H Is For Hawk

This is a wonderful, disturbing, beautiful, very unhappy book. It recounts the year that Helen Macdonald spent taming and training a goshawk, Mabel, following the sudden death of her father. Grief and wildness, depression, nature's beauty and cold brutality, are all bound together in this compelling memoir. Threaded through it is a discussion of TH White (whose Once and Future King I loved fiercely as a teenager) and his own hawk-training memoir, The Goshawk, in which White does everything wrong that you could possibly do wrong, tormenting his hawk and himself as he exorcises his own personal demons. (The scene in The Sword and the Stone where Wart, transformed into a merlin, has to endure the ordeal of standing in the hawkhouse next to the mad goshawk, Colonel Cully, still sends shivers down my spine.) At times, Macdonald identifies so closely with her goshawk that she is in danger of losing her own sense of self.

I'd seen this discussed on the Antonia Forest forum (falconry features in the Marlow books, particularly in the third book of the series Falconer's Lure) and I bought it on the Kindle because impatience got the better of me. I'm glad I didn't wait.

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