‘Grief is the Thing with Feathers’ by Max Porter – Book Review

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.

My Review

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.

five stars

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.”

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20 thoughts on “‘Grief is the Thing with Feathers’ by Max Porter – Book Review

  1. Sounds like a very moving and powerful book. I find grief to be a difficult subject to discuss in books but it seems that the author did this with a lot of sensitivity and care here. Brilliant review, Emer!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 I JUST…..😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 This review reminded me of this other book I read a few months ago – Things I want My Daughters to Know – the mother dies in it! 😭😭😭😭😭 AND DAMN THESE BOOKS! THEY LEAVE THE READER BROKEN AND SCARRED AND DEPRESSED AND IN A PIT OF SADNESS THAT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO CLIMB OUT OF!! 😭😭😭😭😭

    Will that stop me from reading this one though?

    Nah. Imma read it and turn myself into a sobbing mess! 👻👻👻👻 SUCH FUN! 🤣🤣🤣

    Lovely review, EMER! Oh and might I remind you again how much the existing books on my shelf hate you now because you keep making me add more and more which seem faaaarrr more exciting to me than those old doodies!! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣👻👻😉😉😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HAHAHAHA I am sorry all of Rain’s other books!!! 🙈😂🙈😂🙈😂
      This book though…. I just don’t know how to explain how much I love it. How much it deeply moved me. I think books that explore the psyche of grief are just so phenomenal. Because it’s the rawest of human emotions and this book…. It’s just expert in authenticity. Rawness. It just demands that you feel and omg I love that so much. Definitely one of my all time fav books that I can only hope you and others will love just as much as I do. That it will mean as much to you as it does to me <3333333

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh dear!! IT SEEMS LIKE THE BOOK KWPT WITH ITSELF A PIECE OF YOUR HEART AND IN ITS PLACE LEFT AN UNDYING LOVE!! MY, MY! There is NO WAY I will NOT READ THIS ONE NOW, I AM TELLING YOU!! 😍😍❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️💕💕💕👻💕

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know if I am emotionally stable enough for this book at the moment. Losing my grandma is still a hard topic and this would probably have me bawling for weeks, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You always write such beautifully descriptive reviews Emer! This story sounds heart-wrenching and so good. I’m adding it to my TBR. I’ve been in the mood for emotional reads lately ❤ Jen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thanks so much Jen!!!! I love Max Porter with all my heart. I know he’s not quite everyone’s cup of tea because his narrative structures are certainly unique but he’s such a gifted wordsmith. I just love both this book and Lanny so much. He’s 100% an auto buy author for me :)))

      Liked by 1 person

  5. oh this will absolutely have me sobbing and on the floor for days I feel like. hello grief my old friend. beautiful and gorgeous as ever my friend. this sounds wondrous and heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

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