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Grief is the Thing with Feathers

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  28,793 ratings  ·  4,009 reviews
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
Hardcover, 114 pages
Published September 17th 2015 by Faber & Faber (first published August 24th 2015)
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India Louise Have you read any of his poetry? In relation to this book I would definitely recommend 'Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow', which Hughes wrote…moreHave you read any of his poetry? In relation to this book I would definitely recommend 'Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow', which Hughes wrote after Plath died. The content is great but also in relation to Grief is The Thing With Feathers it would give it a whole new level of meaning :) x(less)

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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  28,793 ratings  ·  4,009 reviews

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Dec 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're looking for a book about grief that will make you sad but also not sad and will have beautiful lines and also some confusing passages but overall you'll leave it feeling like it was definitely worth your time because your soul feels a little bit different go on and pick this one up.

Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, reviewed, uk
You Cannot Prevent the Birds of Sorrow from Flying over Your Head, but You Can Prevent Them from Building a Nest in Your Hair
– Chinese Proverb


I picked this up because the title struck me like a poem in itself, sounding like an titillating modulation on that wonderful poem Hope is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson (view spoiler)
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project.

This is a book about two boys and their father dealing with their mother's death.
It's a very unusual book.
Unusual because their "grief counsellor" is a crow. Yes, a black bird.
Unusual because only at the end do we truly know what happened to the mother.
Unusual because, in truth, it doesn't matter HOW the mother died, but what happens to those left behind.
Unusual for its language whi
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read in another review 'Do we find books or do they find us?' I think it happens both ways. And this book found me. Perhaps a bit too personal here....but a recent family tragedy was just devastating to me. I tried to read to keep my mind occupied, but nothing could grab my attention. I felt horrible like I was just moving on so quickly trying to do something trivial such as read books. But I knew I had to continue on. To be honest, I really do not know how this book ended up in my hands. It w ...more
Angela M
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first saw this book I kept thinking about how familiar the title sounded, and then I remembered the Emily Dickens poem “Hope is a Thing With Feathers “ is what rang a bell here - hope not grief. While this novella is about the depths of grief, I couldn’t help but have hope for these characters. There’s no question about it . This is an odd story. The narrative alternates between the Crow and the Dad and the two Boys who are grieving the untimely death of a wife and mother. Crow comes into ...more
Peter Boyle
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is no ordinary book. It's part short story, part myth, part poetry, partly narrated by a massive metafictional crow. It's unlike anything I've ever read and it's absolutely wonderful.

We are plunged into the aftermath of a woman's tragic death. Her husband (a Ted Hughes scholar) and two young sons struggle to cope with the devastating loss. The father turns into a "machine-like architect of routines for small children with no Mum." Into their house comes Crow, a figure from the poetry of Hug
Rewritten: I didn’t know how to review this strange, clever, beautiful, amusing, and tragic book. Five days after finishing it, I was still unsure what I felt about it, other than that it didn’t move as much as I wanted it to, and as I felt it should. I posted a review anyway (scroll down).

The book is poetic and inspired by poems, and my review was not. It has raw emotions and empathy (but never sentimentality or false hope) that my review lacked. My words reflected the distance and disconnectio
Dannii Elle
First Read: November 2016, Rating: 5 stars
Second Read: January 2019, Rating: 5 stars

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 deceptio
Elyse  Walters
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Library - overdrive - ebook

I’ll start with the ending ‘first’... it’s sooo beautiful- I doubt any reader could read the last page just once.

I took the ‘WISE’ suggestion from another reviewer...a little ‘late’. Had I read their review- I would have learned of his/ or her recommendation.... which is: “before” reading this small book - ( around 100 book pages) - google
“Ted Hughes, and Sylvia Platte and The Crow” on wikipedia.

The ‘same’ reviewer - written in 2016 - posted on Amazon by ( her), *N
Sam Quixote
A Ted Hughes scholar and his two young boys grieve over the death of their wife/mother. Enter some magical realism! A Crow appears and hangs out with the sad family as they deal with their loss.

I hate the cover design of the paperback edition. Anything that’s plastered with blurbs like this one is just obnoxious. Do I need to see that many superlatives to pick up a book? No. I never read them anyway but that doesn’t stop this one from including three pages of blurbs besides the crap on the cove
May 08, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Largely incomprehensible rubbish. A story of a father and two sons grieving and coming to terms with the death of their mother. The reason we know that...? Because the synopsis tells us that's what this "novel" is about. If it hadn't, and we were just to read this nonsensical crap, we would be utterly clueless as to the point. Primarily, because there is no point.
This is one of those books where the author chose a topic least likely to garner criticism (who's going to pan a story about young ki
(Nearly 4.5) It may seem perverse to twist Emily Dickinson’s words about hope into a reflection on bereavement, but Porter’s exceptional debut does just that: tweak poetic forebears – chiefly Poe’s “The Raven” and Ted Hughes’s Crow – to create a hybrid response to loss. The novel is composed of three first-person voices: Dad, Boys and Crow (the soul of the book: witty, onomatopoeic, often macabre). Dad and his two young sons are adrift in mourning; the boys’ mum died after an unspecified acciden ...more
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk, 2019-read
In this allusive, wildly expressionistic and slightly enigmatic experimental text, Max Porter tells the story of a widower and his two young sons who suffer in the immediate aftermath of their sudden, traumatic loss. To help them cope, a crow visits and temporarily stays with them - the "thing with feathers" is a fable-like creature, "a myth to be slipped in", "a trickster, (...) ancient and post-modern, ilustrator, editor, vandal...". The character of Crow is modelled after Ted Hughes' poetry c ...more
Britta Böhler
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fivestars, poetry, fiction
This book is a wonderful reading experience, one of a kind. It's presented as a novella, but for me it was more like a collection of poems. The language is inventive and brutal and beautiful. It's not an easy read (especially if English is not your mother-tongue), even though it is very short, and you should definitely take your time to digest this book.
And: the 'Dad' in the book is a Ted-Hughes-scholar, i.e. it helps for your understanding of the book if you also read Crow, a collection of poe
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A moving and tragicomic prose poem which centres on a grieving father and his two young sons as they cope with the sudden death of a wife and mother with the "help" of Ted Hughes's Crow. A deeply original work which deserves the hype - I am no expert on Hughes, and I felt that greater familiarity would have made it even more resonant. ...more
Éimhear (A Little Haze)
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.

My goodness, this was beautiful, original, mesmerising, heartbreaking and everything I love about literature.

I love the title.
I'm fond of crows/ravens.

If you like audiobooks, Jot Davies' narration is brilliant.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I'm putting this on my poetry shelf even though it isn't really poetry, but the way it is written feels like prose poetry.. sometimes.

This is fiction and so many of the grief books I have been reading lately are non-fiction, so in some ways it doesn't feel as "true." Partly because it is imagined in the way fiction always is, but also in the way that the father in the story is writing from the perspective of an imaginary crow, because it connects to Ted Hughes and he is a Ted Hughes scholar, and
lark benobi
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faber, graywolf, 2016
I loved the character of Crow. There were amazing flashes of goodness throughout, and flashes of "that is what it must be like" to experience grief. I liked it even more the second time I've read it. This is a lovely little book. ...more
Aug 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a brave and quite original angle on grief, which is so much a part of the human condition, something we all experience. The plot is very simple, a mother of two young boys dies very suddenly and this is a poetic record of their and their father’s struggle with grief. The father is a Ted Hughes scholar and the surprise package is Crow from the poem by Ted Hughes, who moves into the family home to help with the grief process. Porter has said that part of the impetus for this was the death ...more
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, poetry
Here is a case study in not appreciating a book: I was lent this prose poem about grief, which I most definitely would not have chosen off my own bat, and challenged by the lender to read it in less than 45 minutes. I timed myself and it took me 27 minutes. I am a compulsive speed-reader, something that really isn’t conducive to the enjoyment of poetry, even poetry that I actually like. And this I did not like, unfortunately. The self-referential style did not charm me and the use of language fa ...more

Nearly everyone alive has lost someone dear to them. Not everyone can write well about it but Max Porter has done it in breathtaking fashion.

A man has lost his wife suddenly, unexpectedly due to an accident. His two young sons have lost their mother.

Three voices reach out to us:

The boys as a sort of braided, combined consciousness, with the young boys-eye-view of the events, the emotions, the weird adjustment to a life run only by dad and a home without a mom.

The dad, figuring it out day by day,
Julie Ehlers
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve never read Ted Hughes’s Crow, and I definitely think reading that poetry collection ahead of, or in tandem with, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers would have made for a more enriching experience. Even so, this was a vivid, poetic novel about the loss of a loved one. I was moved by its wisdom and awed by its originality, and I even laughed occasionally despite how sad it was. I can see myself reading this again at some point—for such a short book, there’s a lot going on.
I was initially torn between two and three stars for this book, but with much consideration, I've settled on two. I possibly may need to reread this book, at some point, but at the moment, this book was just "Okay" for me.
The first part of the book seemed pretty jumbled, and rather confusing, but as I ventured through the book, I got used to the style of the author's writing.

Since this book is based on the emotional subject of death, I do think this was done well. I liked the way the book is wri
Joanna Smith
This is the most extraordinarily touching, dark, sad, beautiful piece of writing on grief and love I have read. Unforgettable and deeply moving.
May 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british
Ow. Ouch. Owie. Ooof. Oi. Oooh.

In the best way possible, of course.

I’m getting beat up and down, over the head, over the heart, crushed into a pulp of pain and nostalgia, fear, sadness. I react with sounds and goosebumps. This is what healing could be. This is what meditation could be. This is what love could be. This is what tribute could be. This is what art should be.

Really good pain. Spring cleaning for the rusty empathy in my soul.

The cover of my edition of Grief Is the Thing with Feathers
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Absolutely poetic and written with so much heart. Stop everything and pick up this book!
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-fell-in-love
“Once upon a time there was a demon who fed on grief. The delicious aroma of raw shock and unexpected loss came wafting from the doors and windows of a widower's sad home. Therefore the demon set about finding his way in.”

[Actual rating: 4.5]

It took a bit to get used to the writing style as it's quite experimental, but once I did, I wanted to savour it and not put this book down. It's an amazing and hopeful message about coming to terms with loss and the process of grief and what one turns to i
Alice Lippart
Loved the theme and most of the poems, but struggled with Crows parts.
Sofia Teixeira
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An year ago I lost my best friend. The feeling was impossible to describe and until now nothing I had read made much sense to me. But then, I read this:

"Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project. "

In the day after this "anniversary", I was in France and I went to Shakespeare and Company and the first book I notice was this. I took it, I turned some pages, I put it down, but in the end I brought it with me. I read it in the a
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Max Porter’s first novel, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers won the Sunday Times/Peter, Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year, the International Dylan Thomas Prize, the Europese Literatuurprijs and the BAMB Readers’ Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Goldsmiths Prize. It has been sold in twenty-nine territories. Complicité and Wayward’s production of Grief Is the ...more

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