Thursday, October 4, 2018

H is for hawk, by Helen Macdonald

Doing a second "deeper dive" into this favorite book, and reading T. H. White's The goshawk as well.  In 2015 I wrote:  When Helen Macdonald’s father, a photojournalist, dies unexpectedly, it sends her into a type of grief that skitters along the edge of madness.  In her forties, single, and a fellow at Cambridge, she gives up her job, her home, her friends, and retreats into an intense relationship with a young goshawk she names “Mabel.”  She has been fascinated by hawks and the natural world since girlhood, passions she shared with her father.  An experienced falconer, she has trained many hawks, but never a goshawk which has a reputation for being moody and hard to train.  “They unnerved me.  They were things of death and difficulty: spooky, pale-eyed psychopaths that lived and killed in woodland thickets.”  Interwoven with this gorgeously written account of her own grief and her life with Mabel, is a second thread.  T. H. White, most famously the writer of The once and future king, upon which the musical Camelot, is based, was a favorite author when she was a child.  He also tried to train a goshawk and wrote about it in The goshawk.  A deeply troubled man himself, a closeted sadistic homosexual, his story alternates with her struggles to come to terms with her sorrow through her relationship with Mabel.  A unique book and very special.  300 pp.

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