When Helen Macdonald’s father died, she was stricken and bereft. In H is for Hawk, she tells the story of how, in the immediate aftermath of her loss, she raised and trained a goshawk. On the face of it, this is far from a universal, relatable response. However, as you read what the hawk did for her, you may realise you have your own version, or come to believe you will find it – something or someone that allows you to retreat from the human world for a time, and then points you back.
If you like reflective nature writing, biography, history, or, of course, birds of prey there is a lot for you to enjoy here. Macdonald is a Cambridge academic and this book is in part a biography of the writer T.H. White and a history of English nature writing and falconry.
It is also a beautiful, insightful book on the universal but lonely experience of grief. If you are grief-stricken, or brought low by something, it could simply speak straight to your heart.
“The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life.”