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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.

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2,6171873,438 (3.86)1 / 382

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English (183)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (187)
Showing 1-5 of 183 (next | show all)
2.5. I'm ambivalent on this one.
I enjoyed the writing and the hawks.
Her psychoanalysis of TH White grew more and more misguided and seems in general a bad idea. She structures her book as a contrast between her own goshawk ownership and White's as told in his The Goshawk. This sets up a good cop/bad cop thing and she is tempted down that road too far. I ceased to recognise the author of The Once and Future King (true, one of my most loved novels) in these pages. When she begins to psycho-interpret The Sword in the Stone, I have to say I don't recognise the novel I know either. In brief, White is a more self-aware, self-critical and reflective writer than her interpretations allow (the common pitfall with psychological or biography-based interpretations), and I daresay The Goshawk too was consciously shaped, not the naive work of autobiography Macdonald has it. She pathologises him and his work. As for his 'dreadful politics'... well, like his Merlyn he's an anarchist in an ideal world, and The Once and Future King is antifascist.

Macdonald's conclusion, that humans need to hold human hands and that running to the wild and solitude with animals is not an answer, proved to be the found truth for her, but the situation of White or other marginalised, gay animal-writers she mentions is so different, I do not think she should universalise the lesson as she does. She returns to the human community she has waiting; not an option for all.

Nice writing. Nice hawk description. Quite annoying on White. ( )
1 vote Jakujin | May 15, 2019 |
When I'm reading a very great book, the whole atmosphere I am living in feels charged. So it is with H is for Hawk. I am looking at the horizon and I am aware of the bushes, the arc of birds, the wildness in my life.
Her language is lovely, it goes without saying. Her flashes of insight feel as if it were hawk-sight.
Grieving is part of this story which is really a remarkable thing to say, since grief is both overwhelming and yet simply a part of the day and the seasons.
( )
1 vote MaryHeleneMele | May 6, 2019 |
I started reading this on the morning of my father's first yahrzeit only to have the first chapter end with the narrator receiving a phone call to tell her her father had died. What follows is an esoteric book about grief and wildness, mourning and falconry. Not sure if I was as open to this as I might have been, but it's a remarkable thing all the same. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
In the wild redwoods, and often with raptors overhead, was a perfect setting for reading Helen MacDonald’s “H is for Hawk”. This apt title refers to the author’s approach to building a new life after the passing of her father by immersing herself in the training of a goshawk. The book deals vividly with the raw and fierce and often beautiful world of falconry as the author tries to see the world through her falcon’s eyes. The language is beautiful, her journey is vulnerable and relatable, and the falconry is fascinating to anyone with curiosity for the natural world. Really good stuff! ( )
  pdill8 | Mar 12, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 183 (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)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Helen Macdonaldprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802123414, Hardcover)

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 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.

By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement; a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast; and the story of an eccentric falconer and legendary writer. Weaving together obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history, H is for Hawk is a distinctive, surprising blend of nature writing and memoir from a very gifted writer.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:06 -0400)

"As a child Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer. She learned the arcane terminology and read all the classic books, including T.H. White's tortured masterpiece, The Goshawk, which describes White's struggle to train a hawk as a spiritual contest. When her father dies and she is knocked sideways by grief, she becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She buys Mabel ... on a Scottish quayside and takes her home to Cambridge. Then she fills the freezer with hawk food and unplugs the phone, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals"--Dust jacket of a previous printing.… (more)

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