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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Audible Book Review: H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

This is not quite what I expected but beautifully written for an interesting memoir/biography.
H Is for Hawk
Written by: Helen Macdonald
Narrated by: Helen Macdonald
Length: 11 hrs and 6 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:03-03-15
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Genre: Memoir
My Rating: 4.0 of 5.0

Publisher's Summary
When Helen MacDonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer captivated by hawks since childhood, she'd never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators: the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk's fierce and feral anger mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T. H. White's chronicle The Goshawk to begin her journey into Mabel's world. Projecting herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her" tested the limits of MacDonald's humanity.
By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement, a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, and the story of an eccentric falconer and legendary writer. Weaving together obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history, H Is for Hawk is a distinctive, surprising blend of nature writing and memoir from a very gifted writer.
©2014 Helen Macdonald (P)2014 Isis Publishing, Ltd. UK

The first thing I noted in this audio is the beautiful writing. This drew me in although I struggled with the content as the work moved on. This a memoir of the author’s struggle to overcome the disabling grief that overwhelms her upon her father’s sudden death.

At times this is her story, at others it is the story of her photojournalist father. Then woven in is a personal glimpse of T.H. White’s rather dysfunctional and sad life story. All of these are connected through their respective working with and love of hawks and falconry. Ms. Macdonald chooses to train a goshawk using older books from White and other authors as guides although she learns through experience their methods are wrong – at least as they might be applied to her calmer bird. Working with Mable initially takes Ms. Macdonald out of the world and insulates her from society, but eventually helps her see her need for other people and helps her find purpose to move on with her life.

I am not much into depression and obsession so those elements weren't wonderful for me. I did enjoy the bird training especially since I have had a few variety of birds, though none were hunters. I was struck by the fear of more lose when it came time to let the bird fly free and hope that it would return.

It was really the beautiful writing that kept me listening when the content might have caused me to skip forward or stop listening altogether. The whole work is a composition of lives, reflected in words but apparently with the same distinct and sharp skill of her photojournalist father. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy memoirs and nature.

Audio Notes: It is always interesting to have the author narrate their own work. Clearly Ms. Macdonald does a lovely job with the narration. She conveys her emotions more through the content of the book and thankfully does not make the depressing moments any darker than they are by the written word. I am glad that I listened to this as I am not sure if I would have picked up the print or ebook.

I picked this title from my TBR shelves. It qualifies for Mount TBR, Audiobook and for "H" on my Alphabet Challenge.

1 comment:

  1. Great review. This sounds like and interesting story, but I don't think I could handle reading something like this right now. I will add it to my list to get sometime. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings about this story.


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