Discover the number one bestselling phenomenon that is a powerful and profound mediation on grief expressed through the trials of training a goshawk.
As a child, Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer, learning the arcane terminology and reading all the classic books. Years later, when her father died and she was struck deeply by grief, she became obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She bought Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and took her home to Cambridge, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals.
H is for Hawk is an unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald's struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk's taming and her own untaming. This is a book about memory, nature and nation, and how it might be possible to reconcile death with life and love.
‘This beautiful book is at once heartfelt and clever in the way it mixes elegy with celebration’ Andrew Motion
‘It just sings. I couldn’t stop reading’ Mark Haddon, bestselling author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
‘Dazzling… Deeply affecting, utterly fascinating and blazing with love and intelligence’ Financial Times
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Crushed by grief for her beloved father, Helen Macdonald undertakes a seemingly unrelated project: to tame a goshawk, a large bird of prey known for its ferociousness. Like her quest, Macdonald’s memoir is breathtakingly original. Alongside stunning descriptions of the natural world and fearless revelations about her emotional state, Macdonald contemplates her affinity for birdwatching and troubled British fantasy writer T. H. White, an amateur falconer. We got goosebumps reading H Is for Hawk, a haunting tribute to the cycle of life and loss.
In this elegant synthesis of memoir and literary sleuthing, an English academic finds that training a young goshawk helps her through her grief over the death of her father. With her three-year fellowship at the University of Cambridge nearly over, Macdonald, a trained falconer, rediscovers a favorite book of her childhood, T.H. White's The Goshawk (1951), in which White, author of The Once and Future King, recounts his mostly failed but illuminating attempts at training a goshawk, one of the most magnificent and deadly raptors. Macdonald secures her own goshawk, which she names Mabel, and the fierce wildness of the young bird soothes her sense of being broken by her father's untimely death. The book moves from White's frustration at training his bird to Macdonald's sure, deliberate efforts to get Mabel to fly to her. She identifies so strongly with her goshawk that she feels at one with the creature. Macdonald writes, "I shared, too, desire to escape to the wild, a desire that can rip away all human softness and leave you stranded in a world of savage, courteous despair." The author plunges into the archaic terminology of falconry and examines its alleged gendered biases; she finds comfort in the "invisibility" of being the trainer, a role she undertook as a child obsessed with watching birds and animals in nature. Macdonald describes in beautiful, thoughtful prose how she comes to terms with death in new and startling ways as a result of her experiences with the goshawk.