When Helen Macdonalds father dies unexpectedly on a London street, she is overcome with grief. This is to be expected, however Macdonalds form of coping with this grief is anything by traditional.
Macdonald is a falconer – a person who trains or hunts with birds of prey. As the title of the book suggests, the bird of prey that Macdonald goes out to train is a goshawk. Macdonalds particular goshawk is named Mabel. As Macdonald trains Mabel, she also explores the work of another falconer; T. H. White, a writer most well known for his novels that, published together are called The Once and Future King.
In short, H is for Hawk is quite the complex memoir, despite its numerous topics that center around training a goshawk the overarching theme that runs through this book is how a person dealing with a lot of grief due to loss attempts to deal with it. Mabel becomes Macdonalds tool for handling – or at least distracting her from – the loss of her father.
At times when reading this book I felt that Macdonald had taken on too much between the T. H. White analysis, the falconry and the death of her father. I spent much of the time reading this wondering how Macdonald was going to tie up all of these topics – and after finishing up the book I do wonder if she had.
This is one of those books that becomes easier to like IF you can relate to the type of grief that Macdonald is experiencing. The dark, bleak atmosphere that is set in this memoir can be off=putting if you as a reader don’t have a relateable experience. This is a book that isn’t for everyone, the writing and the story is superb, but liking or disliking the book may largely depend on whether you have the ability to relate to the emotions that Macdonald writes about.