‘H’ is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald – Book Review

Helen MacDonald is a British writer, historian, illustrator and falconer.

‘H’ is for Hawk is a book she wrote after the sudden death of her father which plunged her into deep grief and depression. This is her story about the aftermath and how she deals with it by training a goshawk.

The book is a memoir, it’s a history lesson, and there’s a kind of hisforhawkparallel biography woven through it about T.H. White who wrote “The Once and Future King” about Merlin and “The Goshawk” about his own journey to find healing through training this mercurial and wild bird.

What I loved about this book is the way the author weaves three main stories – the intricate, intimate relationship between Helen and her goshawk, Mabel; the grief for her father; and the difficult life of T.H. White which forms the framework for her own goshawk story.

In an interview, Helen said that when you are in such depths of grief you make decisions unconsciously about how you are going to get through, and hers was to re-enter the world of falconry and find healing and learning about herself there.

It isn’t an easy read – not because it is badly written because it is superbly written, but because it is deep and reflective and ultimately she comes out the other side.

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