Title: Grief is the Thing with Feathers
Author: Max Porter
Genre/Themes: Literary Fiction, Experimental Writing Style, Novel meets Verse, Grief, Ted Hughes
Blurb from Goodreads
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.
In this extraordinary debut – part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief, Max Porter’s compassion and bravura style combine to dazzling effect. Full of unexpected humour and profound emotional truth, Grief is the Thing with Feathers marks the arrival of a thrilling new talent.
Words are refusing to come to me. But the tears are flowing. This was unlike anything I’ve ever read and my heart is bursting. This was dark, sad, funny, light, hopeful, desolate…
Part novel, part verse…
And every part of it was beautiful.
Every emotion stripped back and true.
It is the story of a father and his sons after the death of their mother. And how a crow comes to live with them. How this symbolises their unending grief; and its manifestation and infection of all their lives.
“Grief felt fourth-dimensional, abstract, faintly familiar. I was cold. The friends and family who had been hanging around being kind had gone home to their own lives. When the children went to bed the flat had no meaning, nothing moved.
The doorbell rang and I braced myself for more kindness…
I felt it would be years before the knotted-string dream of other people’s performances of woe for my dead wife would thin enough for me to see any black space again, and of course – needless to say – thoughts of this kind made me feel guilty. But, I thought, in support of myself, everything has changed, and she is gone and I can think what I like. She would approve, because we were always over-analytical, cynical, probably disloyal, puzzled. Dinner party post-mortem bitches with kind intentions. Hypocrites. Friends.
The bell rang again.”
I loved every page of this short book. My copy is now laden with notes and highlighted passages. I adored the writing. The differing points of view really enhanced the reading experience and helped to explore all the differing facets of grief. And the prose… Simply perfection. This book felt like a most beautiful poetic exercise. Just stunning.
In short, I recommend this to anyone and everyone who has ever lived and lost someone. This may be somewhat magical in its execution but I have never read something that felt more realistic.
Pure Brilliance. Highly recommended
“We were small boys with remote-control cars and ink-stamp sets and we knew something was up. We knew we weren’t getting straight answers when we asked ‘where is mum?’ and we knew, even before we were taken to our room and told to sit on the bed, either side of Dad, that something was changed. We guessed and understood that this was a new life and Dad was a different type of Dad now and we were different boys.
We were brave new boys without a mum.”