Grief is the Thing With Feathers

Snip20170511_1Okay, here we go again. I don’t know if it’s just me that I am not in keeping with the rest of the world but that seems to be the way it is with these modern books. I think I am getting old.

This book by Max Porter has caught my eye for months. I have seen it in every book store I go into. I like the idea of the crow. He caught my attention immediately and has stayed with me for months. I did not even open this book to see the style of the writing. I put it on hold at the library and after a couple of months it finally came in.

I couldn’t wait to read it. The other day I had several appointments so I popped it in my bag to travel with me for the day.

I had a doctor’s appointment (just routine) and as she was running late I read most of it in her waiting room.

The story (as probably most of you know as everyone reads these books long before I get around to them) is about the death of a mother. She has left her grieving husband and two sons behind. The crow appears almost as a counsellor for the family.

The book is written similarly to free verse poetry without the rhythm or rhyme. Each page or two is written from the point of view of ‘dad’, ‘sons’ or ‘crow’.

I got irritated with it.  I thought, after all these months, it would be more of a narrative about these people and their relationship with the crow.  Although I found it went along quite well in a logical sequence I thought it was being just that bit too clever. I never held that connection between all the characters in the story. They seemed completely separate to me. Authors trying to be too clever seems to be a criticism I have with many modern books.

I felt manipulated or I didn’t  feel anything at all. This story didn’t make me feel sad. It should have. Usually if I read or hear about a family of young children who have lost their mother I am sad. Fiction or not. It is one of the more miserable things on earth. Truth being in this book I didn’t care for anyone except maybe the crow.

I really liked the premise of this book. To think a crow (or any animal for instance) could infiltrate a family and be a part of its grief is quite interesting.

Maybe I just missed the whole point. It wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe my expectations of what I thought this book was about was too much. Either way, I have finisSnip20170511_4hed it, the crow is no longer and the book goes back to the library Tuesday.

At least it is out of my system and I can now move onto the next ‘modern’ book that grabs me by its cover or premise and again talks me into reading it.

Next week there is something fairly big happening. I am starting to prepare. It involves the Penguin, travel and reading. Stay tuned.

If you have read this book what did you think about it? Feel free to completely disagree with me as I notice Good Reads reviews has quite a few four and five star reviews. Maybe a C+? I did like the premise of it.

20 thoughts on “Grief is the Thing With Feathers

  1. I heard the interview with the author on ABC RN earlier this year and was intrigued – because of the Ted Hughes/Sylvia Plath story, but I haven’t chased it. If my reading group had wanted to do it I would have been happy to do it, but it’s probably unlikely I will at this stage.


  2. Not much more I can add to this discussion – it’s all been said. But glad to find that someone else feels the same way I did about this book…

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  3. I have been so tied up in keeping up with my life and my parents needs that I’m awfully behind in blog reading. Apologies. I heard an interesting interview with the author on Radio National a few months ago. It’s something I would read if I could fit it in, but I have other things that are higher priority so I don’t imagine I will read it.

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  4. Ditto re my experience with modern books… Maybe us oldsters have just seen too much to be attracted by poorly conceived emotions… Anyway, in my opinion, grief affects each person differently and is extremely difficult to write about…
    Looking forward avidly to the next adventure…

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  5. I don’t think this would be for me, and I struggle with a lot of modern books. I’m not against experimentation or innovation but there has tobe something of substance under that technique – and so often there isn’t. Plus I agree – grief *is* a bugger and nothing much can help you deal with it, you just have to get on and cope until time blunts the feelings a bit.

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    1. I don’t like being negative about books that I read because even if they aren’t for me I generally get something out of them. If only to find out I am not alone in my feelings towards some writers.

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  6. I found it overly mannered, and the influence of Ted Hughes was so heavy that for me it smothered any direct connection I might have felt with the author.


  7. J> Aye, it’s so irritating !For an author to put their ‘literary device’ before good story telling – before even having something read-worthy to say, is a just arrogant. The more a book is to be seen in shops, the more mentioned on TV or radio or web, the more I’ll avoid it?


      1. I hope you are recovered in health enough to cope with more travel as a joy not an endurance test. Kim and I still have coughs and sinus congestion and it is now approaching four weeks since the first symptoms – I thought a cold was meant to last 7-10 days.

        With increasing maturity, I seem to prefer authors who are pre-WW2 rather than before 1970. I have been reading a lot of Dickens lately. I thought I was re-reading many of them, but didn’t realise how much of what I associated with Dickens was recollected from BBC serials rather than the novels themselves. The fabulous characters remain the most characteristic feature of Dicken’s stories, but the humour of the writing in passages of authoric commentary on events is very notable. With Austen, that translates to the screen, but not with Dickens, perhaps because there is so much more heightened melodrama. Writing for serialised publication was certainly not the way to achieve a great novel structure though.


  8. I was caught up with the premise of this book in the same way you were. I eventually borrowed it from the library (I’m glad I didn’t buy it). I hated it. I didn’t want to finish it. But I did – because it was so short and, like you, I thought I should at least emphasise with the characters just a little, but I didn’t. I, too, wondered if I missed something, I often do…

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  9. This book was sent to me by the publisher just at the time that my own mother was dying, and I just did not want to read it. And since I have now lost both my parents within 18 months of each other, I am more than somewhat alert to the current prevalence of books about grief. I am fed up with them all.
    Reading about other people’s grief, real or fictional, when I have my own to deal with, is what my mother would have called ‘wallowing’, like listening to Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique when I felt teenage angst, so that it reinforced feeling sorry for myself and made me cry in self-pity.
    I used to think that reading about grief would help me to prepare for it and make me more empathetic to others suffering it. I suspect that the marketing of grief books panders to an irrational fear that perhaps we can inoculate ourselves against it by ‘understanding’ it. But the reality is that it hits like a sledgehammer and nothing can ease it – and we wouldn’t want it to, because the people we love are worth grieving for.


    1. I meant to reply to this when you wrote it Lisa – am not sure if you’ll see this or not – but I’m the opposite. When my sister died in her early 30s I was desperate to read books about similar experiences. I wanted to connect with someone – even if through a book! I didn’t think it would reduce the grief which was gut-wrenching, or make me understand, but that it would help me not feel alone. I think I quite like a bit of a wallow every now and then (but you have to be able to get yourself out of it.)


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