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H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H Is for Hawk (2014)

by Helen Macdonald

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,9912113,130 (3.86)1 / 430
When Helen Macdonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer 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 anger 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 Sword and the Stone author T. H. White's chronicle The Goshawk to begin her journey into Mabel's world. Projecting herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her" tested the limits of Macdonald's humanity.… (more)

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English (207)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (211)
Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
I generally don't do memoirs, but not because I'm a snob for everything else. I don't do them because I'm not really interested. A bit more oddly, I'm only mildly interested in hawks and falcons. I certainly never went out of my way to learn more after reading Stephen King's [b:The Gunslinger|43615|The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)|Stephen King|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1375776480s/43615.jpg|46575], so why am I going out of my way now?

Mostly, it's because of the writing. I heard from several sources that it was good and I stayed as a low blip in my radar for quite some time, but then, finally Ilana tipped it over the edge for me. :) There's some really good biography stuff about T. H. White in here, and after having just read and enjoyed [b:The Once and Future King|43545|The Once and Future King (The Once and Future King #1-4)|T.H. White|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1338741283s/43545.jpg|1140206], I didn't need that much further encouragement. :)

So, thoughts?

Helen Macdonald knows how to tell a story of herself. She managed to bring in personal tragedy in such a way that brought out real emotion, creatively, without dragging anyone down with her. In fact, it was the goshawk and the mirroring with this delightful bird that helped her work through so much. It's more a tale of becoming a partner and discovering the real nature of reality, and that includes both life and death, profoundly. In a more timid hand, the writing could have gone astray, or get bogged down as a scholarly work on the history of hawking, but no, it always remained personal with tons of interesting anecdotes.

So how does it relate to T. H. White? He failed in his own attempts to train or enter a partnership with is own goshawk, and it was entirely due to his relationship with the world and his own homosexuality. Helen Macdonald uses him and his writing, his history, and his particulars of psychology as a wonderful foil against her own journey. The mirrors were multilayered, with Bird versus Macdonald, and White versus Macdonald, and the mix was damn effective.

It also helped that her use of language was always enjoyable, reliable, and insightful.

I'm very happy to have gotten around to this, and I must thank Ilana for pushing me over the edge. Thanks!

I must never forget that I must spread my own wings and try new things or I, too, will stagnate. :)
( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Reviewed for BirdyTalk.biz

Literary Score: 8.5/10
Avian Score: 10/10 ( )
  MaxAndBradley | May 27, 2020 |
Maybe the most goth book I've ever read. In a great way.

"There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are."

"When I was an undergraduate we were told that history had ended, and we all believed it. When the Berlin Wall fell, what history was made of was over. No more Cold War. No more wars. And yet here it was, and is, and all of it falling apart. Endings. Worlds dissolving. Weather systems, banking systems, the careful plans of municipal gardeners. Families, hearts, lives. Distant wars and small trees wrenched in two. I look at the line of people and all their fierce possessiveness and their hidden terror at the thought that their bulwarks against death might be lost. Money. Security. Knots and lines. The ends of things. And it is sitting there with a cooling coffee that I think seriously for the first time about what I am doing. What I am going to do with the hawk. Kill things. Make death."
( )
  Jetztzeit | May 15, 2020 |
An interesting memoir about a woman working through grief by connecting with nature, with a place, with history, and with her own memories. I found the story very relatable, and the details about the life of British writer T.H. White, and the training of a goshawk, quite engaging and fascinating. A good read. ( )
  RandyRasa | Apr 30, 2020 |
Nature, grief, a bit of literary history - this book had loads of elements I loved, and was very readable. The emotions were immediate and rang true. The will to become wild is for me part of grief and of depression. Some of the descriptions were concisely beautiful. I would have devoured it in one day if I didn't have things interrupting me. It completely transported me. ( )
  RFellows | Apr 29, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
Helen Macdonald’s beautiful and nearly feral book, “H Is for Hawk,” her first published in the United States, reminds us that excellent nature writing can lay bare some of the intimacies of the wild world as well. Her book is so good that, at times, it hurt me to read it. It draws blood, in ways that seem curative.
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, Dwight Garner (Feb 17, 2015)

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Macdonald, HelenAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wormell, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Forty-five minutes north-east of Cambridge is a landscape I've come to love very much indeed.
The archaeology of grief is not ordered. It is more like earth under a spade, turning up things you had forgotten.
Using his pencil, he shaded the page of his notebook with graphite, and there, white on grey, impressed on the paper from the missing page above, was the registration number of the secret plane. He stopped crying, he said, and cycled home in triumph.
There is something religious about the activity of looking up at a hawk in a tall tree.
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