Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book Review: H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Helen's father died unexpectedly. She's an only child and was very close to him. She's an adult, but it still hits her very hard.

She begins to train a goshawk, one of the hardest raptors to train. A falconer, she has trained other hunting birds before, but decides now she needs to make this hardest attempt, in her grief. Amidst her training, she reads T. H. White's book, The Goshawk, which he wrote years before The Once and Future King. White did a dreadful job with his hawk, and at times it's painful to hear about. MacDonald obviously also did a vast amount of research about White and his life, beyond just reading this book. She sees echoes of his life in The Once and Future King, and finds the metaphor in his goshawk training, and also her own, as she grieves her father's death. He was a photographer who was interested in all sorts of things (he took a picture of every single bridge across the Thames). The small details were what stuck with me, like how Helen and her mother set out a couple of days after his death to try to hunt down his car, which was street parked somewhere near his office (turns out it was towed.)

This memoir is beautifully written and touching, but I think it was over-hyped to me, as I was expected something truly transformative, and instead I just found it lovely and sad. I was disappointed but I think anyone else, not going in with these expectations, would love it. I did enjoy it a great deal, but I'd just been lead to understand it was one of the most brilliant memoirs ever, and as a memoir connoisseur, I can say it's above average, but it didn't blow me away. But don't get me wrong--I do recommend it.

I downloaded this book from the library via Overdrive.

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