Review of The Crane Wife

This week I’m reviewing a novel by one of my favorite authors, Patrick Ness. The Crane Wife is 305 pages short. Ness was inspired by the story of the crane wife, a Japanese folktale. I actually had two reasons for picking up this novel, one being that I love Patrick Ness‘s novels and the other being the title is also the title of a song by The Decemberists and the epigraph of the novel is a lyric from the song. I had high expectations for this book and I wasn’t disappointed.


This is a quote that I found particularly interesting:

“This, I will never understand,” Kumiko carried on over her. “The inability of people to see themselves clearly. To see what they are actually like, not what they fear they are like or what they wish to be like, but what they actually are. Why is what you are never enough for you?”

“For who? Me? Or everyone?”

“If you could only see the truth of yourself-”

“Then we wouldn’t be human.”

Kumiko stopped, as if slapped, and then looked strangely delighted. “Is that it? Is that what it is?”

To be human is to yearn, I think,” Amanda said. “To want. To need. What you already have, most of the time. It kind of poisons everything.”


This is a story of a middle-aged man named George who finds an injured crane in his London backyard and saves its life. Shortly after saving the crane, a peculiar woman walks into his print shop and turns his life upside down. They work together creating art that truly inspires people. I can’t really say much more because it would spoil the novel.

What I liked:

Pretty much everything. The whole book had me wondering what’s going to happen next. There are so many wonderful characters and, while there are some things that are kind of magical, most of the novel is very realistic. Even the parts that couldn’t happen in real life, seem plausible in the world of this book.

SPOILERS, SERIOUSLY DON’T READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK, YOU’LL BE CONFUSED: I loved the way Ness presented the reader with multiple options of how the fire started and lets the reader decide how they think it started. When Kumiko saves Amanda’s life, I genuinely started tearing up and I don’t cry much when I’m reading. All of the foreshadowing to Rachel being possessed by the volcano and then her transformation after he dies just blew my mind. END SPOILERS.

What I didn’t like:

I don’t think there was anything I didn’t like about it, actually. The only thing I can think that I’d have liked to be different is the fact that there aren’t many of George and Kumiko’s art tiles left at the end of the novel. But that’s just because I don’t like art being destroyed.

My overall impression:

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who likes a little romance combined with a slight mystery and folklore. It’s a beautiful story and the end is incredible. You’ll have to read it for yourself.



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