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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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1,8341443,804 (3.89)1 / 308
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)

Recently added byDoddSue, private library, hevabean, Kathl33n, phildini, sci901, amylou9195, maryniv, djjazzyd

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English (139)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  All (141)
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
This was beautifully written and amazingly narrated by the author. But in the end I felt like it gave me way too much information about another falconer (I believe this name was White) and I'm still not sure I know why someone actually wants to be a falconer in the first place. ( )
  Kathl33n | Apr 24, 2017 |
When Helen's dad, a photographic journalist, dies suddenly she is devastated. An experienced falconer who has loved raptors since childhood, Helen decides to go out and train a goshawk. It's a way of removal to the wild and dealing - or not dealing with her grief, and while she trains Mabel, she also reflects on T.H. White and [The Goshawk], in some ways mirroring her own experiences.

I expected a story of going to nature to deal with grief. But Helen's story is much more complex than that. She's reflective, she's hard on herself, and she doesn't necessarily think that her relationship with Mabel was a panacea for her hurts. Still, her experience and that of White's makes the reader reflect on how we deal with pain, what relationship we have with both people and the natural wild world, and what it means to truly live. There are so many aspects of this story that will be fascinating for book discussions and it's the kind of book I look forward to rereading because I will have a different experience every time. ( )
  bell7 | Apr 18, 2017 |
The writer has written of her struggle with depression and being given anti-depressant drugs, so it's difficult to know how she would have written and/or observed with or without them depending on what was happening when. While I found her book totally engaging and hard to put down, I also found her tone patronising, especially at the beginning. But it's worth sticking with the book - and letting her inspire you to get out and go for a (non-killing) walk too of course. Because she's on a journey herself, training her hawk as well as walking the passage of time after her father's death, she has experiences which lead her to conflicting conclusions (need for solitude, need for company, for example to "cure" the bad feelings and sadness). But her insights into TH White are much clearer, and very interesting, especially since she gives us the opportunity to see Mabel and Gos side by side as the two humans try to train them each. I read the two back to back, and maybe that's the most powerful way to read this book, at least if you're taken with birds as I am. They become vivid, and the two people too, so you see the kinds of people who hunt for pleasure, no matter what misery and fear that means for the unnecessary quarry. Two very uncomfortable books. ( )
1 vote emmakendon | Apr 17, 2017 |
The cover states, "by turns heartbreaking and hilarious" but I had a tough time finding the latter amidst the death mourning, subacute/subchronic depression, long, very long descriptions of a tortured homosexual (T H White) inadvertently torturing a Goshawk, ecological degradation, war, avian accidents, ad nauseum. The descriptions of the behavior of ol' A gentilis, were fascinating, but the idyllic, poetic, melancholy prose was well, a bit tedious at times. ( )
  Sandydog1 | Apr 9, 2017 |
Death. Dying. Bereavement. "Let the dead bury the dead" carries perhaps more truth and counsel for we the living than we might want to admit. The dead leave and we are left holding the pieces of what remains.

It seems like every time I pick up a "serious" book I find the themes of death, dying and family. Our lives are not our own but are wrapped up in those we are close to. And these relationships--and the loss of them to death--provides resonant fodder for writers. Or maybe writing is the way we cope with the gap, the hole, that is left. Therapy.

In that sense, it is a view into someone's heart. We hear the story, we hear their story, and then we hear our own stories, our own feelings, our own loss and potential loss, and vicariously, we are feeling and understanding the loss of death, the passing of family, loved ones.

H is for Hawk is Helen Macdonald's memoir of surviving the passing of her father. An amateur/hobbyist hawker from her childhood, she buys a baby goshawk and begins the process of training it, while also working through the grieving process. This is a less than a satisfactory plot summary, but the plot is not really the point, so much as what happens to us all when we are making other plans. The hawk is Helen Macdonald's "other plans," and there are moments when it isn't clear that Helen is in control, or if the hawk and she are both codependent. As she trains the hawk, she begins to turn inward, hiding from the world, from the community, from the rest of her family. H is for Hawk becomes as much a meditation on nature as on Macdonald's father and what it means to move on after death.

I didn't much want to read a book about bereavement when I started H is for Hawk. But I found something I liked as I read, and I couldn't stop. I found myself recalling classics of man and nature from my childhood: Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, the Black Stallion, My Side of the Mountain, and others. In this last, 15-year old Sam Gribley escapes to the wild, capturing and training Frightful, a peregrine falcon, and it was easy to be reminded of this story as I read Helen's story.

And yet, this is no romance, no city-dweller escaping to nature to find herself. Helen *does* begin to find her bearings again, but it's not the way she thinks, and it's not through escaping society.

Interestingly, Helen interweaves T.H. White's writings, life, and experience training, or trying to train, a goshawk as he worked through his own...issues. It's an unexpected, and well-done, angle, and the contra-position of White's story against hers set H is for Hawk at greater relief. While I've not read a lot of T.H. White, I am familiar with him, especially his Once and Future King, and the comparison made Macdonald's story all the more interesting.

Helen writes beautifully, but it is her truth that I think gave the story its power. She communicates her experience with clarity and insight; and it's beautiful, a story that carries catharsis as only the written word can.
( )
  publiusdb | Apr 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (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)

(summary from another edition)

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