Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Helen Macdonald

By Lynn Willoughby

H is for Hawk ~ Helen Macdonald
This book was recommended by someone who shares my like and dislikes in what I read. It is original in that it successfully blends nature, writing, memoir, fantasy and a lot of research.
When Helen’s father dies she has trouble coping. She is already a falconer, but has never trained her own bird. After some research she buys herself a young goshawk that she names Mabel. Using T. H. White’s book “The Goshawk”, written in the 1930s, as her bible, she shuts off her phone, closes her blinds, tells her friends not to come around and immerses herself in the mind of hawk.
Falconry dates back thousands of years. It is a partnership between a civilized human and a wild predator. There is an entire language associated with the skills, equipment, behaviour, habits, diet and patience needed to train this amazing bird. It is a revelation when Macdonald realizes that Mabel is playing with her! This comes after we learn “In real life the goshawk resembles the sparrowhawk the way leopards resemble house cats.  Bigger, yes, but bulkier, bloodier, deadlier, scarier…”
Mabel helps Macdonald though her grief and out the other side. I learned a lot about goshawks and falconry and then went to Google to learn some more. However, this is not a book you pick up and read from beginning to end. I read it in spurts. I felt sorry for Mabel, for her captivity and her wildness, but that is just me. The writing is strong, I learned a great deal and it is certainly worth reading.
  • Shales Fish  (poetry)
  • Falcon

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