A dead parent, the interrogation of a literary inheritance, and over everything, a bird: Max Porter is apparently unafraid to step into massive shoes. Not just the colossal ones belonging to Ted Hughes, whose ‘Crow’ poems are the jumping-off point for this free-verse novella about a bereaved Hughes scholar visited by Hughes’s corvine manifestation, but also those of Helen Macdonald. H is for Hawk, her memoir of loss, writing, recovery and nature, drawing ingeniously on the life and work of T.H. White, covered this territory with ferocious honesty and eloquence. The comparison is impossible to avoid, and not kind to Porter.