H is for Hawk

H is for HawkH is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderful intimate look at the world of falconry, a memoir of loss and grief, and an examination of the life and world of T.H. White. A fan of White ever since the Disney version of A Sword in the Stone, I quickly realized how little I knew of this apparently tortured man. Any rereading of The Once and Future King will undoubtedly be enriched by this. Helen gives us a moving portrait of her father, as she examines the rawness of her own grief accompanied by the rawness of living close to a wild, untameable creature. Life with a goshawk confronts us with death — but death as a part of the whole cycle of life and being alive. Her lyrical meditations cover the gamut of human experience — history, philosophy, psychology, the natural world, hopes, fears, depression, madness, cruelty, love and healing — told with heart-wrenching honesty.

Book Description: 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.

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