I must admit that H is for Hawk has teased me out of my comfort zone, and I am very glad that it did. I had heard of Helen Macdonald and her award winning book before, but it never crossed my mind to pick it up. Largely because, in the past, I have found memoirs to be a dusty and tedious affair, ways for retired statesmen and celebrity personalities to record the uneventful timeline of their lives in three hundred pages of marketable material, an object to fill the space in the bookshelf never to be read in earnest. So I forgot about it.
Until, quite by accident, I ended up in the front row of a university English department talk of which Macdonald was the guest. There, she read passages from H is for Hawk and I was startled by both the gorgeous prose and the captivating premise. No drudgery here.
A biographical memoir rich with poetic writing that is as beautiful and lofty as it is cutting and desperately funny, the book narrates Macdonald’s decidedly unique decision to manage her grief after her father’s death by training a goshawk called Mabel. The major thing that disagrees with me is the reference to T H White: I do not see its relevance. But as an exercise in delicate, layered prose H is for Hawk is well worth the money.