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H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H is for Hawk (original 2014; edition 2014)

by Helen Macdonald (Author)

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1,8921463,624 (3.88)1 / 318
Title:H is for Hawk
Authors:Helen Macdonald (Author)
Info:Vintage Digital (2014), 327 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (2014)


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English (144)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  All (146)
Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
Amazing writing and a great story and yet I have some quibbles. Despite the accolades this book has received I thought it could have been judiciously edited to provide a more readable experience.

Helen Macdonald was a sessional instructor in Cambridge when her father dropped dead of a heart attack and the bottom dropped out of her life. She never mentions what age she was but she must have been in her 30s judging by her achievements to that date. She had a very close relationship with her father and she fell into grief so deep that it seemed she would never emerge. Her answer was to adopt a goshawk who she would train to hunt. (This was not such an unusual choice for her because she had trained hawks before but never a goshawk.) In this she was following the lead of T. H. White, author of The Once and Future King, who had also tried to train a goshawk and had written a book about it. Helen was much more knowledgeable about hawks than White ever was and she had much more success with her hawk, Mabel. Nevertheless, her grief was still omnipresent and her life was a mess. She eventually went to a doctor who prescribed an antidepressant of the SSRI class. This seems to have helped because she started to get her life back on track. Her relationship with Mabel continued to be important but it was no longer the single relationship in her life. As she says on page 218: "Hands are for other human hands to hold. They should not be reserved exclusively as perches for hawks. And the wild is not a panacea for the human soul; too much in the air can corrode it to nothing."

For the first two-thirds of the book I kept feeling like Helen must have had such a wonderful relationship with her father because his death was so devastating. My father died when I was 26 and I certainly grieved for him but I didn't sever all human contact. It is true that I had time to prepare because he had cancer; also he was quite a bit older than Helen's father so he would have died earlier into my life anyway. Then when Helen finally goes to a doctor and says I think I am depressed a light bulb went on. This is a story about battling depression, not grief. Yet the reviews all mention the grief but none I remember mention depression. Even Helen herself doesn't seem to quite get that her reaction to her father's death was as much biochemical as emotional. It is interesting that the stigma of mental illness extends even to writing a memoir and the reviews of that memoir. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jun 14, 2017 |
tiresome. t.h. white is weird and boring. mabel is boring. i guess i just don't get it. heard her on writers and company and she didn't seem boring. ( )
  mahallett | Jun 13, 2017 |
Very intellectual and honest, but I like more plot-driven fiction. Lots of interesting details about Mabel, the goshawk, I was able to use for my series.
( )
  AuthorGabrielle | May 28, 2017 |
"An instant classic"??? The author is grieving her father's death and what follows is deep depression while manning a goshawk, Mabel. While discovering some of the ins & outs of manning a predatory bird, it is not a book I would recommend. Touted as a memoir, it could also be a biography of T. H. White, author of " The Sword in the Stone." I didn't like the book. ( )
  sraelling | May 23, 2017 |
The best book I've read in ages. Written in the prose of a poet, MacDonald interweaves three distinct stories. One covers her fascination with falconry, which began with books she read in early childhood, continued as an adult vocation, and -- in this book -- focuses on her țraining a goss hawk. The second story is about her father's unexpected and sudden death which devastated her. Acquiring the goss hawk was part of her instinctive behavior as she struggled to cope. And the third story, twining around the other two, is about T. H. White, another author and falconer, whose journals she probes for insights into his life. Beautifully, intimately written and the audiobook is read by the author. I think the title is unfortunate because it sounds like one in a series of murder mysteries. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 144 (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)

"The falcon: a powerful, beautiful and charismatic predator, and the fastest animal in the world. Whether loved, hated, or feared, whether worshipped as a god, valued as a hunting companion, or used as a corporate or heraldic symbol, falcons have fascinated humans for millennia. This book sheds compelling new light on this extraordinary bird, and on the cultures through which it has flown. It includes falcon myths and legends, the ancient sport of falconry, falcons as denizens of modern cities, falcon natural history and conservation, and how falcons have been recruited as symbols and weapons of war. Illustrated and packed with a wealth of fascinating information, Falcon will be an indispensable guide to a fascinating animal."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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