This beautiful fable has cemented Patrick Ness on my list of favourite authors. I was lucky enough to find a signed copy in Readings in Carlton and it has sat on my shelf waiting for me to have time to give it.
It is the story of an ordinary, kind but mild-mannered man, George Duncan, and his meeting with an extraordinary woman Kumiko. She is definitely not what she seems and the reader gives George many wise nods as he falls in love with her. It is not just a love story though. It is a story of time and legend, of caring for oneself and others and of forgiveness.
George’s daughter Amanda is a prickly and difficult character who is unable to fit in even when she really tries. She also is fascinated by Kumiko and learns from her. Amanda arguably gains the most from her relationship with Kumiko as she learns to be more accepting and forgiving of herself.
Kumiko is unknowable but George still loves her, even to the point of dealing with her idiosyncratic inscrutability and secrecy. He is the gentle soul that she really needs as she tries to rest from her long trial.
The fable centers on an old tale, twisted slightly to fit the novel form, and a song by The Decembrists. Who the author recommends to his readers, pitying those who had not heard them. It is a tale of a vengeful and passionate lover who pursues a beautiful woman who will not kill him. Their elemental forces exist outside of time and the earth. Ultimately it will end badly for some, I won’t give away the ending, but read it for yourself. It is beautifully worth it.