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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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2,5251823,546 (3.85)1 / 375

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English (178)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (182)
Showing 1-5 of 178 (next | show all)
Nature writers have their own fingerprint of natural whimsy and adventure. The writers of the genre seem to glean a magic from the natural world that an untrained eye cannot always see. Macdonald is one of these magicians. Through the art of falconry, and an unfortunate dash of personal heartbreak, she uses beautiful and breathtaking prose to tell her story about herself and her hawk, and the challenges that comes with it. ( )
  JaredOrlando | Jan 9, 2019 |
H is for Hawk
Helen MacDonald’s memoir about dealing with the grief from her father’s death is a skilfully if overly written book. But it is about so much more than just grief. Macdonald is a falconer. From a young girl she was obsessed with nature, and eventually became fascinated with hawks and falconry. She carried this throughout her life, even after she became an historian and academic. Her memoir recounts the experience of the period directly following her father’s sudden death and her decision to try to train a Goshawk. Through her research into ancient falconry books she learned Goshawks, of all birds of prey, were difficult to train and handle. She read The Goshawk by T. H. White when she was a girl and during her recovery she read it again and began to study White and his relationship with his Goshawk. She found a lot to feel sorry for in White and his story, and that is partly reflected in her book. She is a much better trainer than White ever was, but she identified with his story an his wanting to be the Goshawk and escape from life. I enjoyed the writing even if she tried to stuff too many things in to the book. We read it for our book club and it was interesting either people really enjoyed it or disliked or even hated it. ( )
  wifilibrarian | Dec 14, 2018 |
I want to give this book to everyone I've ever met. I want to press it on them and insist they read it. It is luminous bravery of a book. I'm so glad these words are in my life.

Read this. I'm serious. ( )
  CatherineBurkeHines | Nov 28, 2018 |

But maybe the main critique I have on this book is that all things considered it’s a variant of the noble savage trope. The goshawk as the Strange, Wild Other, unspoiled by consciousness, grief, society. It is no coincidence Mabel is very much like a child to Macdonald: like the savage, also the child was a Romantic ideal, pure and free, innocent.

While I understand Macdonald’s emotional need for some kind of bond with the animal, there is a level of sanctification I’m a bit uncomfortable with. Not that it’s bad writing, not at all, it’s just that I experienced a subtly growing dislike for that aspect of Macdonald’s character as the story progressed.

On the other hand, maybe I cannot hold that noble savage stuff against her. Nature – and death – is very much a cruel, sublime, wild mystery to behold indeed, and as such the goshawk aptly serves as a pars pro toto.

Read the full review on Weighing A Pig ( )
  bormgans | Nov 19, 2018 |
Very different. I listed to this on audio because of a long drive. Grieving her father, the author decides to raise a Goshawk, which is quite a different challenge that the other types of birds of prey that she's raised in the past. ( )
  nancynova | Nov 12, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 178 (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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