H is for Hawk

Monday, February 19, 2018

H is for Hawk
Helen Macdonald, 2014

Read Harder Challenge - A book about nature
Premise: A memoir about grief, falconry, English history, and a human connection with the natural world.

I was in the mood for something different recently, so I tried out this well-reviewed memoir. It's a fascinating piece, although not (in my opinion) perfect.

After her father's sudden death, the author retreated into her lifelong obsession with birds and raised and trained a young goshawk. The book includes not only the story of her relationship with Mabel throughout a year of grieving and perspectives on modern falconry but also a parallel story of T. H. White's book about training a goshawk, and his relationships with both animals and people.

The writing is beautiful. I can't say that enough.The descriptions are deliciously tangible and her explanations of her emotions are tremendously vivid.

I loved her descriptions and musings on her relationship with her hawk and with the natural world in general. Her complicated feelings about classic writing on falconry were fascinating as well. She acknowledges the classism and sexism that the history of the sport entails, and she both appreciates what those writers had to say and questions their perspectives.

I found what the author herself called the "shadow biography" of T. H. White interesting, but not as compelling as the author's own story. Unfortunately, because life doesn't come with tidy narrative arcs, there was a section about two-thirds of the way through that dragged for me. It just felt as though the book meandered for a while before getting back on track.

In the end, I think the writing is lovely and the subject interesting. The slow formation of theories about the human need for connection with nature and how we read meaning into animals or landscapes or nations was a bit hit or miss for me. I think it worked by the end.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

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