Books I Love

H is for Hawk March 14 2016, 0 Comments

"If birds are made of air, as the nature writer Sy Montgomery says, then writing a great bird book is a little like dusting for the fingerprints of a ghost. It calls for poetry and science, conjuring and evidence. In her breathtaking new book, “H Is for Hawk,” winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa Book Award, 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."
Vicki Constantine Croke, The New York Times

I am late to the game with this one. This book sat on my shelf for months, patient, attentive, the delicate bird of prey on its cover looking in my direction every time I walked by.

And then I just dived in. And words will fail me. My words feel bland after Helen Macdonald's chirping and buoyant prose, at once bristling, raw, descriptive and vital. A work that is filled to the brim with the elements, with heart, with grief, with grit, with feathers and blood. I never thought I would care this much about a baby goshawk called Mabel, bought for 800 pounds on a Scottish quayside, and trained in the English countryside.

A wildly endearing feat of nonfiction, a wondrous journey suffused with pain and beauty, elegance and wit (the humor in this book, self-deprecating and wry!), nature and history, wildness and city.

A contemporary journey mirrored by an ancient one, T.H. White's "The Goshawk", an 18th century treatise which echoes the author's awakening in the most touching and mysterious way.

I fail to do justice to the delicate nature of this book, its evasiveness, its frailty, its iridescence, its stupendous command of language. It changes like the weather, it fluctuates like the heart, it grows like a baby goshawk into its tremendous adult self. It will seduce you like nothing else can.