Tuesday 5 July 2016

H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

H is for Hawk is unique. This is a book that is so completely other to any I have read.

I listened to the Audible version, which is read by the author. An unexpected treat, because she has a lovely lilting subtle voice, which was a pleasure to listen to. Also this works, since it is a memoir, but then, it's really not a memoir at all.

It may be easier to tell you what this book is not...

It's certainly not a crime novel, with a twisty dark plot. Neither is it historical fiction, nor is it YA, chick-lit, or a family saga.

It is quite beautiful. Haunting, it is mostly about a goshawk, named Mabel, and the author, recovering from trauma, who turns to the ancient practice of falconry to help her through the grief of losing her father.

Your reaction may be similar to mine - "Why would anyone want to keep and train a wild bird of prey. It's cruel, inhumane and just wrong?"

But people do, and then others write about it. And it's monstrous and tragic and fraught and sad. Kind of like death. I think that may be Helen's point. She makes it well. It is what it is.

"...proper Winter is here, and Mabel is fizzing with happiness, rugging her tail in barely suppressed excitement; tummy feathers fluffed over her grippy toes, eyes gleaming silver in the sun. If this hawk could speak, she’d be singing under her breath. Something has changed inside me. Today it’s hard to slip into the wordless sharpness of being a hawk. Or rather, the hawk seems more human today."

The bonus is how the author tells it. With elegant choices of words and phrases, that expose the raw pain, the wild fury, the tremendous sorrow and the heart-wrenching agony of falconry and death. Quite gorgeous.

I'm glad I listened to it.

A conflicted 4 stars.

ISBN: 9780224097000

I don't know what other books to recommend that are like this one, but if you're looking for a good memoir, here's one, or beautiful prose, what about The Keeper?

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