Penny Brohn UK

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Book review: Grief is the thing with feathers

This is a short book, really a novella. It is almost easier to say what it’s not rather than what it is trying to be. It is not a self-help tome on how to recover from grief or how to help someone through the complexities of grieving. Although, there are some thought provoking insights in how we might approach the bereaved; the kindness of friends and neighbours are described as ‘orbiting grievers’.

It’s theme is the messiness of grief. A man has been widowed suddenly, leaving him alone with two small boys. One day, there is a knock at the door and a large crow enters the bereaved family’s flat and threatens to stay until they no longer need him.

The structure is unusual, part poetry, part prose and part fable. It helps to know that the grieving father is a Ted Hughes scholar who is in the middle of writing a book called ‘Ted Hughes, Crow on a couch: A wild analysis ‘. The Father seems to become almost deranged by his grief ‘sudden trauma Induced alteration of the alert state’. The prose can be very raw and brutal; representing the honesty of the emotions? It stands alone as a very thought provoking read. Perhaps it could be enhanced by a knowledge of Ted Hughes poem ‘crow’ and Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’?

This book was very well received and praised and has recently been turned into a play.

I noted with a smile that the cover illustration was done by Eleanor Crow.

If the reader wishes to read something else about the animal world helping us humans navigate the difficulties of bereavement, may I suggest ‘H is for Hawk’ by Helen MacDonald. A beautiful work.

Review by Sarah Brown, Reflexologist and Course Facilitator

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