Title: Grief is the Thing with Feathers
Author: Max Porter
Overall rating: 5/5
Great for: Fans of dark and atmospheric speculative fiction, and those with a love of the macabre.
Themes: Literary fiction, magical realism, contemporary, fantasy, speculative fiction, gothic fiction.
“Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project. I refuse to rush. The pain that is thrust upon us let no man slow or speed or fix.” . . I am in awe of the lyrical beauty of this book. This is one of the wondorous and innovative examples of speculative fiction and magical realism that I have ever read. . . #bookstagram #bookworm #booklife #bookish #booklove #bookdragon #booknerd #bookgeek #fictionbooks #ilovebooks #bookhoarder
Review: Have you ever read something and thought of what an utter privilege it is that this book came into your life? I have. About this book.
The synopsis of this sounds pretty simple – two boys and their father are grieving for their recently deceased mother and wife. That combined with the short length could fool you into thinking this is a straightforward and austere tale. But beware! Don’t be fooled by these deceptions. This is an abstruse and intricate story dealing with the emotional cycle of grief, and the hole it places in the lives of those left behind in the wake of death.
Set in short and often disjointed segments, this chronicles the years that follow the loss of a loved one from the perspectives of children, a spouse and the crow that visits them to ‘aid’ the family in their grief. What initially appears as a melancholy yet straight-forward tale, soon turns to the fantastic.
The symbolism of the crow is taken straight from the famed works of Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes and Edgar Allan Poe. It may appear perverse to amalgamate this already renowned fictional trope into something modern, but Porter skillfully weaves reality and fantasy together to provide the perfect home for this hybrid creature. The crow, in the book, becomes the metaphor for grief. It represents mourning and the coping mechanisms the individual deploys. Crow can perform the roles of nurturer and fraudster in quick succession, as needed:
“Crow is a trickster, he is ancient and post-modern, illustrator, editor, vandal…”
The different first-person perspectives chronicle the divergent approaches to dealing with death and combine to give a raw and gritty account of life lived with loss. This, despite the lyrical beauty of the writing, is often unapologetically course and crude in its depictions:
“Many people said, ‘what you need is time’, when what we needed was washing powder, nit shampoo, football stickers, batteries, bows, arrows, bows arrows.”
The tragicomic prose is, to sum it up in one word, unusual. And the crow’s perspective is the most unusual of them all. And through these unusual, poetic soliloquies comes the forward movement of time and, with it, the ultimate dismissal of the crow that haunts them. This sadness that permeates the text is alleviated in the last portion and hope is allowed sovereignty. As all those who have lost someone will know, “grief is a long-term project.” But it provides the reader with a further insight and understanding of the nature of grief that the text does not finish on the crow reigning supreme, the family unit does.