Devastated by the sudden death of her beloved father, H is for Hawk author Helen Macdonald attempts to deal with her grief by acquiring and training a goshawk named Mabel, intending, like the famous British author and falconer T.H. White, to become “ferocious, feral and free.” H is for Hawk is a seamless blend of memoir, nature writing, and literary criticism: not only does it chronicle the development of Macdonald’s extraordinary relationship with Mabel , but it also follows the arc of the author’s grief and examines White’s process of training his own goshawk, drawing from his aptly named classic The Goshawk.
Macdonald pays attention—to the natural world, to her hawk, to her emotional states—and this fierce level of attention is evident in her writing: “So I sat in the stubble, woozily glorying at the beauty of it all. The mist rising in the hollows. Flocks of golden plover pouring over in sheaves. The way the bluish new rapeseed leaves contrasted with the vertical straw of the stubble at my feet….Grief had spurred me to fly the hawk, but now my grief was gone. Everything was gone except this quiet sylvan scene.”
If you enjoy literary memoirs on the introspective side, this one might be for you.