A book outside the ordinary
Haunting yet heart-warming with a hint of dark humour – it is a tale of two young boys and their father dealing with the loss of their mother. Needless to say, it is about grief in all its ugliness and melancholic beauty.
Told from the perspective of "the boys", the "dad" and yes, the "crow" -- author Max Porter's book is a work of art both in the visual and literary sense. It is a combination of prose, poetry and mythology.
To start off, the title of the book "Grief is the Thing with Feathers" is a play on words based on Emily Dickinson's poem "Hope is the Thing with Feathers". For literature nerds, the title alone is reason enough to pick up this book. You will realise the irony and dark humour behind it once you get into the story. It shows the ingenuity of author right from the start.
The story begins with the children and their father, a Ted Hughes scholar, whose worlds have turned completely upside down due to the mother's death. Enter, the Crow. Just like its archetype, the Crow in this book is a trickster who feeds on the grief of mourners. But our crow is more than just that. He claims to be sentimental. He takes the place of a nurturer and helps the damaged family to cope in strange and sometimes, cruel ways.
Time and again in the story, the father and the children realise their utter incompetence without a mother. So they deal with it in the only way they know – by hurting themselves and each other. Sometimes shutting everyone out, sometimes indulging in delusions, and other times pulling dangerous stunts and getting into fights. The monologues and conversations between the characters are so raw and believable that at times, it becomes very difficult to keep reading. Through his writing, Porter does not sugarcoat the harsh reality of the family's condition and that is what makes the reading experience feel that much more intense and personal.
The book has a very unique structure. Sometimes the chapters appear in verses, like that of poetry, and other times they are more like prose. The author also makes use of typography which is absolutely a treat for the reader.
The book itself draws inspiration from Ted Hughes' book "Crow", which is a collection of poems that follows the perspective of the character Crow. But picking up "Grief is the thing with Feathers" without having read Ted Hughes' book does not at all make the reading less enjoyable. In fact, it will help you to appreciate and understand the book based on its own merit. On the other hand, if you are familiar with Ted Hughes' work, then this book will appeal to you just the same, perhaps on a deeper and more profound level.
Finally, "Grief is the Thing with Feathers" is a book for people who want to try reading a style that is completely out of the ordinary. And for those who are not into poetry, this is a great introduction to the form. Essentially, it is a short read that will probably take you a few days to finish, but will remain etched in your mind for a long time.
Farah Masud is a humanbean and that is all you need to know about her.
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