Books · Reviews

(Audio) Book Review: H Is For Hawk (Helen Macdonald)

MacDonald, Helen - H Is For Hawk


Title: H Is For Hawk
Author/Narrator: Helen Macdonald
Genre: Non-Fiction /Memoir
First published: 2014
Edition: Audio-book/paperback published by Vintage Classics in 2016

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.

Listening to this novel was like therapy, as I am sure it was cathartic for the author to write this memoir. The author’s soothing voice added to the experience and I am very glad that I decided to listen to this on audio, whilst I also had the book on my shelves.

The author talks about her journey, both in training her goshawk Mabel and the grief caused by the death of her father. Whilst doing this, she contrasts her own methods of training her hawk and her emotional wellbeing with author T H White’s. I really enjoyed that part of this book. It suddenly was not all about her, but also about his struggle and how they each projected their own problems onto their respective hawks.

From the beginning this book was set up for me to love it and it did not disappoint. Having said that, I don’t think it will be for everyone. It can be a little pretentious in places, but to be honest I did not mind that. It sometimes felt like a stream of consciousness, as if the author used the experience of recounting of what had happened in the aftermath of her father’s death as therapy. It feels deeply personal and intimate.

This is definitely the kind of book I would read again in the future.

6 out of 7 stars



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