Saturday, 16 June 2018

H is for Hawk

H is for HawkH is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rarely do you read a book where every word seems so perfectly in place, every thought so apt, each observation clear, original and enlightening. But then, this is a rare book. A rare book about a (reasonably) rare bird, at least in the wild. But it's so much more. Much more. I've had it on my shelves for a while now but - to be honest - it was the hawk on the cover, of the title, and subject of almost all the articles I'd read and discussion I'd heard that stayed my hand as it reached up to the shelf. Because although I love natural history, and ornithology especially, I wasn't sure I was ready to invest a week in the company of someone training a hawk. But the book - as all good books, on whatever subject - is about so much more. The hawk moments are wonderfully real and vivid, but in many ways serve as a metaphor for the internal struggle of the author as she comes to terms with the loss of her father, comes to terms with her place in the world, with the natural order of things, and recovers from illness. It's also an intriguing literary critique of the naturalist and author T.H. White, perhaps best known now for his Arthurian novels but also an accomplished (and deeply flawed) falconer. White's journey of self-discovery through falconry mirrors Macdonald's own growing appreciation of his account of training the eponymous raptor in 'The Goshawk'. And, of course, his journey is hers - both in terms of the bird they both trained, and the struggles they endured and - in Macdonald's case at least - overcame. A richly fulfilling and rewarding read.

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