H is for Hawk
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H is for Hawk

3.73 (36,061 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Winner of the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize Winner of the 2014 Costa Book of the Year Award Shortlisted for the 2014 Duff Cooper Prize Shortlisted for the 2014 Thwaites Wainwright Prize `In real life, goshawks resemble sparrowhawks the way leopards resemble housecats. Bigger, yes. But bulkier, bloodier, deadlier, scarier, and much, much harder to see. Birds of deep woodland, not gardens, they're the birdwatchers' dark grail.' 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. `To train a hawk you must watch it like a hawk, and so gain the ability to predict what it will do next. Eventually you don't see the hawk's body language at all. You seem to feel what it feels. The hawk's apprehension becomes your own. As the days passed and I put myself in the hawk's wild mind to tame her, my humanity was burning away.' Destined to be a classic of nature writing, H is for Hawk is a record of a spiritual journey - an 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 for The 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.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 144 x 214 x 38mm | 519.99g
  • Random House Children's Publishers UK
  • Jonathan Cape Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0224097008
  • 9780224097000
  • 9,956

Review quote

"It just sings. I couldn't stop reading." -- Mark Haddon "This beautiful book is at once heartfelt and clever in the way it mixes elegy with celebration: elegy for a father lost, celebration of a hawk found - and in the finding also a celebration of countryside, forbears of one kind and another, life-in-death. At a time of very distinguished writing about the relationship between human kind and the environment, it is immediately pre-eminent." -- Andrew Motion "H is for Hawk is a dazzling piece of work: deeply affecting, utterly fascinating and blazing with love and intelligence... The result is a deeply human work shot through...with intelligence and compassion... I will be surprised if a better book than H is for Hawk is published this year." -- Melissa Harrison * Financial Times * "I'm convinced it's going to be an absolute classic of nature writing." -- Nick Barley * Guardian * "I can't remember the last time a book made me feel so many different things in such quick succession." -- Rachel Cooke * Guardian * "[Macdonald's] descriptive writing, startlingly and devilishly precise...is only the half of it. She has written her taming of Mabel like a thriller, slowly and carefully cranking the tension is that your stomach and heart leap queasily towards each other... Captivates." -- Rachel Cooke * Observer * "Captivating... There is a highly polished brilliance to her writing. The English-speaking world has an old passion for books about creatures and captivating companions ... Helen Macdonald looks set to revive the genre." -- Guardian * Mark Cocker * "Nature-writing, but not as you know it. Astounding." * Bookseller * "It is a mark of Macdonald's achievement that so exultant a book can resolve itself in a sense of failure, yet leave the reader as uplifted as a raptor riding on a thermal." -- Philip Hoare * New Statesman * "MacDonald's prose is poetic, forensic, yet often capable of quickening the pulse. Her lexicon...is vivid and joyous, soaring as freely as birds do." -- Benjamin Myers * New Scientist * "One of the most eloquent accounts of bereavement you could hope to read... A grief memoir with wings." -- Caroline Sanderson * Bookseller * "What she has achieved is a very rare thing in literature - a completely realistic account of a human relationship with animal consciousness... It is a soaring performance and Mabel is the star." -- John Carey * Sunday Times * "Cunningly plaited and - almost - devastating... It deserves to sell shedloads and win prizes, it is naturalist writing of that spectacular quality that is literature too." -- Angus Clarke * The Times * "A wondrous book of loss and recovery... When [Macdonald] matches her factual know-how...with her poet's eye, it is excellent... An exceptional book of twisted growth." -- Tim Dee * National * "Absorbing... This memoir is lit with flashes of that grace, a grace that sweeps down to the reader to hold her wrist tight with beautiful, terrible class. The discovery of the season." -- Erica Wagner * The Economist * "Astounding." * Bookseller * "People talk about books that change your life. I loved the fact that this book does something much more valuable. It doesn't change anything. It leaves everything just where it was, only more so; more distinct, more itself. It opens your eyes. And it deepens what we have always known; that we live side by side with each other, as we do with the creatures around us." -- Laura Beatty * Caught by the River * "A talon-sharp memoir that will thrill and chill you to the bone... Fascinating." -- Craig Brown * Mail on Sunday * "Mesmerising, decisive and devastating... Her description of Mabel in flight should be etched into every birdwatcher's field guide... Macdonald is a nature writer supreme, arguably the best practitioner of this art form writing today." -- Stuart Winter * Sunday Express * "A soaring triumph." -- Christian House * Daily Telegraph * "Beautiful." * Sport * "Strange yet compelling... Macdonald's poetic prose soars... An uplifting message that...sends the heart soaring." -- Gerard Henderson * Daily Express * "Vivid and fascinating." -- James Attlee * Independent * "Soars beyond genres, and burns with emotional and intellectual intensity." * Nature * "We can't recommend this strange, clever, beautiful book highly enough." -- Jarrold's Bookshop * Eastern Daily Press * "A soliloquy that sings from the pages. Truly beautiful." -- Rufus the Hawk * Twitter * "Heartbreaking." * Grazia * "In fifty years time - a hundred - H is for Hawk will still defy easy definition. Readers will see wildness a little differently and they will still finish with a silent cheer for a fellow human starting to re-engage with the world. File under classic." -- Nigel Roby * We Love This Book * "Poetic, imaginative and richly persuasive prose. Macdonald's sensitivity to English weather, landscape and natural habitat is extraordinary; she is a word-painter of the subtlest palette and an audio recorder of peerless quality." * Book Oxygen * "Macdonald makes nature writing new." * For Books Sake *show more

About Helen Macdonald

Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, illustrator, historian and affiliate at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. Her books include Falcon (2006) and Shaler's Fish (2001).show more

Review Text

"A talon-sharp memoir that will thrill and chill you to the bone... Fascinating."show more

Flap copy

‘In real life, goshawks resemble sparrowhawks the way leopards resemble housecats. Bigger, yes. But bulkier, bloodier, deadlier, scarier, and much, much harder to see. Birds of deep woodland, not gardens, they’re the birdwatchers’ dark grail.’ From the age of seven 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 £800 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 widest of animals. ‘To train a hawk you must watch it like a hawk, and so gain the ability to predict what it will do next. Eventually you don’t see the hawk’s body language at all. You seem to feel what it feels. The hawk’s apprehension becomes your own. As the days passed and I put myself in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her, my humanity was burning away.’ Destined to be a classic of nature writing, H is for Hawk is a record of a spiritual journey - an 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 for The 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.show more

Rating details

36,061 ratings
3.73 out of 5 stars
5 28% (9,921)
4 36% (12,895)
3 24% (8,573)
2 9% (3,193)
1 4% (1,479)
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