Grief Is the Thing with Feathers | Book Review

8:50 AM

written by Max Porter

'That Love Crow is all there is, 
Is all we know of Love Crow;
It is enough, the freight Crow should be
Proportioned to the groove. Crow
Emily Dickinson'


This is the first book from the pen of Max Porter, who otherwise works in publishing. It is a piece of experimental fiction, and therefore not for everybody. Although I wish everybody would go and read it nevertheless.


In a little over one hundred pages (114, to be precise) we are told the story of a family who have recently lost their mother. The father, a Ted Hughes scholar (crow, anybody?), and his two sons. They're all falling apart, in their own way. One day, the house is visited by Crow, because after all, crows are the symbol of death and mourning, and grief.
The Crow doesn't leave though - instead, she stays, and she guides the family through their grief. The Crow is at the centre of everything.  She is there when the father tries to finish his book on Ted Hughes and his crow, and she is there to babysit the boys. Almost like a mother, protecting her nest. You can never tell, not even after finishing the book, whether Crow is an actual thing, or just a trick of imagination, and although I know some people hate to not know, for me personally this is the best way to go with a story.
I can't really say much more without giving away the whole story. A little about the style, though..

It's written in three voices, divided into three parts. The three parts stand for the situation in which the family and the Crow find themselves - A Lick of Night, Defence of the Nest, Permission to Leave.
The three voices from whose perspectives we read are that of the boys, the Crow, and the father. A little into the story the voices of Crow and the father start to entwine and merge, and it takes focus to see which is which - and still you cannot always decide.
Personally, I found Max's style to be close to brilliant. He twists your brain and your perception, without making you feel frustrated.


My absolutely favourite part of the book:
The Crow tells the boys that there is going to be a competition, and whoever wins will be granted the real mother to put them to bed that night. The task is to try to recreate their mother as convincingly as they can, using whatever materials they please. One of the boys recreates his mother from all sorts of things like toys, and stationary, and books lined on the floor, the other boy draws her. And then they keep asking Crow to tell them, who won? Who will get the real mother back? And Crow starts laughing, and laughing a bit more, because how could the boys believe something so silly as bringing a dead mother back?

Brilliant writing and brilliant themes, this book is a must read. Although I do recommend reading The Crow poetry collection by Ted Hughes first. Just a tip.




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