by Helen Macdonald
Multi-prize-winning goshawk memoir.
When Helen Macdonald's father died unexpectedly, she was utterly devastated. The strange, very personal way she chose to try to deal with her grief was to train a young goshawk. The idea wasn't as random as it sounds: Macdonald has been obsessed with falconry since she was a small girl, and had already trained several other birds of prey. But goshawks are something special: very temperamental; very difficult to train.
H is for Hawk is an unusual book: part personal memoir, part hawk-training manual, and part biography of the writer T.H. White (who also wrote a classic book about a goshawk). It's also an extremely brave book. Macdonald pulls no punches describing how her father's death affected her. ‘Someone give the poor woman a hug!’ I kept thinking, as I kept reading.
But H is for Hawk isn't not all doom and gloom. The book contains many uplifting passages. It's also beautifully written. I particularly enjoyed one of the later chapters, in which Macdonald describes the local nature patches she has got to know with her hawk. There's also a wonderful description of a flock of fieldfares flying overhead, comparing them to the pearls on a sixteenth-century sleeve (a crazy comparison, which should make absolute sense to anyone who's ever watched a flock of fieldfares flying overhead).
H is for Hawk deservedly won the Costa Book of the Year award and the Samuel Johnson Prize. Thanks to my mate Julian Hoffman for obtaining a signed copy directly from Helen Macdonald for me.