Book reviews · books · rambling · review

Book Review: Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter

Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to speak with you again, because a vision softly creeping, left it’s seeds while I was sleeping.

grief‘In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness. In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This self-described sentimental bird is attracted to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and physical pain of loss gives way to memories, this little unit of three begin to heal.’

First thing’s first: I am not a Ted Hughes scholar and have no idea about the poem that is constantly referenced throughout this book, I’ve since done a little research, but don’t think you need to know about ‘Crow’ to understand this text. The Crow in Grief is the Thing with Feathers is fairly self explanatory.

When I first heard of this book I thought it was non-fiction, one of those self-help books designed to allow the reader to feel not so alone and to help them understand their situation a bit better. I was wrong, this is not one of those books, but it could/should be. Part poem, part essay on loss, part modern day fable this is the most surprising book I’ve read this year.(I literally just read the Spectator quote on the cover as I uploaded the picture and laughed out loud. I promise I hadn’t read that before I wrote it!) And at only 114 pages, it didn’t take me long to finish it.

I picked it up because everyone I work with was telling me to, fully expecting it to be depressing as hell and to have to take an extra 10 minutes on my lunch to redo my make up where I’d cried all over myself. But no, weirdly, this is the most uplifting and beautiful book it could possibly be. Anyone who’s ever lost someone can relate to the family and will recognize the crow and be comforted that they are not alone, that others see the world as they do, that the crow is there for all of us.

There are no names, there isn’t a story line, not really; just this moment in time, where the family are grieving, and the hope, the promise that they will get through it. I loved it and honestly, I’m so glad that I listened to my colleagues. It’s a gorgeous and compelling piece of literature that captivated me from the start to the finish. The Crow is funny in a very dark humour sort of way, the boys are young and don’t understand what has happened so lash out, the father is suddenly alone and understands what has happened too well and suddenly has much more to be responsible for. I love that each character has an individual voice, so that even if you miss the chapter heading, you know who is speaking. It’s well done and part of what makes this book work as well as it does.

Grief is the Thing With Feathers is a fable for the ages and deserves all the credit and recognition it’s been getting recently. 5 Stars.

5/5 *****

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