Archive | 5:00 am

F is for fantastic

10 Aug

I don’t often post about books for adults, but when I do, it is because it is something really noteworthy. And H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald is worth noting.


The publisher’s summary describes the book this way:

As a child, Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer, learning the arcane terminology and reading all the classic books. Years later, when her father died and she was struck deeply by grief, she became obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She bought Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and took her home to Cambridge, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals.

H is for Hawk is an unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald’s struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk’s taming and her own untaming. This is a book about memory, nature and nation, and how it might be possible to reconcile death with life and love.

It is all that, but it is so much more. I’ve been listening to it in my car since sowing back from my dad’s funeral. I love listening to books in the car and this one is read by the author, who is also a beautiful reader.

In her NYT review of H is for Hawk, Vicki Constantine Croke describes Macdonald’s writing as “words that mimic feathers, so impossibly pretty we don’t notice their astonishing engineering”. You will be swept into the tale yourself without even realizing the marvelous way it is happening. Although the author is telling a tale that is sad and honest, there is a beauty to it. We watch Macdonald recover from ruin as she heals from the shock of her father’s unexpected death. It isn’t always pretty and her honesty, though painful at times, helps the reader see that the process is truly transformational.

Teacher friends, there are only a few weeks left before we go back to school. If you don;t have a chance to read H is for Hawk before you go back, perhaps you could read it during the school year, because every new school year is a transformational as Macdonald’s experience with Mabel.

%d bloggers like this: