H IS FOR HAWK PDF
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. Author Bio: Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet , illustrator, historian, and naturalist, and an affiliated research scholar at the. H is for hawk, by Helen Macdonald, London, Jonathan Cape, , pp., £ goshawk-writer, but a hawk-trainer of cruel incompetence, T. H. White. Read H Is for Hawk PDF - by Helen Macdonald Grove Press | One of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the YearON MORE.
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H Is for Hawk. By Helen Macdonald. 1. In the book's opening pages, Macdonald writes, “The wild can be human work” (p. 8). She wrote this sentence to explain. Editorial Reviews. myavr.info Review. An Amazon Best Book of the Month for March Buy H Is for Hawk: Read Kindle Store Reviews - Amazon. com. When all hope was lost, Helen Macdonald turned to the wild spirit of the goshawk .
I know for myself, during an acute period of grieving I was practi The archaeology of grief is not ordered. I know for myself, during an acute period of grieving I was practically unable to speak for well over a month, probably not a typical experience. She decided to train a goshawk. Helen MacDonald and friend - from The Daily Mail The loss of a person, whether through death, distance, or alienation, can bring about a significant crisis of identity.
H is for Hawk is her tale of that journey. Of course, being a Cambridge-educated writer and naturalist, research fellow at Jesus College of Cambridge, and research scholar with the Cambridge Department of History and Philosophy, she brought a fair bit of writerly and intellectual heft to the task.
I was in ruins. Some deep part of me was trying to rebuild itself, and its model was right there on my fist. The hawk was everything I wanted to be: MacDonald named her Mabel. She takes us along on her year-long struggle to master both her hawk and her grief. MacDonald had been very close with her father, well-known, award-winning news photographer, Alisdair MacDonald. It was he who had introduced her to hawking as a child. Training a hawk was her way of connecting to her father.
There are four primary threads here. The second is her family history with her father. The third is her emotional, existential struggle to find a passage through her grief to the light. The fourth is her consideration TH White. White and friend - from Anendlessbanquet. But he also wrote a book about his experience with falconry.
MacDonald finds much in his book, The Goshawk , that touches her, reminding her of her childhood falconry bonding with dad. He had had, to put it kindly, a less than nurturing upbringing, with a particularly cold and remote father. He was gay, with sado-masochistic impulses, which was not exactly a comfy fit in the mid 20th century.
MacDonald sees in his writing an expression of this inner self. When White writes about his love for the countryside, at heart he is writing about a hope that he might be able to love himself. It took me a long time to realize how many of our classical books on animals were by gay writers who wrote of their relationships with animals in lieu of human loves of which they could not speak.
Both White and MacDonald used hawking as a way to step away from the world. By some strange alchemy—his closeness to the pack, his expert command of them—the huntsman was not horrible. For White it was a moral magic trick, a way out of his conundrum.
By skillfully training a hunting animal, by closely associating with it, by identifying with it, you might be allowed to experience all your vital, sincere desires, even your most bloodthirsty ones, in total innocence. You could be true to yourself. This was something that appealed to White, a publicly sanctioned milieu in which he could express his bloody desires.
MacDonald recognizes the feeling of bloodlust in herself, as well. The original cover of The Goshawk We are treated to a bit of falconry history, consideration being given to the class and gender elements. I saw those nineteenth century falconers were projecting onto their hawks all the male qualities they thought threatened by modern life; wildness, power, virility, independence, and strength.
By identifying with their hawks as they trained them, they could introject , or repossess, those qualities. Masculinity and conquest; two imperial myths for the price of one. The book is filled not only with her emotional struggle to recover, but with some breath-taking nature writing. Lit by the sinking sun the quivering silk runs like light on water all the way to my feet.
It is a thing of unearthly beauty, the work of a million tiny spiders searching for new homes. Each had spun a charged silken thread out into the air to pull it from its hatch-place, ascending like intrepid hot-air balloonists to drift and disperse and fall. Does being in nature offer a salve to human suffering? Or does it reveal more of who we really are? MacDonald obviously survived her trial by feather with her personality, her core intact.
It will not feel entirely clear as you read this that she will. MacDonald is gloriously adept at bringing you into her experience, leading you to wonder the things she wonders, to feel the pain of her struggle. H is for Hawk is a magnificent achievement, taking us along with the author on her dark road, but offering glimpses of glory, of growth and understanding, while teaching us a bit about something most of us have never encountered, and giving us an expanded appreciation for one of the most beloved authors of the 20th Century.
If you have not yet had the pleasure of reading H is for Hawk I know there are some of you out there , I cannot urge you more vociferously to snatch off your hoods, fly to your bookstore and pounce on a copy before they are all gone. You will find in this book a very satisfying feast. I do not know if the project has progressed to a development stage. View all 30 comments.
Mar 23, Julie Christine rated it it was amazing Shelves: Or Bereaved. H is for Hawk stole me, holding me captive with its madness and love. It is a story of fury and grace, recounted in pulsing, poetic language. Retreating from the world, she seizes on the one thing she believes will keep her from being swallowed by grief: Goshawks are the Velociraptors of the raptor world, a hawk of the genus Accipter , not to be confused with its far more approachable and trainable cousin the falcon, of the genus Falco.
The bird appears as a primordial creature, an ancient, disappeared thing rising from the half-life of history: This is perhaps a hope that Macdonald projects onto the goshawk, for there is always a current of tension and violence running between woman and raptor; Macdonald never takes for granted that this creature who lives in her home and perches on her wrist is built for murder.
Training a goshawk is a pressure cooker of isolation and suppressed emotion. The bird is hyper-sensitive to disturbances in its force field and in the early days Macdonald lives like a monk—barely eating or sleeping.
In this way, she shuts down her human mourning and becomes something feral. She feeds Mabel corpses of tiny birds. Gradually, she reenters the world, Mabel on her wrist. Raptor and woman learn to navigate the outside together, each wholly dependent on the other for cues and sustenance, one emotional, the other flesh. In my old books every part of a hawk was named: Male hawks are a third smaller than the female so they are called tiercels, from the Latin tertius, for third.
Young birds are eyasses, older birds passagers, adult-trapped birds haggards. Half-trained hawks fly on a long line called a creance. When they defecate they mute. When they shake themselves they rouse. On and on it goes in a dizzying panoply of terms of precision. Macdonald herself has the soul of a poet and uses language to a lyrical, gorgeous degree in her book. Pages of this beautiful wording fill the memoir.
Each foray the pair makes outside is fraught, first with fear—how will Mabel respond the hurly-burly of modern life—then, as the raptor is allowed to fly with increasing liberty, there is escape, violence, death. Macdonald snaps the necks of the rabbits that Mabel attacks; she pockets the pheasants that Mabel poaches. She watches with her heart in her throat as Mabel flies free, away from her, and realizes she has transferred all her hope and madness into this raw, fierce, creature.
White was also a falconer and wrote of his experiences trying to train a goshawk. His tribulations with Gos become something of a metaphor for his troubled life. Macdonald recounts the abuse and neglect he suffered at the hands of his parents, the depravity of his boarding school classmates, the cruel repression of his homosexuality, and his struggles as a writer. Balancing between the dreamlike world of falconry and the prosaic demands of home, job, and relationships, she regains her footing.
We each struggle our way through the morass. Helen Macdonald found her redemption in the keen, wild soul of goshawk. Nov 01, Snotchocheez rated it liked it.
I certainly would not want to dissuade anyone from reading H is for Hawk , Cambridge professor Helen Macdonald's moving memoir of coping with the loss of her photojournalist father. Her twin academic disciplines of English and ornithology specifically, falconry provide the source of her occasionally gorgeous prose as she recounts her attempt at raising a goshawk. If she'd focused more on herself, her birding, and her subsequent descent into near-madness, this would've been a solid four-star rea I certainly would not want to dissuade anyone from reading H is for Hawk , Cambridge professor Helen Macdonald's moving memoir of coping with the loss of her photojournalist father.
If she'd focused more on herself, her birding, and her subsequent descent into near-madness, this would've been a solid four-star read for me. There's no denying this woman is utterly fascinating, and her story embellished with swirly, soaring poetics is breathtaking. So why only three stars? I'm not sure why Ms. Macdonald felt compelled to parallel her story with author TH White's, but each time she wheeled out his life story which included his own very inexpert attempts at goshawkery , it served as a needless, soporific distraction from her own fascinating story.
I understand her love for TH White. After all, it was his own memoir The Goshawk that fueled her lifelong obsession with hawks and falcons. Did she need to relate his story, though, in every single chapter? My contention is: Her life, I'm sure, is plenty bookworthy on its own without having to pad it with TH White's.
View all 20 comments. Before starting in on my review, I took a quick look at what my fellow Goodreaders thought. I am thinking I am in the minority in my feelings about this one.
In fact, I think it is the sign of a great non-fiction book when an author can take a random subject and make any reader care about it Before starting in on my review, I took a quick look at what my fellow Goodreaders thought.
In fact, I think it is the sign of a great non-fiction book when an author can take a random subject and make any reader care about it. With H is for Hawk, this did not happen. In fact, at no point did I find myself thinking it was getting interesting. It just seemed like a lecture, albeit a somewhat flowery and poetic lecture, on raising a goshawk. Another issue I had was that a good portion of the book, at least half, if not more, was just a book report of The Goshawk T.
White author of The Once and Future King. I thought this seemed kind of odd — if I wanted to read that book, I would have. If she wanted to reference it from time to time, okay! But, instead, there were frequent and in my opinion, not very smooth transitions over to discussions about his book and experiences with raising a Goshawk. I listened to the audio, which is narrated by her, and she just sounded iffy the whole time.
I am not sure I can think of a better way to explain it. I suppose it is like if we are reading a love story and instead of the uncomfortable courtship just being at the beginning, it lasts through the whole thing.
Excerpt: H is for Hawk
And, in the end, the main characters still seem as uncomfortable with each other as they did in the first scene. At all times it felt like she was two seconds away from a nervous breakdown over the goshawk — it just felt weird. As mentioned, this opinion does not seem to mesh with that of the majority of Goodreaders. So, you may want to take my review with a grain of salt as this book might be right up your alley!
View all 32 comments. Mar 01, Diane rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is gorgeous nature writing and it is also a graceful memoir about bereavement. Helen Macdonald has managed to blend the two genres beautifully.
When Helen's father died, her grief was so great that she decided to adopt a goshawk. Helen had loved hawks since childhood and had studied falconry, but this was her first time trying to train a goshawk.
In real life, goshawks resemble sparrowhawks the way leopards resemble housecoats.
But bulkier, bloodier, deadlier, scarier, and much This is gorgeous nature writing and it is also a graceful memoir about bereavement. You might spend a week in a forest full of gosses and never see one, just traces of their presence. If you have ever lost a loved one, you know that grief can cause you to do strange things. Helen became obsessed with her goshawk, spending hours with it and avoiding other humans. What happens to the mind after bereavement makes no sense until later.
While training her hawk, Helen also did a lot of reading about falconry, and especially appreciated a book by T. White called The Goshawk.
White is famous for writing The Once and Future King. White's experience gave her courage to train her goshawk, and she learned from some of his mistakes. I had given little thought to hawks before reading Helen's memoir, but now I am fascinated by them. I would highly recommend this memoir to anyone who appreciates beautiful nature writing.
Favorite Quotes "For so long I'd been living in libraries and college rooms, frowning at screens, marking essays, chasing down academic references. This was a different kind of hunt. Here I was a different animal. Have you ever watched a deer walking out from cover? They step, stop, and stay, motionless, nose to the air, looking and smelling. A nervous twitch might run down their flanks. And then, reassured that all is safe, they ankle their way out of the brush to graze.
That morning, I felt like the deer. I'm in a contemplative mood. I'd brought the hawk into my world and then I pretended I lived in hers. Now it feels different: I look down at my hands. There are scars on them now. Thin white lines. One is from her talons when she'd been fractious with hunger; it feels like a warning made flesh. Another is a blackthorn rip from the time I'd pushed through a hedge to find the hawk I'd thought I'd lost. And there were other scars, too, but they were not visible.
They were the ones she'd helped mend, not make. View all 12 comments. Deborah Pickstone. View all 23 comments. Sep 08, Kelly and the Book Boar added it Shelves: This is probably a decent book and several of my smarty-farty friends have read it, but we all know I'm a moron and every time it is spammed recommended to me on my feed by the powers that be here at Goodreads I can only picture this.
View all 11 comments. Mar 05, Trish rated it it was amazing Shelves: It is a conversation about death, and community. It is so filled with passion and pain that one reads, breath bated, to see which will crush the other.
This book is only partly about a hawk, despite the title. The author looks closely at the life and writings of another vulnerable person, T. White , to express sorrow and a kind of sympathy with his derangements.
She learns the origins of his extraordinary flights of fancy in literature, tracing over the sores of his upbringing until we see clearly the agonies of his confused psychopathy. White was a hawker, but a hawker one might quote to show how not to train a hawk.
Macdonald loathed his book The Goshawk as a child. When she gets her own hawk after the death of her father, she reads it again. Macdonald shares one of the best descriptions of bereavement that I have ever encountered italics are hers: Or, Bereaved. It happens to everyone. But you feel it alone. Yes, all of them, All the people you love. So then what happens is someone comes into the room and punches you all in the stomach.
H Is for Hawk (Helen Macdonald)
Each one of you. Really hard. I started dreaming of hawks all the time. Mabel is a predator; she is all about death, violent death. Macdonald is recovering from a loss, and her bond with the reptilian raptor Mabel underscores her warm-blooded need for love and her bond with the human community.
This book is the author working through grief and terror and want and coming out naked and vulnerable on the other side.
The language Macdonald employs in this memoir is as extraordinary and ingenious as her laying out such diverse topics as death, hawking, T. White, and history as interlocking pieces. She holds us rapt as she defines her grief. The words she chooses make us hypersensitive to differences in shade, angle, meaning: Not slate grey, nor pigeon grey.
But a kind of raincloud grey…" Or this: Macdonald was born a hawker. We are all born with something innate but dormant until awakened by opportunity.
Fortunately Macdonald was able to find and exercise her passion because she liked to read. It reminds me of teachers we may have had that spark an interest in something that feels as natural to us as breathing, and as necessary. Macdonald discusses six books that formed her consciousness about nature, makes us realize once again that a seed spilled on tilled ground can yield the most amazing things.
It breaks my heart a little to think that every child probably has some thing in them that would burst into flame with the right tinder. Not all of us find it, early or ever.
May 19, Rebecca rated it it was amazing Shelves: Throughout, Macdonald compares her own falconry experience to that of T.
White, who, in the s, was a lonely schoolteacher at Stowe — and a closeted homosexual with sadistic tendencies. If this was only a nature book, it would be a classic. Yet it is also a profound meditation on grief and recovery. H is for Helen, her hawk, and a haphazard healing process.
See my full review at The Bookbag. Related read: Otter Country by Miriam Darlington contains a similar mixture of personal anecdote, biographical information, and enthusiasm for a favorite animal.
View all 14 comments. Apr 16, Book Riot Community added it Shelves: I remember seeing this book on the shelves in the bookstore a year or so ago and picked it up because I thought maybe it was a rad new historical fiction about a hawk. I confess that when I initially saw it was a memoir, I put it down, uninterested. I typically am not interested in memoirs unless you are, like, Dr Salk and literally cured polio or something. But I am SO GLAD other Rioters had talked this book up so much because this is seriously one of the most beautiful books I have read in a l I remember seeing this book on the shelves in the bookstore a year or so ago and picked it up because I thought maybe it was a rad new historical fiction about a hawk.
I loved learning more about falconry in general, and some of the traditions and superstitions. I loved falling in love with Mabel the goshawk and learning that she likes to play.
I loved everything about this book, so much that I got a copy for my personal library. And no description really could. In fact, it was a single sentence, reproduced in a New Yorker review, that convinced me I had to read it. Now I think you understand. View 2 comments. Jan 07, Lynn Matheson rated it it was ok Shelves: This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers.
To view it, click here. I appear to be one of the few people who didn't enjoy this book. It has won awards and received universal critical acclaim. It is an autobiographical account of a Cambridge academic's descent into depression after the death of her father. In order to heal herself she drives to Scotland to buy a goshawk and proceeds to train it. The hawk, named Mabel, lives in her spare room in Cambridge and is taken out into the countryside to hunt.
MacDonald describes her depression and her growing relationship I appear to be one of the few people who didn't enjoy this book. MacDonald describes her depression and her growing relationship with the hawk. There is another narrative entwined with this where she describes the author TH White's training of his hawk in the s.
I have to say I found White a more interesting character than MacDonald. I found her colorless, dull and narcissistic. As a person who suffers from depression at times myself I suppose I don't enjoy reading about it. There are some beautifully written passages describing nature though at times there is straining for effect.
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MacDonald recovers from her depression aided by a trip to Maine. She dumps Mabel off with friends to enjoy this holiday. After recovering MacDonald gives the hawk away to a friend in Suffolk where she finally gets to live in a proper bird aviary in the countryside. It took me a long time to read and I put it down for a while in the middle.
Though MacDonald is a gifted writer I didn't enjoy the book. I worry that people may decide to buy hawks to keep in their spare room and then get bored of them. Enjoy the glory of hawks in their natural habitat.
View all 9 comments. May 23, Jan-Maat added it Shelves: Macdonald's book led me to revisit it in my mind. What I see now is a story of a small weak child replicating the violence and oppression he experiences on to an even smaller weaker creature forcing it into strict parameters to control its behaviour to a standard deemed acceptable by old falconry books. Well he's a kid from a northern single parent family so about as knavish as you can get.
Macdonald is higher up the social scale so her bird of choice is the Goshawk, a bigger bird of prey that became extinct in Britain due to the unloving attention of gamekeepers keen to preserve flocks of game birds for their employers to kill with their friends instead. However an immigrant population of Goshawks is being built up in Britain due to the work of hobby falconers who found that it was cheap enough to buy in foreign Goshawks as pairs and to release one and train the other, for this to become established as an anarchist wildlife reintroduction project.
Anyhow, Macdonald's book is a memoir about grief. While To the Lighthouse was Virgina Woolf's literary response to the loss of her mother in childhood, H is for Hawk deals with Macdonald's loss of her father when she was already an adult.
Her father died, as did mine, in St. Thomas' Hospital in London which is not saying much, it's a big, busy place, there are a hundred or so deaths there every year. Twisting in her loss she looks to build a substitute connection with something if not someone and to return to her childhood obsession with birds of prey. The names of birds of prey are believed to be in inverse proportion to their hunting ability, hence a bird called "Babyface Kissykins" will seize babies out of prams, while one called "Slayer" will be vegetarian.
On the one hand it is a very simple book a year in the life of a grief stricken Cambridge academic on a short term contract. On the other it explodes in to all kinds of directions: Intelligent, stylish, young woman is suddenly revealed naked squatting on the bough of a tree body smeared with clay and ash a collapsed nest of hair falling about her chewing on a rabbit.
She took on Mable hoping to heal herself through nature, but she ends up alienated from people not certain if she is becoming jumpy and anxious from observing her Goshawk or if she is transferring her own state of mind to the bird. She's that John Muir is wrong, nature is not universally healing, too much nature alienates us. The process of breaking a hawk, forcing it to be used to human contact is called 'manning', we see an equal reaction that too close an identification with a fundamentally non-domestic beast makes Macdonald other than conventional human, what we sometimes call mad.
White who turned to training a goshawk not to deal with grief but his own homosexuality and sadism both of which he found difficult to cope with and attributed to childhood abuse cemented by the types of abuse formalised in private schooling.
The common there is Spare the rod and spoil the child - it's for your own good An interruption of the bird's behaviour so it's handler can better observe it's hunting for their own pleasure. Along the way she observes how the hawk was viewed as feminine by Falconers and so in the nineteenth century the Goshawk has seen as moody, hysterical and vile, while in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they were perceived as shy and that you had to woo them to win their favour.
And she discovers that her goshawk likes to play p. White's story becomes an ideal structural conceit - his goshawk eventually escapes to freedom, while through writing he seems to have reached an accommodation with himself even if the erotic novel about flogging school boys goes unpublished while Macdonald too eventually recovers to tell us her story which swoops and dives over farm land into scrubby woods. A treasure of a book. View all 15 comments. Jun 24, Carol rated it it was amazing Shelves: H is for Hawk could be H is for Hope or Heart or Home as all of these capture in some small way the essence of this beautiful book.
In an effort to heal her soul and regain a connection with her father she sets out to find and train a hawk. Not just any hawk, a Goshawk. And here is just one of the beauties of her story. The descriptions of her Goshawk, Mabel, are so vivid that I can see her in all her regal glory. I H is for Hawk could be H is for Hope or Heart or Home as all of these capture in some small way the essence of this beautiful book.
Interspersed with the detailed portrait of the patience and care it takes to train a hawk, Macdonald also writes a semi-biographical portrait of the author T. Some readers may find this tedious.
Though it was interesting to learn more about White, who also had a penchant for hawks though not the patience of Macdonald , I did want her to get on with her own story. She seems to be better for it but we may not need to hear it all. One reviewer thought the book had little about grieving. It is about the hawk but there is much about grief. I disagree with this also. Though we may not visit them in the order Ross outlines, and they may have evolved through time, we all go through some form of these as listed, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
You can change the wording and perhaps the definition but I am a firm believer that there are steps to healing and that we do it in our own way and in our own time. There are many excellent reviews of H is for Hawk. I listened to H is for Hawk, read by the author who does justice to her own story and imparts the lushness of the language. One passage I particularly liked follows.
I think she began this with a thought that nature books told her to flee to the wild…to grieve. I was furious with myself and my own unconscious certainty that this was the cure I needed. Hands are for other human hands to hold.
They should not be reserved exclusively as perches for hawks. And the wild in not a panacea for the human soul; too much in the air can corrode it to nothing. His death had been so sudden. There had been no time to prepare for it, no sense in it happening at all. He could only be lost.
He was out there, still, somewhere out there in that tangled wood with all the rest of the lost and dead. I know now what those dreams in spring had meant, the ones of the hawk slipping through a rent in the air into another world. Mar 01, Kelly rated it really liked it Shelves: This review first appeared on my blog , Shoulda Coulda Woulda Books. That is the lure, that is why we lose ourselves, when powerless from hurt and grief, in drugs or gambling or drink; in addictions that collar the broken soul and shake it like a dog.
I had found my addiction on that day out with Mabel. I had taken a flight to a place from which This review first appeared on my blog , Shoulda Coulda Woulda Books. This is one of them. Even the Economist yup- that one, the one that loooooves its political books and Important Histories! I guess Mrs. This is the sort of book that will become a classic for all the right reasons- all the myriad of reasons that its readers found to resonate to it. And there are plenty.
It is also an ongoing psychological analysis of her own state of mind during this time, since she takes on this very challenging project after the death of her father. MacDonald tracks the progress of her grief as she conceives of, acquires and begins the training process of a hawk who comes to be called Mabel.
From the beginning, we are lured into the maelstrom of her grief via combination of surreal, interlocking images and impressions, literary imaginings and interludes of lucid narrative that come to seem dreamlike in their very normalcy.
She slowly transports us out of our senses until we are properly prepared to be living inside of her skin, all of a sudden blinking our eyes, and finding, like MacDonald, that we are looking out on a world that is different from what we have known, understanding what she means when she finds stepping outside to be full of danger: Leaving the house that evening is terrifying.
Somewhere in my mind ropes uncoil and fall.
It feels like an unmooring, as if I were an airship ascending on its maiden flight into darkness.. Everything seems hot and clean and dangerous and my senses are screwed to their utmost, as if someone had told me the park was full of hungry lions.
It is no wonder, then, that like so many British Romantics, American transcendentalists and Catholic saints before her, she snaps her creances 1 and retreats from a suddenly unfamiliar and threatening world and into something that matches the new place where she and her emotions live: The etymology of the word 'wild' is vexed and subtle, but the most persuasive past proposed for it involves the Old High German wildi and the Old Norse villr as well as pre-Teutonic ghweltijos.
All three of these terms carry implications of disorder and irregularity.. Wildness, then, according to this etymology, is an expression of independence from human direction. Instead, it becomes a necessary companion to her emotional understanding of herself.
As it turns out, TH White was also trying to disappear a large part of himself deemed unacceptable by society and by his own self-hatred, submerging it in interactions with animals and rendering himself unable to reveal it to others through retreat and silence.
MacDonald relates to us how it feels when you are throwing yourself into this wildness and becoming something Other. At times, this is surreal and otherworldly, such as when she mentally and emotionally joins in the hunt with Mabel: Now I cannot see the hawk because I am searching for the pheasant, so I have to work out what she is doing by putting myself in her mind- and so I become both the hawk in the branches above and the human below. The strangeness of his splitting makes me feel I am walking under myself, and sometimes away from myself.
Then for a moment, everything becomes dotted lines, and the hawk, the pheasant and I are merely elements in a trigonometry exercise, each of us labeled with soft italic letters. Time stretches and slows.
Then the pheasant is flushed, a pale and burning chunk of muscle and feathers, and the hawk crashes from the hedge towards it. And all the lines that connect heart and head and future possibilities, those lines that connect me with the hawk and the pheasant and with life and death suddenly become safe, become tied together in the small muddle of feathers and gripping talons that stand in mud in the middle of a small field in the middle of a small county in the middle of a small country on the edge of winter.
And at times it is touchingly sad, such as when MacDonald begins to play games with Mabel in her isolation, discovering, not entirely with a sense of joy, that the fierce goshawk likes to play: I have spent my evenings playing with Mabel.
She turns her head upside down, puffs out her chin-feathers, squeaks, picks up the toys in her beak, drops them and preens. When I throw her balls of scrunched up paper she catches them in her beak and tosses them back to me with a flick of her head.
It is as good as it gets. It both a breathtaking, often dark, but always beautiful assurance of all the things that await us beyond the pale of human reason and desire, whenever we need them, but also that the road eventually does curve around towards home, whenever we are ready for it to do so.
Mapped gorgeously out onto her understanding of her relationship with the goshawk, MacDonald shows us powers of perception that are terrifying, but ultimately forgiving, that ultimately offer us both torture and the succor we never dared hope for. This was an underpinning that made this work ring true to me, that did so much to remove it from the realm of literary exercise and to give me the heart and brain I needed to see to truly break my heart.
This is clearly an academic mind- the reach for a fellow writer to share her pain cut me deeply, especially as she begins to almost automatically go through the exercise of bringing him to life, writing character sketches and sharing bits of research like any academic article- only to have it collapse into the fevered imaginings of firesides and walks in the woods never described that remind us of the jagged roadblocks and unexpected chasms that strong emotions throw up in in the psyche.
It is also a mind concerned with history and with politics.
H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (1st Chapter)
This made every single time she interacted with Mabel ring all the truer and deeper to me, showing us how all of her other tools had failed her when it came to dealing with grief, and she was clinging to this hawk as the one thing that seemed to offer her refuge, and then understanding of her grief. This is a book of escape.
This is a book of deep self-examination. This is a diary observation of what it feels like to crumble, inwardly. This is a book of rediscovery and healing. But ultimately, this is a book of poetry. This is a book about knowing what you love, so that when the time comes, you know what will heal you.
Poorly made creances will snap, leaving hawks free to fly away- many never return. He slept on an army camp bed in the next room.
Only much later did I understand these intimations of history had their own, darker, history. The chalk country-cult rested on a presumption of organic connections to a landscape, a sense of belonging sanctified through an appeal to your own imagined lineage.
That chalk downloads held their national, as well as natural, histories. And it was much later, too, that I realized that these myths hurt. That they work to wipe away other cultures, other histories, other ways of loving, working and being in a landscape. How they tiptoe towards darkness. View all 17 comments. Dec 27, Michael rated it really liked it Shelves: Helen Macdonald is a college English teacher who goes into a tailspin after the death of her father.
She works her way out of her grief by taking up the challenging task of mastering and training a goshawk. She had the experience of working with smaller, more common hawks in her youth, but goshawks are big and notoriously unruly. Instead of see Helen Macdonald is a college English teacher who goes into a tailspin after the death of her father. Instead of seeing the process as a war of wills like White did, which led to serious mistakes and struggles, she takes a more scientific and successful approach.
Even so, the process was full of emotionally wrenching incidents and became an isolating and obsessive endeavor which was somewhat difficult for me to identify with. I did get a lot of empathetic vibes from how the required devotion puts her into ancient tradition of partnership between civilized human and wild predator.
There is a whole language for the equipment needed and hawk behavior dating back to medieval times. It also gets her out in the lovely fields and woods of her Buckinghamshire residence some 50 miles away from London. I can feel some of the beauty and wonder she experiences in working daily with the finely tuned killing machine she calls Mabel.
Her prose is wonderful, and there is plenty of self-deprecating elements of humor that add to the reading pleasure. But the sense of this creature being an alien being is hard for me to dispel and thus to appreciate an emotional bonding with it.
Both proclivities he seems to have successfully restrained in all his relations with children and friends. She indulges too much for my interests in psychobiography when she tries to account for why taming goshawk fulfills his need for mastering a wild thing and how the different characters in his fantasy epic fulfill a healthy sublimation of sorts by various aspects of his personality.
I never quite get how the lessons she gleans from White apply to her own situation or to others who follow a long tradition of seeking transformation in relation to the wildness of nature. I upped my rating a few weeks after reading this because it inspired a persisting hunger to understand better my own relation to wildness and that of humanity in general. Maybe feeling small in the face of one creature representing the vast web of nature can help one deal with our own mortality.
Underneath it all is history and sexuality, and childhood, and landscape, and mastery, and medievalism, and war, and teaching and learning and love. And I have learned, too, the danger that comes in mistaking the wildness we give a thing for the wildness that animates us. Goshawks are things of death and blood and gore, but they are not excuses for atrocities.
Their inhumanity is to be treasured because what they do has nothing to do with us at all. We share our lives happily in all their separation.
View all 16 comments. Dec 07, Elyse Walters rated it it was amazing Shelves: They are not for breaking the necks of rabbits, pulling loops of viscera out of necks out onto leaf-litter while the hawk dips her head to drink blood from her quarry's chest cavity" Falconry is not pet keeping.
We learn just how time consuming it must be-- --the dedication -the passion it takes to even appreciate the depths of Helen Macdonald is also a "Breeding goshhawks isn't for the faint-hearted. Helen Macdonald is also a writer - a poet - with a deep love for nature. With the authors extraordinary talents she has written something rarer than rare.
The writing itself will take your breathe away. After the loss of Helen's father --a very deep loss --she says: It is what people did. The nature books I'd read told me so. So many had been quests inspired by grief or sadness". We take a journey with Helen --while she is healing. A lonely man -complicated -unhappy - with suppressed homosexual desire. As a reader --your curiosity grows. Your thoughts may change from time to time. I've even asked myself --where do you draw the line between an obsession and passion?
I found myself curious to learn more -- 1 I spent an hour watching utubes on Falconry beautiful photos from Nigel Hawkins 2 I spent at least an hour in discussion with my husband with over this book. He plans to read it next. I'm now interested in reading his Arthurian Fantasy novel. Much can be discussed View all 22 comments. Mar 17, Bradley rated it really liked it Shelves: I generally don't do memoirs, but not because I'm a snob for everything else.
I don't do them because I'm not really interested. A bit more oddly, I'm only mildly interested in hawks and falcons.
I certainly never went out of my way to learn more after reading Stephen King's The Gunslinger , so why am I going out of my way now? Mostly, it's because of the writing. I heard from several sources that it was good and I stayed as a low blip in my radar for quite some time, but then, finally Ilana tippe I generally don't do memoirs, but not because I'm a snob for everything else.
I heard from several sources that it was good and I stayed as a low blip in my radar for quite some time, but then, finally Ilana tipped it over the edge for me. There's some really good biography stuff about T. White in here, and after having just read and enjoyed The Once and Future King , I didn't need that much further encouragement. So, thoughts? Helen Macdonald knows how to tell a story of herself. She managed to bring in personal tragedy in such a way that brought out real emotion, creatively, without dragging anyone down with her.
In fact, it was the goshawk and the mirroring with this delightful bird that helped her work through so much. It's more a tale of becoming a partner and discovering the real nature of reality, and that includes both life and death, profoundly.
In a more timid hand, the writing could have gone astray, or get bogged down as a scholarly work on the history of hawking, but no, it always remained personal with tons of interesting anecdotes. So how does it relate to T. He failed in his own attempts to train or enter a partnership with is own goshawk, and it was entirely due to his relationship with the world and his own homosexuality.
Helen Macdonald uses him and his writing, his history, and his particulars of psychology as a wonderful foil against her own journey. The mirrors were multilayered, with Bird versus Macdonald, and White versus Macdonald, and the mix was damn effective.
It also helped that her use of language was always enjoyable, reliable, and insightful. I'm very happy to have gotten around to this, and I must thank Ilana for pushing me over the edge. I must never forget that I must spread my own wings and try new things or I, too, will stagnate. View all 45 comments. Aug 23, Sara rated it it was amazing Shelves: I do not read enough non-fiction. When I come to a book like this one, it makes me wonder why. It is this small masterpiece that Macdonald had read since childhood and partly inspired her lifelong passion for hawks and hawking.
One can see how the bird's role as a metaphor for the outsider has multiple significances in H is for Hawk. It informs Macdonald's own self-revelations, but also her account of White, who was the ultimate hawking misfit. He was born in India to an alcoholic father and emotionally aloof mother who were hugely ill-suited to each other.
Even now, neither scholars of White's work nor his close friends can agree on his precise sexual orientation. His first biographer, Sylvia Townsend Warner , a lesbian, identified White as homosexual, yet his few openly declared if largely unsuccessful relationships were with women. Some of this lopsidedness may be a function of Macdonald's prose.
There is a highly polished brilliance to her writing and the short staccato declamatory sentence, sometimes of just a single word, is almost a signature of her style. The total effect is a seeming excess of strong emotion. Yet elsewhere she deploys the same stylistic elements to immense effect.
One good example is her evocation of her hawk's own psychology. More than any other writer I know, including her beloved White, Macdonald is able to summon the mental world of a bird of prey.
There is one classic moment when she meets the young Mabel for the first time. She conjures the shock of the encounter and simultaneously manages to get inside the head of the bird. A reptile. A fallen angel. A griffon from the pages of an illuminated bestiary. Fittingly it is when all this comes together, especially when she goes into the countryside to fly Mabel after rabbits, that the book and its prose really soar.We get to know Mabel as her trainer does.
Her feathers are half-raised and her wings half-open, and her scaled yellow toes and curved black talons grip the glove tightly. The premise of her memoir is simple: When Helen's father died, her grief was so great that she decided to adopt a goshawk. On the other it explodes in to all kinds of directions: Time stretches and slows. There's some really good biography stuff about T.
It brought something akin to madness, and I did not understand what I had done. Having a background in and love of falconry, she decides to get a goshawk from a breeder in Ireland and train the hawk to hunt.