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H is for Hawk
2014
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Genre
NonFiction
Animal
Domestic
Nature
Topics
Death of a parent
Fathers and daughters
Bereavement
Birds
Bird watching
Falconry
Animal behavior
Human-animal relationships
Setting
England - Europe
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

After the sudden death of her beloved father, Macdonald (history and philosophy of science, Cambridge Univ., England), an experienced falconer, acquired, raised, and trained a goshawk-a bird that is found in North America and Eurasia-as a means of coping with her loss. The author had been captivated by hawks since childhood and upon caring for Mabel, she saw the goshawk's fierce and feral anger mirrored in herself. Using T.H. White's The Goshawk as guidance, Macdonald introduces readers to the craft of falconry, chronicling the patience required to successfully raise and train a hawk. The author's descriptions of Mabel's powerful beauty, along with observations of the natural countryside near Cambridge, are very lovely, but readers might find the British vocabulary too unfamiliar. Also the constant references to White's book and analysis of his life, though they are obviously important to Macdonald, feel superfluous and detract from the focus of the work-the relationship between Mabel and Macdonald. VERDICT Overall, this unsatisfying mishmash of memoir, nature writing, and commentary might be of interest to falconers but will be of limited appeal to armchair naturalists.-Eva Lautemann, formerly with Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

In this elegant synthesis of memoir and literary sleuthing, an English academic finds that training a young goshawk helps her through her grief over the death of her father. With her three-year fellowship at the University of Cambridge nearly over, Macdonald, a trained falconer, rediscovers a favorite book of her childhood, T.H. White's The Goshawk (1951), in which White, author of The Once and Future King, recounts his mostly failed but illuminating attempts at training a goshawk, one of the most magnificent and deadly raptors. Macdonald secures her own goshawk, which she names Mabel, and the fierce wildness of the young bird soothes her sense of being broken by her father's untimely death. The book moves from White's frustration at training his bird to Macdonald's sure, deliberate efforts to get Mabel to fly to her. She identifies so strongly with her goshawk that she feels at one with the creature. Macdonald writes, "I shared, too, [White's] desire to escape to the wild, a desire that can rip away all human softness and leave you stranded in a world of savage, courteous despair." The author plunges into the archaic terminology of falconry and examines its alleged gendered biases; she finds comfort in the "invisibility" of being the trainer, a role she undertook as a child obsessed with watching birds and animals in nature. Macdonald describes in beautiful, thoughtful prose how she comes to terms with death in new and startling ways as a result of her experiences with the goshawk. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
* NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER <br> * Winner of the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize <br> * Named the Costa Book of the Year <br> * #1 bestseller in the UK <br> * A Guardian and Economist Best Book of the Year <br> <br> 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.<br> <br> 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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