H Is for Hawk

H Is for Hawk Summary

* Winner of the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize
* Named the Costa Book of the Year
* #1 best-seller in the UK

When Helen Macdonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer; Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood; she'd never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk's fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White's chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her" tested the limits of Macdonald's humanity and changed her life.

Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer's eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.

Book Reviews


Extraordinary5 star

Part memoir, part how-to, part biography of another writer, Macdonald creates a vivid, riveting exploration of the long slog from grief to healing. Unsparing in detail about her despair over the passing of her father or the sight of her hawk eating a fresh kill, she manages to weave genres in one book, deftly working every thread toward a satisfying conclusion. She compares her life and her passion for hawking with the life and same passion of T.H. White, author of The Once and Future King, providing blunt, sympathetic insight into a tortured man. His blunders in hawking and sad, solitary nature mirror hers and also act as a foil for her eventual rebirth. Intelligent, literate and raw, both factual and deeply moving. I have not loved a book so much in years.55

A. Quips

H is for Hawk1 star

Boring. Extremely boring. The author seems to be in love with her own angst.15

Dan H01

Beautiful read5 star

I have just finished H is for Hawk. What a beautiful read. I learned a lot about Hawks, and about training them to hunt. Just as important, I found the author's journey into herself insightful, psychologically astute and an equally compelling story. The book reminds me of Peter Matthiessen's Classic, 'The Snow Leopard' but is a much better and easier read.Congratulations to the author on a triumphant achievement!55


Interesting trip into one's mind5 star

An eye opening trip into the author's mind thru the mind of her hawk. Excellent book. Could not put it down.55


Review1 star

Did not care for this book at all. It was very verbose!15

Yoga Kathy

"H is for Hawk"4 star

Helen McDonald is clearly a gifted writer and lover of Goshawks and other creatures. Her incite and sharing of her grief after her Father's death are a view into the portal of Grief. But even though her Father was a photographer of note, there are no photographs to go with her book! Why? I was willing to purchase the hardback and was very disappointed to flip through and find only print. There are so many of us who will never fly a Goshawk or even know the pleasure and joy that having one may bring. Also, the various tools of Falconry would have made for interesting inclusion.45


H is for Hawk5 star

I just finished the book. I enjoyed it thoroughly even though it was difficult for me to get through the graphic descriptions of Mabel tearing up her prey. This was a book about grieving and in that regard I thought it was brilliant. The authors efforts to cope with her father's sudden death by fusing her soul with that of a raptor there by expressing her rage and dissociating from her humaneness culminates in the following insight by her: “Now I see that I am more of a rabbit than a hawk. Living with a goshawk is like worshipping an iceberg, or an expanse of sliprock chilled by a January wind.” She heals. Love prevails somehow as she bonds with death then returns to the living world. A fascinating read. I recommend it for those seeking to understand loss of a beloved. Thank you.55

Mocha Dog

H is for Hawk3 star

A well written and researched book. Places you inside another's mind and thoughts, often uncomfortably so. Unfortunately the story's journey becomes tedious and the destination is welcomed, not because of its enchantment, but because we are finally there.35


H Is For Hauk5 star

LORENZ WARNING: Reading this book can cause you to become addicted to reading! Proceed with caution! I loved it!55


I wish--3 star

I wish I was rich enough to have indulged my grief! You obviously were and did! Maybe I am the lucky one because I did not have the time. The bird facts were great! The angst was really a luxury of self indugence! Some of us just over come with time and work !35

Other Books by Helen MacDonald

Vesper Flights


Vesper Flights
4.5     19


Shaler's Fish


Shaler's Fish

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