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January 2017: Foreign Literature > Grief is the thing with Feathers - Max Porter - 4.5 stars

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message 1: by Kristel (last edited Jan 21, 2017 10:19AM) (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 696 comments Grief Is the Thing with Feathers This little book is a novel, not a memoir but you could be tricked into thinking it is a memoir. It can be compared to such works as Grief Observed, Helen MacDonald's H is for Hawk — and Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, all of which are memoirs written by authors from their grief. The title made me think of Emily Dickenson Hope is a thing with feathers, it seems like something she might have wrote. and when I opened the book, I find this epigram, "That Love is all there is, Is all we know of Love; It is enough, the freight should be Proportioned to the groove--Emily Dickinson but the author or rather CROW has struck out Love, Love, Freight and groove and penciled in CROW. The jacket flap describes the book as part novella, part polyphonic (multiple voice) fable, part essay on grief. So experimental in structure, it is a debut noel for Max Porter who lives in London with his wife and children. I liked the use of CROW. Use of black birds like crows and blackbirds are often used in books. There is reference in the book of Ted Hughes' Crow (poet) and to Plath (they had been married). Use of mythology, crows carrying the souls to the land of the dead. Even in Noah's ark, the first bird sent from the ark was a raven while the earth was covered with the dead.

The book is written in short, little small blocks rather than lots of sentences into paragraphs and jumps from one voice to the next (Crow, Dad, Boys) So there is a shifting perspective but mostly it is about how dad deals with his grief and how his grief ends up effecting the boys. The author is drawn to Ted Hughes and Emily Dickinson. The sections progress as the dad makes his way through the experience of grief and the reader can see that progression. I actually read a library copy. It is a paperback, the book was published originally 2015 in London and my copy was published by Graywolf Press a Minneapolis based publisher. The cover has three windows, one with shade up, shade half down and one with shade all the way down and off to the side is the title and a little black crow in flight or just landing in the upper right corner. There are a lot of white space and a dropped feather here and there. The author wanted to write about grief but used his love of his wife and boys as his foundation and the grief he experienced when his father died. The author did a good job because it felt like a memoir and I could compare this book to the memoirs by C.S.Lewis, MacDonald's and Didion. So I give this book 4.5 stars and would round up to 5 rather than down. This book should really resonate with me because I like books about grief, I liked CS Lewis's book Grief Observed, Didion's book is one of my favorites and I also love Emily Dickinson's work. I have not read Ted Hughe's Crow. Perhaps I need to do that.

I put this book here because it is British Literature so foriegn to me in the US but it is in English so not translated work.


message 2: by JoLene (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1532 comments This sounds interesting.....thanks for the thoughtful review. I just finished The Year of Magical Thinking in December which I liked much more than I thought I would.


message 3: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5320 comments Your review put it on my radar list.


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