Continuing with my Ness theme, today I finished The Crane Wife. As seems to be a pattern, I finished it in one fell swoop, barely pausing to breathe – in fact, I had to wait to write this post, partly because I was starving (having not stopped reading to get breakfast or lunch) and partly because I was still in the dazed, jetlag-type state that comes from being immersed in another world and then having to come back to this one.
The Crane Wife is a reimagining of a traditional Japanese folk tale – although neither the narrative itself nor the fairytale that one of the characters tells bear much relation to the original. Still, the book ticks many of my boxes – it’s a retelling, it’s based on traditional folklore but with added character, it has magic and pathos and it’s really well written.
Of course I love it.
I love it for all the reasons I love Neil Gaiman’s writing. The Crane Wife has a darkness and a beauty that I recognise from my favourite stories (The Sleeper and the Spindle, for one, or the Sandman series). While reading, I had a sense that there was more depth, more meaning that I was even understanding – like a metaphor that was just slightly out of reach – which only made it better. The art in the book feels like that to the characters; like it just perfectly opens up an idea or a feeling so that it’s suddenly too big for your heart and your mind to fully grasp. Like touching the eternal. This is how the best books make me feel. This is how I felt reading The Crane Wife. Exquisitely beautiful writing.