Shocked by her father's unexpected death, lifelong falconer Helen Macdonald decides to take on training the fearsome goshawk, considered amongst the most difficult birds to train. This beautifully written and touching memoir traverses the obscure world of falconry to living through grief, ending up in a place of hope and recovery. Recommended By Jen C., Powells.com
This book is a beautifully conceived memoir that revolves around a woman and her attempt at softening the devastation of her father's death by training a goshawk. With poetic writing, MacDonald eloquently portrays her ever-changing emotions in the presence of this hawk. From the bestial dance of the hunt to the philosophical questioning of the brutality of its consummation, MacDonald examines the frailty of our minds as well as our flesh. Anyone who has lost a close family member and/or trained an animal can relate to MacDonald's train of thought as she reflects on various aspects of man's relationship with nature and the surrounding world. Recommended By PaulJ, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize
Named the Costa Book of the Year
#1 best-seller in the UK
A Guardian and Economist Best Book of the Year
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 temperament 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 Once and Future King author T.H. White's chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her" tested the limits of Macdonald's humanity and changed her life.
Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer's eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.
"In this profoundly inquiring and wholly enrapturing memoir, Macdonald exquisitely and unforgettably entwines misery and astonishment, elegy and natural history, human and hawk." Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred)
"An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief with a goshawk....Writing with breathless urgency...Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment. Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it's poignant, thoughtful and moving and likely to become a classic in either genre." Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"In this elegant synthesis of memoir and literary sleuthing...Macdonald describes in beautiful, thoughtful prose how she comes to terms with death in new and startling ways." Publishers Weekly
"A dazzling piece of work: deeply affecting, utterly fascinating and blazing with love...a deeply human work shot through, like cloth of gold, with intelligence and compassion an exemplar of the mysterious alchemy by which suffering can be transmuted into beauty. I will be surprised if a better book than H Is for Hawk is published this year." Financial Times
"More than any other writer I know, including her beloved [T.H.] White, Macdonald is able to summon the mental world of a bird of prey...she extends the boundaries of nature writing. As a naturalist she has somehow acquired her bird's laser-like visual acuity. As a writer she combines a lexicographer's pleasure in words as carefully curated objects with an inventive passion for new words or for ways of releasing fresh effects from the old stock....Macdonald looks set to revive the genre." Guardian
About the Author
Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, illustrator, historian, and naturalist, and an affiliated research scholar at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses. She also worked as a Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge. As a professional falconer, she assisted with the management of raptor research and conservation projects across Eurasia. Twitter: @HelenJMacdonald