I haven’t been reading as much recently, I have been studying for a TEFL course, so this is my first post for about a month.
Grief Is The Thing With Feathers is a novella that includes elements of poetry, prose and dialogue. Porter pulls from various literary techniques and traditions; using different styles and drawing from such differing ideas as nursery rhymes and exam questioning. The author has crafted a moving story about a widower and his sons coping with the loss of a wife and mother, we don’t know the details of her death until the last few pages, yet we are told of her deaths impact upon her family. The title echoes a Emily Dickinson poem, ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’, but the content draws more from Ted Hughes than Dickinson herself.
The widower, Dad, is writing a book about Hughes, and uses this to cope with his grief. Through this he develops a coping mechanism, Crow, an allusion to Hughes’ collection entitled, ‘Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow’. Crow becomes a part of the family, in ways replacing his wife, protecting the family and helping him recover from his loss. Even his sons become aware of Crow, ‘Crow is in the bathroom…’ and begin to understand their fathers need for Crow.
There are three clear narratives; Dad, Crow, Boys. Each has a distinct voice but the three come together to tell a moving story of a grieving family. This trio is reflected in the three parts of the novella, ‘A Lick of Night’, which shows the arrival of Crow, ‘Defence of the Nest’, in which Crow shows his contribution to the family, and the final section, ‘Permission to Leave’, where we learn how the death happened and the family finally come to terms with it, and the Crow leaves.
This novella is a moving reflection on the nature of death and grief. There is a magical nature to some sections, and dark passages, yet overall its a fairly accessible work. It may be a short book but copes with the large issues of death and loss in an interesting and thought provoking manner, and is definitely worth a read.