H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald


“There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that it is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.” – Helen Macdonald

You’ve seen this book on nearly every best book list of 2015 and you really don’t need another review to convince you that you should probably read Helen Macdonald’s memoir about falconry and her father. After her father dies unexpectedly, Macdonald takes a leave of absence from work, purchases a hawk, and takes up the hobby of falconry that she has dreamed of since childhood.

The attention Macdonald has received for this book is well-deserved; her prose is rich and her thoughts on life and grief are profound. I never expected to be enraptured in a story about training a hawk, but here we are. (Bonus: I learnt the word “mute,” which is the official word for hawk excrement.) I also didn’t expect the fascinating sub-narrative of T. H. White (a popular English author of Arthurian novels), who wrote his own book on falconry called The Goshawk. As Macdonald intertwines their experiences of training hawks together, she also touches on how White’s experience with his hawk, Gos, helped him explore his closeted sexuality. Though I have never experienced a grief similar to Macdonald’s, the story of White’s queerness drew me in, and I imagine this book will one day help me understand the shape of my own grief.

Books read: 2


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