H is for Hawk

Author Helen Macdonald
Vote 7/10
Reviewed on 2018-05-28
Read in English

The author tells the very personal and thus very brave story of her father’s loss and the way she copes with it by training a goshawk. It becomes a profound and powerful reflection on bereavement and losing oneself in the wilderness and at the same time a cautionary tale of how easy it is to lose oneself in that same nature that soothes the pain by losing one’s humanity and giving in to one’s wild side.

The story draws a parallel with the story of a surprisingly little known (to me) waiter, T.H. White, who’s no less than the author of The Sword in the Stone, and that was also the author of a book titled The Goshawk, the diary of his experiences training, as the title suggests, this fascinating and enigmatic bird. White’s book is also an account of his vision of the world and of his fight against himself and reveals a troubled person with which Macdonald empathizes during her quest to train her own goshawk.

The book is spellbinding, and I found myself reading pages and pages of landscapes and detailed training descriptions, and learned that there are several kinds of hawks and that even the title is a simplification made maybe to appeal to the layman. What I wasn’t enthusiastic about is that sometimes for some reason the spell breaks and I asked myself when was the progress going to happen again, in some long passages about how Mabel hunted down her preys.

But overall, I would recommend the book.

On a personal note, I’ve borrowed this one from the public library of Nice, where it was held in the fiction shelf, but then I discovered that it is actually a true story. Oh well. Doesn’t matter. For some reason, I had given up reading this book when I started thinking that it was the story of Aisholpan Nurgaiv, who is, in fact, an eagle huntress. Ugh.