Holly McKenzie highly recommends a book even though it made her cry throughout

Like love, it’s hard to describe grief without having really known it. And even when someone describes their experiences with gusto, the sense that they don’t really ‘get it’ remains.

In contrast, Max Porter is a rare wonder whose poetic characterisations in his debut novel show a deep understanding of human emotion.

Porter’s Grief Is A Thing With Feathers tells one family’s journey through grief in three first-person narratives; that of Dad, of The Boys, and of grief anthropomorphised as a crow who lives with them as they struggle to take stock of their new lives.

Through lyrical prose, the parties grapple with the idea of grief, as Crow visits the individuals in different ways. The boys express confusion as they discover the black feathers of Crow on their pillows. By contrast, their father feels his spiteful, incessant clawing and despairs as the bird mocks his sorrow.

Having worked as a commissioning editor at Portobello Books, taking care of Man Booker prize-winner Eleanor Catton (The Luminaries), Porter – who visits Oxford on Tuesday – has a lot to live up to with his first foray into novels.

However he takes his influences – including Ted Hughes’ poetry collection Crow – and background and runs with it, creating a wonderfully rich scene throughout that feels as though you are peering through a neighbour’s window. He adeptly examines the way we understand grief and deal with loss over time in a beautifully bittersweet manner – I cried throughout. However it is in Crow’s omniscience that his writing really succeeds, and though you often hate the unwanted visitor, his twisted support is understandable and strangely desired.

A stunning examination of mourning, this is a difficult yet compelling read that I am recommending to everyone.

Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, Faber & Faber, £10 (ebook £6.65) 9/10 Max Porter will be in conversation with graphic novelist Evie Wyld at Waterstones, Oxford, at 7pm, Tuesday.

Tickets: 01865 790212/waterstones.com, £5/£3.