Book Review H is for Hawk Helen MacDonald

I appear to be one of the few people who didn’t enjoy this book. It has won awards and received universal critical acclaim. It is an autobiographical account of a Cambridge academic’s descent into depression after the death of her father. In order to heal herself she drives to Scotland to buy a goshawk and proceeds to train it. The hawk, named Mabel, lives in her spare room in Cambridge and is taken out into the countryside to hunt. MacDonald describes her depression and her growing relationship with the hawk. There is another narrative entwined with this where she describes the author TH White’s training of his hawk in the 1930s. I have to say I found White a more interesting character than MacDonald. I found her colorless, dull and narcissistic. As a person who suffers from depression at times myself I suppose I don’t enjoy reading about it.

There are some beautifully written passages describing nature though at times there is straining for effect.

MacDonald recovers from her depression aided by a trip to Maine. She dumps Mabel off with friends to enjoy this holiday. After recovering MacDonald gives the hawk away to a friend in Suffolk where she finally gets to live in a proper bird aviary in the countryside.

It took me a long time to read and I put it down for a while in the middle. Though MacDonald is a gifted writer I didn’t enjoy  the book. I worry that people may decide to buy hawks to keep in their spare room and then get bored of them. Enjoy the glory of hawks in their natural habitat.


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