H is for Hawk

hardcover, 300 pages

Published Sept. 12, 2014 by Jonathan Cape.

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5 stars (1 review)

When Helen Macdonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer, Helen had never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk, but in her grief, she saw that the goshawk's fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White's chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her" tested the limits of Macdonald's humanity and changed her life.

6 editions


5 stars

An extraordinary book, filled with poetry from the first page. Helen Macdonald seamlessly links a chain of things that seem unconnected: her grief over her father's death, training a goshawk, the strange life of the author TH White, perspectives on nature and nationalism, and magic.

Aside from the electric storytelling, the prose throughout is poetic and poignant. The links to disparate things are seamless. And the linked processes of grief are explored delicately right to the end. Even when I don't agree with some of Macdonald's perspectives, I am very grateful to her for sharing this journey as such a literary wonder.