H Is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
Helen Macdonald

H Is for Hawk

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Destined to be a classic of nature writing, the story of how one woman trained a goshawk. As a child Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer. She learned the arcane terminology and read all the classic books, including T. H. White's tortured masterpiece,The Goshawk, which describes White's struggle to train a hawk as a spiritual contest. When her father dies and she is knocked sideways by grief, she becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She buys Mabel for GBP800 on a Scottish quayside and takes her home to Cambridge. Then she fills the freezer with hawk food and unplugs the phone, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals. H is for Hawkis a record of a spiritual journeyan unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald's struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk's taming and her own untaming. At the same time, it's a kaleidoscopic biography of the brilliant and troubled novelist T. H. White, best known forThe Once and Future King. It's a book about memory, nature and nation, and how it might be possible to try to reconcile death with life and love. As John Vaillant'sThe Tigerdepicted the dangerous collision of people and nature,H is for Hawkevokes our deepest longings for something wild. With stunning language that that resonates long after the book's conclusion,H is for Hawkis destined to be a classic of nature writing.
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But I feel ashamed of my nation’s reticence. Its desire to keep walking, to move on, not to comment, not to interrogate, not to take any interest in something peculiar, unusual, in anything that isn’t entirely normal.
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They were on the soar.
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Looking for goshawks is like looking for grace: it comes, but not often, and you don’t get to say when or how.

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