Book Review – H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald



Book: H is for Hawk
Author: Helen Macdonald
Genre: Memoir
Year of Release: 2014
Read 306-page paperback edition in December 2016.

Book Description:

In this memoir, the author combines the exploration of her grief at the sudden death of her father with the decision to acquire a new goshawk, a difficult to train bird of prey. As the author rears this young bird, she throws all of her energy into the process, while also considering how it relates to the management of her grief.  She also takes the time to explore her family history and her past fascination with birds of prey.

Book Review:

This memoir by Helen Macdonald truly had some thoughtful insights, and some spectacular scenes.

There were moments within some of the chapters, when the author was describing the training of the goshawk, where we were literally feeling the excitement she felt seeing it soar through the skies of rural England, or the fear she felt when perhaps it had flown away and left her very much alone.  These moments of exhilaration or fear, when they came, were well written and were a testament to how the author could draw the author in.

Furthermore, the chapters where the author explored her grief, whether through the sometimes strained relationships she had with friends and family, or how she worked through her grief in step with the training of the goshawk, was a fascinating thing for the reader to think of.

That all being said, the one thing that detracted from the book was that at times the memoir felt a little bit disjointed. There were some sequences specifically to the goshawk, very few specifically to the grief the author was working through, and sometimes they didn’t flow smoothly or connect well.  Furthermore, there were several chapters devoted to a historical trainer of birds of pray, Mr. T.H. White.  Although the author makes it clear this historical character was important for her, at the end of the day it made for some dull reading to be frank, as the readers did not sign up to read this memoir to learn more about this individual. It served to detract somewhat from the overall story of the author’s life during this time period.

Overall, the memoir had some exciting and thoughtful moments, but also had some slower sections that took away from the overall quality of the piece.


Overall: 3 stars out of 5 stars