she’s a closed-off bitch, which, in some ways she is, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Essentially, The Crane Wife is the unfolding of their lives, as they are affected by the mysterious Kimiko, who definitely falls into manicpixie realm, though I suppose that’s excusable since that’s essentially what the tale demands. Running throughout the story, in very postmodern fashion, is another tale, which Kimiko is telling in thirty-two tiles. Mostly, though, I could wish for more characterization and for less infidelity, because oy there was a lot of that.

The audiobook did make a nice listen. I’m not sure how well I would have done with this book in print, as Jamie Glover’s narration was quite pleasant. The Crane Wife is not a novel that will appeal to most readers of Ness’ YA books, but I do recommend it to adult fiction fans who will be charmed by the magical realism of the crane and the blending of art and life.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

bird to woman swan princess

3 responses to “Audiobook Review: The Crane Wife”

  1. I read Crane Wife and parts were beautiful with quotes I wrote down all over the place and well there were parts that didn’t work for me. I liked Amanda’s storyline too. I found the art fascinating. Wonderful review 🙂
    kimbacaffeinate recently posted…Under Your Skin by Sabine DurrantMy Profile

  2. OMG THE SWAN PRINCESS. I know,I know I always pick up on the GIFs first but we had that movie on VHS when I was a kid along with the two sequels and used to watch it like once a week. ODETTE. She’s the best.

    Anyways, I think that is cool when authors give a shout out to music.

    I think I would like this because I like adult books and seeing when authors try something out of the ordinary and good writing too.


    Have you read Wildwood by Colin Meloy? It’s pretty good but not an everyone sort of book if you know what I mean.
    April Books & Wine recently posted…Brotherhood | AB Westrick | Book ReviewMy Profile

  3. Heather says:

    Like you, I’m a big Decemberists fan, so I’ve been giddy since hearing that Patrick Ness’ newest book would be based around the same mythology as their album. And I’ll admit, I’m a huge sucker for how gorgeous this cover is- I’m talking hang it over my be on the ceiling so I can stare at it before I go to sleep at night in love. And even though this does seem vastly different from his YA novels, I’m still enough of a fan of his writing that I’ve little doubt this will be a gorgeous read to match the gorgeous cover. Hopefully it translates as well for me in print as it did for you in audio. Thanks for the lovely review!

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