“Grief is the Thing with Feathers” by Max Porter BOOK REVIEW

Grief is the Thing with Feathers

Year of Publication: 2016

Publisher: Faber & Faber Ltd

ISBN: 9780571327232

Strong Point: It is quite short.

Weak Point: Everything! For example, if I had not read the synopsis, I had absolutely no clue what the plot is about!

Books on Tour Rating: ⭐️ (1/5)

Goodreads Rating⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3.87/5)


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 and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and physical pain of loss gives way to memories, this little unit of three begin to heal.

In this extraordinary debut – part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief, Max Porter’s compassion and bravura style combine to dazzling effect. Full of unexpected humour and profound emotional truth, Grief is the Thing with Feathers marks the arrival of a thrilling new talent.

REVIEW OF “Grief Is the Thing with Feathers”

Unfortunately, this is gonna be a very short review.

I have read very good commentaries of this book. Some of them come from people whose taste is similar to mine and who had introduced me to some of my all time contemporary favourite books.

For this reason, this book has been a total disappointment.

I have read a lot of poetry in the past as part of my compulsory readings at University. I couldn’t say I deeply enjoyed it, but I came to appreciate it.

Since University, I have always tried to force myself to read more poetry; otherwise, I end up reading the same genres over and over again. So, following the many good reviews, I decided to give contemporary poetry a try by reading “Grief Is the Thing with Feathers”.


The first thing I noticed is that the format, although I thought it was considered poetry, is more of a mixture between both prose and poetry, the latter quite loosely.

The text is full of repetitions of the same words. Furthermore, most of the times there are only some words which constitute a whole sentence which, most of the times, don’t make any sense and have no correlation to what I had previously read, nor to what comes next. They seem to have been randomly selected, with no real purpose to communicate anything.

The reader seems to be presented with different situations of the life of the three protagonists, a recent widower and his two children, after the wife/mother has died in an accident at home.

The book shows how they mourn this death. In addition, a Crow has come to their house to help them deal with this Grief and “move on”.

Is the Crow a representation of Death? (In Romantic and Gothic Literature, black crows are always linked to Death, cemeteries, ghosts, etc…). Is Crow the spirit of the deceased wife/mother? Is Crow a type of psychiatrist? There is no explanation of it! Nothing.


The thought crossed my mind that maybe I don’t understand the book because my mother tongue is not English.

However, as I previously said, because of my studies, I have read books by writers as “complicated” for non-native English speakers as Shakespeare, Bacon, Joyce, Melville, etc. But this one is simply completely out of my understanding… 

FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT “Grief Is the Thing with Feathers”

Maybe this book was brilliant. I don’t know. But I think I missed that brilliance. Some critics say it is “highly literate” and full of references, so I guess then I am not erudite enough to read it. 

However, it is frustrating to have read a book (no matter how short it is) and not having understood anything of it…

I repeatedly thought about stop reading it, which fortunately does not happen often…

I guess I have to continue looking for a good contemporary poetry book. Because this one was absolutely not that.