Bookshop Reviews

H is for Hawk

By Helen MacDonald

Recommended by: Dulwich Books + 1 others

Bookshop name Dulwich Books
 
Website www.dulwichbooks.co.uk
 
Their  
recommendation Helen Macdonald’s lyrical account of how she coped with the death of her father by training a goshawk is captivating. This is a memoir written from the heart, which is in pain and also one that is in love with a goshawk. An astonishingly beautifully written book weaving loss, grief, nature, love together with a lyrical style. I really liked the way she sets the background story of how she came to fall in love with the goshawk. There are some wonderful passages in particular – “falling in love is a desolate experience” and – description of equipment is brilliant and graphic. There is a beautiful description of her father taking photos of a sparrow and vivid descriptions of the goshawk which brings it to life for the reader. And the scene where the TV is on and someone else comes into the room. Or when Mabel (the goshawk) moves to stay with Tony whilst her coat sheds and you feel the relief and freedom of that occasion coming through the writing. There are intimate moments shared with the reader when she tells the surprising news that she was born a twin (since died). She finds huge comfort in aligning herself with T H White. 58 – she knows & admits that she is grieving and looking for a replacement for her father. I loved the descriptions of her meeting the goshawk for the first time. She brings to life the bird and the reader feels as if they are meeting it as well. She is aware that she is finding solace in loving the goshawk whilst grieving for her Father and I felt she was trying to find peace like White did for his homosexuality when befriending the goshawk. Her grief at time is nearly unbearable after the loss of her father. Though I did find it odd that she choose a goshawk to adopt and train as therapy. It is hard to describe where you would shelf this book – memoir or nature writing = in both. Its an ideal read for fans of Robert MacFarlane and anyone who likes nature writing. An astonishingly beautifully written book weaving loss, grief, nature, love together with a lyrical style. Sheila O’Reilly
Bookshop name Slightly Foxed
 
Website www.foxedbooks.com
 
Their  
recommendation As a child Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer, and endlessly read T.H. White’s tortured masterpiece, The Goshawk. Then, when she’s a grown woman, her father, who had been an initial coach and companion in her passion for birds, drops dead and leaves her bereft. As a sort of therapy she takes on the task of training goshawk Mabel over a year: ‘She is a conjuring trick. A reptile. A fallen angel. A griffon from the pages of an illuminated bestiary. Something bright and distant, like gold falling through water.’ This book is at once a memoir, as the author grapples with the grieving process, a biography of the troubled T.H. White, and a falconer’s diary. Nature writing like no other.