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The Penguin Press



The Crane Wife

Edited by Ann Godoff

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 forty-eight, he owns a small print shop, is divorced, and is 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 waked 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 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 a woman walks through the front door of the shop. 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.



“In this exquisitely written retelling of a Japanese folktale, George Duncan has accepted his midlife loneliness. That is, until a wounded crane shows up in his yard, with a cry like ‘a mournful shatter of frozen midnight.’ Soon after a mysterious woman named Kumiko arrives at his print shop in London, the two of them not only fall in love but also create intricate artworks together, communicating through bits of cut paper, feather collages and even dreams. Is Kumiko indeed a human version of the beautiful crane—or not? The answer is irrelevant (though you won’t be able to stop reading until you find out). Author Patrick Ness moves between the mundane and the magical, showing that, in life anything is possible—even marriage, given the right circumstances, between a volcano and a bird.” Leigh Newman,

“Ness fashions his mosaic of prose, piecing narrative with snips of a myth-like fable to create a bittersweet story of loss and love. The narrative pace will keep the pages turning, while the imagery and metaphors wound throughout will stay with readers long after they close the book.” Library Journal

“Ness is a highly accomplished storyteller and the gravitational pull of the earthbound strand of his tale is strong enough to stop it from floating off into whimsy. He also has a rare ability to cut poignancy with humour. . . .the mood he creates is unsettling and potent.” —Michael Prodger, Financial Times

“Enthralling and delightful . . . The dialogue is natural and inspired, and sparkles with latent tension.” —Leyla Sanai, The Independent

“A fusion of mid-life crisis comedy and classic storytelling.” —Kate Saunders, The Times

The Crane Wife is a special novel: a perfect fusion of surreal imagery and beautifully crafted internal logic.” —Helen Brown, The Telegraph

“What’s striking is the beauty and humanity of Ness’s writing.” —Ben East, The Observer

“When George and his daughter, with their seemingly ordinary quirks and heartbreaks, are befriended by an enigmatic woman, art, beauty, and myth become living forces in their lives. This poignant novel echoes with the longings and sorrows of the ages. But what came as a most delightful surprise is the humor and humanity that Patrick Ness brings to this story.” —Eowyn Ivey, The New York Times bestselling author of The Snow Child

“This is a novel that treads with feather-deft steps through ordinary lives touched by magic, then takes flight on wing beats of powerful storytelling.” —Ali Shaw, author of The Girl with Glass Feet

“Patrick Ness is on top form here . . . The Crane Wife is a tale full of bittersweet wonder with a very human soul. A treat.” —Matt Haig, author of The Radleys

“I started to panic about half way through this novel: it was going to be over too soon. That was before I realized with relief that a second reading would be in order. Sure enough, I flipped back to the beginning immediately after turning the final page. Patrick Ness has a way of seeing inside people that I’ve admired in his YA novels, and he turns his eye toward the inner lives of adults here to great effect.” —Christie Olson Day, Gallery Bookshop, Mendocino, CA

“This is such a good read. Wonderfully magical like The Snow Child, inspired by a Japanese fairy tale. This is the type of book you truly love when the editor sends it to you.” —Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

“This is quite simply one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It hits an emotional tone that I can’t quite put my finger on. It is a story told so simply yet reaches every fiber of your being. It is sad yet inspirational, full of hope but also despair, full of the magic of life but also its consequences. I haven’t read Patrick Ness before but everyone I know who has is in awe of him. I’m joining that line now too and will be reading anything and everything I can get my hands on.” —Jon Page, Pages & Pages Booksellers

Author Q&A


He rushed to his bedroom to dress: trousers without underwear, shoes without socks, jacket without shirt. He didn’t look out of any of his windows as he did so, the one logical action, simply checking on what the sound might be, left bafflingly undone. Instead, he moved with instinct, feeling somehow that if he hesitated, it—whatever it might be—would somehow slip away, dissipate like a forgotten love. He merely moved, and quickly. He bungled down the stairs, fiddling his keys out of his trouser pocket. He stepped through the cluttered sitting room and into the kitchen, angering himself at how loudly the keys banged against the back door lock (and who had a key lock on the inside of a house? If there was a fire, then whoof, you were gone, banging on a door that would never open. He’d meant to fix that as well, but ten years later. . .).

He opened the door, swinging it out into the freezing night, knowing that whatever had made that noise must be gone, surely, in all the racket he was making from his clumsy door-openings and key-clatterings. It would have fled, it would have flown, it would have run—But there it stood. Alone in the middle of the modest stretch of grass that made up the modest back garden of his modest detached home. A great white bird, as tall as he was, taller, willowy as a reed.

A reed made of stars, he thought. Then, ‘A reed made of stars’? Where the hell did that come from?

The bird was illuminated only by the moon in the cold, clear winter sky, shades of white, grey and dark against the shadows of his lawn standing there regarding him, its eye a small, golden glint of blinking wet, level with his own, its body as long as he’d been when he was at his teenage gangliest. It looked somehow, he stupidly thought, as if it was on the verge of speaking, as if it would open its pointed, clipped bill and tell him something of vital importance that could only be learnt in a dream and forgotten on the instant of waking.

But he felt too cold under his one layer of clothes for this to be a dream, and the bird, of course, remained silent, not even a repeat of the keening that could only have come from it.

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