* NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
* Winner of the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize
* Named the Costa Book of the Year
* #1 best-seller in the UK
When Helen Macdonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer; Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood; she'd 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.
Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer's eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Part memoir, part how-to, part biography of another writer, Macdonald creates a vivid, riveting exploration of the long slog from grief to healing. Unsparing in detail about her despair over the passing of her father or the sight of her hawk eating a fresh kill, she manages to weave genres in one book, deftly working every thread toward a satisfying conclusion. She compares her life and her passion for hawking with the life and same passion of T.H. White, author of The Once and Future King, providing blunt, sympathetic insight into a tortured man. His blunders in hawking and sad, solitary nature mirror hers and also act as a foil for her eventual rebirth. Intelligent, literate and raw, both factual and deeply moving. I have not loved a book so much in years.
H is for Hawk
Boring. Extremely boring. The author seems to be in love with her own angst.
I have just finished H is for Hawk. What a beautiful read. I learned a lot about Hawks, and about training them to hunt. Just as important, I found the author's journey into herself insightful, psychologically astute and an equally compelling story. The book reminds me of Peter Matthiessen's Classic, 'The Snow Leopard' but is a much better and easier read.Congratulations to the author on a triumphant achievement!