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H Is for Hawk (2014)

by Helen Macdonald

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,6582442,759 (3.85)2 / 488
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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» See also 488 mentions

English (239)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (243)
Showing 1-5 of 239 (next | show all)
H is for humble ( )
  iffland | Mar 19, 2022 |
I would have liked this book a lot better if the author removed all those passages on E. T. White. Her life and struggles with hawk training and depression and mourning her father's death is much more interesting than her speculations on the life and psychology of E. T. White. I can see that her speculations on the psychology of E. T. White were important to her; they played an important part in her mourning, but she was unable to help the reader see why those speculations had anything to do with her mourning :P And I find those speculations really boring to read, since they were speculations and not a meticulously researched biography. She needs to have a lot more sources to make some of the claims of what went on in White's head when he was doing different things.

Apart from her obsession on White, the book was pretty interesting. The first chapter on how she heard of her father's death was well-written. The process of training a hawk, hunting with a hawk, and how she took care of and lived with her hawk was eye-opening. There are some elements of that culture I find pretty odd, though. It seems there are people who own large area of wild land and raise pheasants on that land intentionally so the pheasants could be hunted? It seems that when one's hawk is molting and can not fly for a few months, the owner doesn't want to keep it at home as a pet any more and prefer to let the animal live in a faraway aviary until the hawk could fly and hunt again.

The author's account of how she became more and more depressed after her father's death and then had a turning point and gradually got better was moving too. I do wonder why her close family members played almost no role in her grieving and making sense of the grief. Seems to be a gaping hole in the narrative.

My least favorite part of the book is when the author woke up to a minor earthquake and she was totally terrified to her life. She got all sentimental about how this may be the apocalypse and how her hawk and she have each other at the end of the world. As someone who grew up in a country where minor earthquakes happen often and regarded as a trifle event, this anecdote, although no doubt intended to be warm and touching, communicated very little to me other than she is pretty ignorant and self-absorbed and needs to get acquainted to how people live in other geographical regions. ( )
  CathyChou | Mar 11, 2022 |
Dark and complex. I was unable to identify with any of the characters. They all seem too broken. ( )
  Michael_Lilly | Feb 24, 2022 |
Loved this. Powerful, heartbreaking, educational, intensely interesting, personal, dark, funny, and oh, Nature! Birds! these Wonders that make our short lives worth living at every single moment! My gratitude to the author...

edited to add: the author intrigued me with T.H. White's story... so dark, strange and sad. I'm thinking of reading The Once and Future King, finally. I considered checking out his own memoir about Gos. But it's too dark, and I really suffered through this book for Gos. ( )
  Ccyynn | Feb 15, 2022 |
I took a sick day to read this and am glad of it. ( )
  et.carole | Jan 21, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 239 (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
Helen Macdonaldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wormell, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To my family
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Forty-five minutes north-east of Cambridge is a landscape I've come to love very much indeed.
Quotations
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.
Bereavement. Or, Bereaved, Bereft. It's from the Old English bereafian, meaning "to deprive of, take away, seize, rob". Robbed, Seized. It happens to everyone. But you feel it alone. Shocking loss isn't to be shared, no matter how hard you try.
Goshawks are things of death and blood and gore, but they are not excuses for atrocities. Their inhumanity is to be treasured because what they do has nothing to do with us at all.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

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