H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald - review by Kevin Jackson

Kevin Jackson

On Broken Wings

H is for Hawk


Jonathan Cape 300pp £14.99

The story told in this strange and beautiful book is, at heart, a simple one. Helen Macdonald’s father died when she was in her mid-thirties; she missed him painfully; so, for reasons she could not entirely explain to herself, she decided to buy a baby goshawk and train the creature. In her own words: ‘I was in ruins. Some deep part of me was trying to rebuild itself, and its model was right there on my fist. The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life. I was turning into a hawk.’

This is, then, the tale of an episode of self-care and self-transformation, and it is a fascinating, moving one, but it is also a good deal more. For one, it is a kind of conversation with and meditation on the English author T H White, whose 1930s memoir The Goshawk,

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