I just finished reading "H is for Hawk" by Helen Macdonald. I had heard so many good things about this book, and was anxiously awaiting its release in paperback. Maybe the hype spoiled my read, but I came away thinking the book left a lot to be desired.
The book is a memoir, chronicling the sudden death of Macdonald's father and her reaction to his death. As a life-long falconer, she turns to the training of a goshawk -- known to be a difficult species to
train -- to provide her a sort of
The book is peppered, also, with descriptions of another author's struggle in training a goshawk. T.H. White, the man behind Merlin and the Sword in the Stone, took up falconry as a hobby and wrote a book ("The Goshawk") about his misadventures while training a goshawk. The comparison is clear, and the fact that Macdonald read White's book as a budding falconer is significant, but these portions seemed almost as if Macdonald was filling up space by rewording passages from a book that had already been written. Some comparisons to White's experience would have been informative and useful to the "H is for Hawk" narrative; as it was, the book is essentially half Macdonald's, half White's.
I appreciated the originality of the concept behind this book. Macdonald takes a difficult period of life and uses her own life-long passion to parse out the mourning experience. But in the end of the book, I failed to see how one actually related at all to the other. Perhaps that was not her point, and she simply wanted to show the effects of mourning on a person in a way only she could. The writing was enjoyable and the pace was good. I did not get bored. But would I recommend it? Probably not.