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H Is for Hawk
Cover of H Is for Hawk
H Is for Hawk
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One of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the Year
ON MORE THAN 25 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR LISTS: including TIME (#1 Nonfiction Book), NPR, O, The Oprah Magazine (10 Favorite Books), Vogue (Top 10), Vanity Fair, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle (Top 10), Miami Herald, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Minneapolis Star Tribune (Top 10), Library Journal (Top 10), Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Slate, Shelf Awareness, Book Riot, Amazon (Top 20)

The instant New York Times bestseller and award-winning sensation, Helen Macdonald's story of adopting and raising one of nature's most vicious predators has soared into the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. Fierce and feral, her goshawk Mabel's temperament mirrors Helen's own state of grief after her father's death, and together raptor and human "discover the pain and beauty of being alive" (People). H Is for Hawk is a genre-defying debut from one of our most unique and transcendent voices.

One of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the Year
ON MORE THAN 25 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR LISTS: including TIME (#1 Nonfiction Book), NPR, O, The Oprah Magazine (10 Favorite Books), Vogue (Top 10), Vanity Fair, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle (Top 10), Miami Herald, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Minneapolis Star Tribune (Top 10), Library Journal (Top 10), Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Slate, Shelf Awareness, Book Riot, Amazon (Top 20)

The instant New York Times bestseller and award-winning sensation, Helen Macdonald's story of adopting and raising one of nature's most vicious predators has soared into the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. Fierce and feral, her goshawk Mabel's temperament mirrors Helen's own state of grief after her father's death, and together raptor and human "discover the pain and beauty of being alive" (People). H Is for Hawk is a genre-defying debut from one of our most unique and transcendent voices.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, illustrator, historian, and naturalist, and an affiliated research scholar at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses. She also worked as a Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge. She is the author of a cultural history of falcons, titled Falcon, and three collections of poetry. As a professional falconer, she assisted with the management of raptor research and conservation projects across Eurasia. Twitter: @HelenJMacdonald

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 27, 2014
    In this elegant synthesis of memoir and literary sleuthing, an English academic finds that training a young goshawk helps her through her grief over the death of her father. With her three-year fellowship at the University of Cambridge nearly over, Macdonald, a trained falconer, rediscovers a favorite book of her childhood, T.H. White's The Goshawk (1951), in which White, author of The Once and Future King, recounts his mostly failed but illuminating attempts at training a goshawk, one of the most magnificent and deadly raptors. Macdonald secures her own goshawk, which she names Mabel, and the fierce wildness of the young bird soothes her sense of being broken by her father's untimely death. The book moves from White's frustration at training his bird to Macdonald's sure, deliberate efforts to get Mabel to fly to her. She identifies so strongly with her goshawk that she feels at one with the creature. Macdonald writes, "I shared, too, desire to escape to the wild, a desire that can rip away all human softness and leave you stranded in a world of savage, courteous despair." The author plunges into the archaic terminology of falconry and examines its alleged gendered biases; she finds comfort in the "invisibility" of being the trainer, a role she undertook as a child obsessed with watching birds and animals in nature. Macdonald describes in beautiful, thoughtful prose how she comes to terms with death in new and startling ways as a result of her experiences with the goshawk.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from November 15, 2014
    An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief-with a goshawk.Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. "The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life," she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White's, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White's mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment. Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it's poignant, thoughtful and moving-and likely to become a classic in either genre.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    October 15, 2014
    After the sudden death of her beloved father, Macdonald (history and philosophy of science, Cambridge Univ., England), an experienced falconer, acquired, raised, and trained a goshawk--a bird that is found in North America and Eurasia--as a means of coping with her loss. The author had been captivated by hawks since childhood and upon caring for Mabel, she saw the goshawk's fierce and feral anger mirrored in herself. Using T.H. White's "The Goshawk" as guidance, Macdonald introduces readers to the craft of falconry, chronicling the patience required to successfully raise and train a hawk. The author's descriptions of Mabel's powerful beauty, along with observations of the natural countryside near Cambridge, are very lovely, but readers might find the British vocabulary too unfamiliar. Also the constant references to White's book and analysis of his life, though they are obviously important to Macdonald, feel superfluous and detract from the focus of the work--the relationship between Mabel and Macdonald. VERDICT Overall, this unsatisfying mishmash of memoir, nature writing, and commentary might be of interest to falconers but will be of limited appeal to armchair naturalists.--Eva Lautemann, formerly with Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Vicki Constantine Croke, New York Times Book Review (cover review) "Breathtaking . . . Helen Macdonald renders an indelible impression of a raptor's fierce essence--and her own--with words that mimic feathers, so impossibly pretty we don't notice their astonishing engineering."
  • Dwight Garner, New York Times "Helen Macdonald's beautiful and nearly feral book, H Is for Hawk, 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. . . . [An] instant classic."
  • Lev Grossman, TIME "Extraordinary . . . indelible . . . [it contains] one of the most memorable passages I've read this year, or for that matter this decade . . . Mabel is described so vividly she becomes almost physically present on the page."
  • People (Book of the Week) "Captivating and beautifully written, it's a meditation on the bond between beasts and humans and the pain and beauty of being alive."
  • Jason Sheeler, Entertainment Weekly "One of the loveliest things you'll read this year . . . You'll never see a bird overhead the same way again."
  • Susan Straight, Los Angeles Times "[A] singular book that combines memoir and landscape, history and falconry . . . it is not like anything I've ever read . . . what Macdonald tells us so eloquently in her fine memoir [is] that transformation of our docile or resigned lives can be had if we only look up into the world."
  • Kathryn Schulz, New Yorker "Had there been an award for the best new book that defies every genre, I imagine it would have won that too. . . . Coherent, complete, and riveting, perhaps the finest nonfiction I read in the past year."
  • Caleb Crain, New York Review of Books "The art of Macdonald's book is in the way that she weaves together various kinds of falling apart--the way she loops one unraveling thread of meaning into another. . . . What's lovely about [it] is the clarity with which she sees both the inner and outer worlds that she lives in."
  • Simon Worrall, National Geographic "One of the most riveting encounters between a human being and an animal ever written."
  • Daneet Steffens, Boston Globe "Assured, honest and raw . . . a soaring wonder of a book."
  • Guy Gavriel Kay, Washington Post "An elegantly written amalgam of nature writing, personal memoir, literary portrait and an examination of bereavement. . . . It illuminates unexpected things in unexpected ways."
  • Karin Altenberg, Wall Street Journal "To categorize this work as merely memoir, nature writing or spiritual writing would understate [Macdonald's] achievement . . . her prose glows and burns."
  • Kate Guadagnino, Vogue "Dazzling."
  • David Laskin, Seattle Times "Unsparing, fierce . . . a superior accomplishment. There's not a line here that rings false; every insight is hard won . . . Macdonald has found the ideal balance between art and truth."
  • Karen Sandstrom, Cleveland Plain Dealer "One of the best books about nature that I've ever read. Macdonald's wonderful gift for language and her keen observations bring pleasure to every page."
  • Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune "[With] sumptuously poetic prose . . . there is deft interplay between agony and ecstasy, elegy and rebirth, wildness and domesticity, alongside subtle reminders about the cruelty of nature and our necessary faith in humanity."
  • Barbara Brotman, Chicago Tribune "One of a kind . . . Macdonald is a poet, her language rich and taut. . . . As she descends into a wild, nearly mad connection with her hawk, her words keep powerful track. . . . [She] brings her observer's eye and poet's voice to the universal experience of sorrow and loss."
  • Helen W. Mallon, Philadelphia Inquirer "A heart-poundingly good read."
  • Sy Montgomery, Orion "Incandescent . . . glorious, passionate, and heartbreaking."
  • Nick Willoughby, Salon "A triumph."
  • Katy Waldman, Slate "The hawk-book's form is perfect. It prickles your skin the way nature can when you are surprised by an animal in your path. Some books are not books but visitations, and this one has crossed its share of thresholds before arriving here, to an impossible middle perch between wilderness and culture, past and present, life and death."
  • Elisabeth Donnelly, Flavorwire "A genre-busting dazzler of a book, worthy of the near-universal accolades that it's received so far."
  • Lucy Scholes, The Daily Beast "Extraordinary . . . Macdonald elegantly weaves multitudinous and extremely complex issues into a single work of seamless prose."
  • Madeleine Larue, The Millions "The echoes of myth in Macdonald's writing, however subtle and unobtrusive, lend her book an emotional weight usually reserved only for literature, and a grace only for poetry. But this is one of the book's...
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