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Fizzing, angry, energetic
Max Porter, who has won this year’s Sunday Times/Peters Fraser and Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, talks to Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate about the personal tragedy that lies behind his winning book


Max Porter is quite precise about the moment he knew he could write Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, an extraordinarily passionate, involving debut that has just won this year’s Sunday Times/Peters Fraser and Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award.

“It was after I’d met a bloke who knew my dad as a child and I had a candid conversation with him about the circumstances of his death.”

Porter was six years old when his father died at the age of 37, and although it is clear that he doesn’t think the circumstances surrounding the event are anyone else’s business, it is also clear that it has had the most profound effect on him. Nearly 30 years later, after he seemingly hedged around the subject for years, it has finally been channelled, via that cathartic conversation and an abiding admiration for Ted Hughes, into his prizewinning book.


Grief Is the Thing with Feathers is a fizzing, angry, hugely energetic and often immensely poignant mash-up of fiction and poetry that imagines the effect on a Hughes scholar and his two young sons of the sudden death of his wife and their mother, and of the violent irruption into their house of a crow — specifically Hughes’s Crow — that acts alternately as trickster, anarchic spectre and family protector.

If the book sounds forbidding, it most definitely is not. The rawness of the emotions revealed, and the depth in particular of its understanding of grief, make it immensely resonant and surprisingly approachable. The crow, we come to understand, might be a figment of the scholar’s wild, grieving imagination, it might simply be a metaphor, or it might be more. Through the bird’s mixture of goading and succour (“I won’t leave until you don’t need me any more,” it says on first entering the home) the family gradually comes to terms with its loss.

Read the interview in full at The Sunday Times

Young Writer Award @YoungWriterYear

Follow us on twitter. The Young Writer of the Year Award is a prize of £10,000 for a writer under 35.

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