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H Is for Hawk (2014)

af Helen Macdonald

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3,2382302,929 (3.87)1 / 456
H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (2015)
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Engelsk (224)  Norsk (1)  Tysk (1)  Fransk (1)  Hollandsk (1)  Alle sprog (228)
Viser 1-5 af 228 (næste | vis alle)
Despite reading various reviews before I began reading this memoir, it was rather different than I expected. I knew, of course, that the author was mourning the loss of her father, and she got Mabel, her goshawk, to help her deal with the grief she was experiencing. I knew she compared her experience of training Mabel to the experience of [a:T.H. White|426944|T.H. White|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/authors/1246071532p2/426944.jpg], the author of [b:The Once and Future King|43545|The Once and Future King (The Once and Future King #1-4)|T.H. White|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1338741283s/43545.jpg|1140206], in the training of his goshawk that he wrote about in a memoir. But execution of the things I knew beforehand played out much differently than I envisioned, but not in a bad way.

I truly thought that much more of this book would describe MacDonald's relationship with her father. But descriptions of their relationship were pretty minimal. Instead she describes in depth her relationship to Mabel, and how training her and hunting with Mabel affected the author. What I knew about falconry before reading this memoir could have fit on the head of a pin with room left over for War and Peace. I didn't know that falconers hunt with their birds in such an active way. They don't just let their birds go and catch prey and wait until the birds have caught something and eaten it. MacDonald would help flush out rabbits or pheasants for Mabel to chase, and then the author would take most of the dead prey away since it was too much food for Mabel to eat at one time. Or sometimes, she killed the prey because Mabel was taking too long and Macdonald didn't want the animal to suffer. It sounds pretty gory, but it makes falconers a much more active part of the hunt than most of us probably realize. And this active hunting affected MacDonald in unusual ways. In her imagination, she became a hawk.

Hunting with the hawk took me to the very edge of being human. Then it took me past that place to somewhere I wasn't human at all....Yet every time the hawk caught an animal, it pulled me back from being an animal into being a human again. That was the great puzzle, and it was played out again and again....The borders between life and death are somewhere in the taking of their meal. I couldn't let that suffering happen. Hunting makes you animal, but the death of an animal makes you human.

All of this hunting and feeling the change from being a hawk to being a human and having such close contact with death made MacDonald think a lot about death. And not about the afterlife or anything so esoteric but about being accountable for death and that life is not to be taken lightly. Unfortunately the process of identifying so closely with Mabel did not immediately help the author face the world and deal with her grief.

I'd turned myself into a hawk - taken all the traits of goshawks in the books and made them my own. I was nervous, highly strung, paranoid, prone to fits of terror and rage; I ate greedily or didn't eat at all; I fled form society, hid from everything; found myself drifting into strange states where I wasn't certain who or what I was. In hunting with Mabel, day after day, I had assumed - my imagination, of course, but that was all it ever could be - her alien perspective, her inhuman understanding of the world. It brought something akin to madness, and I did not understand what I had done.

It surprised me how long it took the author to break out of the imaginary feeling of being a hawk. And I'm still a little unclear how this process helped MacDonald to work through her grief, or if it actually did help her to do so. She pretty much broke down after her father's death, and her life with Mabel became almost her entire life. Her friendships and professional life took a very distant backseat while she mostly hid herself away for a time. Eventually all grief and the manifestations of it change and let the grief-stricken go back to a more normal life, and so it came to be with Helen MacDonald as well.

I had thought for a long while that I was the hawk - one of those sulky goshawks able to vanish into another world, sitting high in the winter trees. But I was not the hawk, no matter how much I pared myself away, no matter how many times I lost myself in blood and leaves and fields. I was the figure standing underneath the tree at nightfall, collar upturned against the damp, waiting patiently for the hawk to return.

So I found it fascinating to read about the way MacDonald worked her way through her grief as she worked with Mabel. It was also interesting to read about T.H. White, who wrote a memoir about training a goshawk, [b:The Goshawk|1188127|The Goshawk|T.H. White|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1320461488s/1188127.jpg|105249], which Helen MacDonald read as a child. The memoir enraptured her even though it was actually a terrible experience for both White and his goshawk. And MacDonald's memoir spends much time relating White's experience and telling about his life in general. I found much of the information about him interesting, but it became somewhat jarring after a while to switch so frequently from MacDonald's story to White's and then back. It became too much of a study of White and his experience in my opinion, but it was not enough of a distraction to make this less than a stellar book.
( )
  boldforbs | Jan 15, 2021 |
I added this book to my TBR pile way back when it won the Costa Book of the Year award. That was in January 2015, so it has taken me more than two years to get to it. But get to it I did. And it is simply wonderful. Such a great book, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

On the one hand it is the story of Macdonald’s experiences training a goshawk. It is also a memoir dealing with the loss of her father. And it is a look at the life of T. H. White, his writings and life. Some people may enjoy some aspects more than others, but I loved it all, from Macdonald’s wanderings through Cambridge with a hawk, through her examinations of White’s life, to her depression and grief, it is all so beautifully written. I could have read it all day if I’d had the time.

However, if you pick it up thinking that this is a nature book, or a book about training a hawk then you will be disappointed. That is an integral part of the book, but because it is an integral part of Macdonald. This is more of a memoir than a nature book. But then for people who like to read memoirs there is probably too much hawk? For me, it was a wonderful blend and I don’t think there was anything in the book I disliked.

I also now want to read more about White and his life, Macdonald makes him into a fascinating character. ( )
  Fence | Jan 5, 2021 |
Non-fiction memoir/natural history. Melds the story of grief after losing her father, raising a goshawk and Theodore White's experiences in raising a goshawk. ( )
  Angel.Tatum.Craddock | Dec 17, 2020 |
To help overcome grief associated with her father's death, the author trains a female goshawk Mabel. She shares her love for falconry and enables the reader to see the bird's spirit. Readers learn about the author's personal struggles with depression and job loss, about her relationship, with her father, and about her study of author/falconer T. H. White. While I did not connect with this book as some did, I appreciated the author's way of sharing her pain. I sometimes found myself trying to cheer Mabel to fly away. ( )
  thornton37814 | Dec 12, 2020 |
I listened to the audiobook version read by the author which really added to the enjoyment of the book. The story is about how the author used her interest in falconery to overcome the grief of her father's death. She decides to train a goshawk which are known for being aggressive and in the process she heals through identifying with the bird's wild spirit. Its a unique and lovely story. ( )
  kerryp | Dec 7, 2020 |
Viser 1-5 af 228 (næste | vis alle)
Helen Macdonald’s beautiful and nearly feral book, “H Is for Hawk,” her first published in the United States, reminds us that excellent nature writing can lay bare some of the intimacies of the wild world as well. Her book is so good that, at times, it hurt me to read it. It draws blood, in ways that seem curative.
tilføjet af ozzer | RedigerNew York Times, Dwight Garner (Feb 17, 2015)
 

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H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (2015)

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