Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness (review)

Rating: 4 Highly Recommended 
Source: Bought (and signed) at Bookslam Bristol

Synopsis from GoodreadsThe 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.

Find out why I loved The Crane Wife after the jump:

The Crane Wife is such a personal book I think. The kind that will be completely different to each person that reads it. The plot is less of a plot and more of a... journey. Don’t worry, I know how pretentious that sounds, nevertheless it’s the only word I can use to describe it. Because a lot of books are like going on an aeroplane, they’re about reaching your destination, seeing what’s going to happen. Will the guy get the girl? Will evil be vanquished? But this one is more like a road trip, where it’s not about the end, it’s about how you get there. Obviously that kind of journey is going to be different for everyone. Someone is driving, someone is in the back seat looking out of the window, someone is in the passenger seat, choosing the music. In the same way, I feel like reading The Crane Wife will be a completely different experience for each reader. I mean, obviously all books are like that to an extent, we can’t help but bring our own experiences to a text, however much we try not to. And yet, isn't it possible that in some cases that could be amplified, tenfold, a hundredfold? 

Because of that, I decided, instead of a conventional review, I would just talk about aspects of The Crane Wife that I really liked. Going through the story would just ruin it for you guys, and I didn't want to do that. 

1. The Art Paper cutting is such a beautiful way of making art. I’ve long been a fan of Rob Ryan - I bought a card of his with no intention of sending it to anyone, ever - and in his acknowledgements Patrick Ness mentions the work of Su Blackwell who creates beautiful sculptures from paper. She takes something that we take for granted, books, and makes them into incredibly intricate, delicate creations that you just can’t stop looking at.

2. The Characters
Ness creates an otherworldly atmosphere in this book, there’s a fine line between myth and the truth, dreams and everyday life. So it’s a welcome surprise to have such grounded, relatable characters. From “soft” and”nice” George, deemed to be only “about sixty-five percent” by his ex-wife, to Amanda, his daughter who can’t seem to stop pushing people away, every character seems like one you could meet on the street, or at work - with the notable exception of Kumiko, who exudes mystery in a way that makes the characters seem even more normal.

3. The French
Once a French student, always a French student I suppose as I fall for any mention of la belle langue in literature. Particularly when it’s not used as some device to mean “look, this character speaks French, they must be sophisticated!”. 

4. The Fonts
In my notes for this book I actually have one that says ‘nice font’. I am a sucker for nice fonts, and the two used in this book, Sabon and Mrs Eaves, are lovely. They’re even given a note at the end, with a little history of their creation. It makes me wonder what happens if you read this book on an e-reader like Kindle or Kobo, where the readers themselves have only a certain amount of fonts available. 

5. A Story about A Story At it’s heart, The Crane Wife is about stories. Whether they’re creation myths, novels or the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives, for each reader and for each storyteller, they’re always going to be a little (or a lot) different, even if they relate the same events. Anyone who knows the power of a book that you can’t stop reading, the impossibility of turning off the light even if it is 3am and you have work or school tomorrow, can relate to The Crane Wife and to George. Don’t we all want to know the ending of the story? Even if that story is our lives? But we forget sometimes that it isn't the ending that is important, it's the story itself. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this slightly unconventional review style, and it hasn't left you completely confused! Let me know what you thought, of the review and/or of the book, in the comments.

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