Books of Note: WEEK # 3 – ‘Grief is the Thing with Feathers’ by Max Porter


After I started the year with two classics by Tolstoy and Conrad, I decided to read a modern piece by a newcomer next: ‘Grief is the thing with feathers’ by Max Porter. A very friendly Swedish bookseller in Hammersmith recommended me this book and I was not disappointed at all. (I told her about my book challenge and that I need books for people who don´t have time to read.)

Anyway, ‘Grief is the thing with feathers was a very moving and interesting read as it comes a long with an interesting storyline, a very relatable core theme and interesting narrative elements I have not come across yet. Also chapeau to whoever designed the layout and the book cover; very appealing and they reflect the theme and mood of this book perfectly.

“Grief is a long-term project”

What it is about:

It is about a father of two who is trying to cope with the unexpected death of his wife.

Why it matters:

The book touches on very universal themes: deep loving, the perks of single-parenthood, how to overcome grief and there are also hints at coming-of age subjects. The structure and narrative elements are very interesting and added something new to my reading experience. (see storytelling elements). Oh, and for the award-obsessed readers among you; this book has a nice award record: Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize 2016;Shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize 2015; Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2015 and others.

Favourite Sentences:

“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.”

“An excellent ear for the flexibility of language and tone”

Storytelling elements:

The story works in a conventional 3-act structure. The third act and resolution are maybe a bit too convenient. However, what makes the read really interesting are its narrative elements: the story is told from three different perspectives: the father´s, the sons´ and the crow. Every single one of the narrating characters has its own distinct tone-of-voice and progresses quite significantly over the course of the story. The author jumps back and forth in time and also uses stylistic elements such as metaphors and poetry to move the story forward.

Some trivia:

The author seems to be an admirer of the English poet Ted Hughes; the protagonist of the book has a memorable fan encounter with Ted. In real life Ted Hughes had two children with Sylvia Plath who committed suicide, which left Ted as a widower and single parent of two. Art imitates life.

What others said:

„Porter has an excellent ear for the flexibility of language and tone, juxtaposing colloquialisms against poetic images and metaphors. The result is a book that has the living, breathing quality of the title’s “thing with feathers.”

– Katie Kitamura, New York Times –


Thanks, Katie.

Very good read indeed. Oh, and for the people who think they don´t have time to read: It took me only two hours to read so you can read it, too.

The journey continues…

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