H Is for Hawk

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Read more. Also by Helen MacDonald. Truly beautiful. Smith, Times Higher Education Supplement.

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H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

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Thank you! Your subscription to Read More was successful. Macdonald has found the ideal balance between art and truth. Macdonald elegantly weaves multitudinous and extremely complex issues into a single work of seamless prose. It prickles your skin the way nature can when you are surprised by an animal in your path.


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Some books are not books but visitations, and this one has crossed its share of thresholds before arriving here, to an impossible middle perch between wilderness and culture, past and present, life and death. It is not just a definitive work on falconry; it is a definitive work on humanity, and all that can and cannot be possessed.

Read it and enrich your life. Readers might do well to absorb this book a bite at a time—but be prepared for a full meal. Macdonald fearlessly probes each facet of grief and traverses its wilderness to reach redemption. But most beautiful of all is the complex, layered bond that builds between her and Mabel, her hawk. Who would have guessed that human and bird could share so much? Macdonald describes in beautiful, thoughtful prose how she comes to terms with death in new and startling ways.

H Is for Hawk

I will be surprised if a better book than H is for Hawk is published this year. Macdonald looks set to revive the genre. Macdonald has just the right blend of the scientist and the poet, of observing on the one hand and feeling on the other. Her training of Mabel has the suspense and tension of the here and now. You are gripped by the slightest movement, by the turn of every feather. It is a soaring performance and Mabel is the star.

The discovery of the season. At a time of very distinguished writing about the relationship between human kind and the environment, it is immediately pre-eminent. Macdonald is a survivor. A grief memoir with wings. It combines old and new nature and human nature with great originality. No one who has looked up to see a bird of prey cross the sky could read it and not have their life shifted. She wrote this sentence to explain how British goshawks were literally brought back from extinction by falconers who imported birds from the continent that were lost or released and subsequently bred.

What other meanings could this line have? What does this tell us about the kind of narrator Helen will be? Helen writes about a time when she was nine and impatient to see hawks. How well is Helen served by this advice throughout the book? Macdonald was eight years old when she first reads T. She initially dislikes the book p. But White is a part of my story all the same. What does Macdonald mean? Why does Macdonald change her mind?

Excerpt: H is for Hawk

Why does this excite Macdonald? Macdonald goes through various emotional stages training her hawk. How critical was this loss at this stage of her training? How important of a turning point is this for Macdonald? Is Macdonald also shielding herself? Why or why not? Later, she looks just once at the last photo her father took before he died. Macdonald cuts between her attempts to train Mabel with T.

How much kinship does she see in their respective journeys? What are the similarities in their training routines?