H Is for Hawk is my most recent book purchase—as in, I downloaded it to my Kindle last night. I am looking forward to a great read.
Yesterday, the teacher in my Creative Nonfiction class read aloud from Macdonald’s book as an example of exceptional nature writing—though if you look it up online, it’s labeled a memoir. The section she read revealed the process Macdonald went through before finally naming her goshawk Mabel. The writing was rich and compelling.
Several people in the class had already read the book and they all praised it to high heaven—which isn’t surprising, given that it’s not only a bestseller but also the winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction, the Costa Book of the Year Award, and the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger in France.
Class discussion revealed a very complex book. It’s factually fascinating, with all sorts of information about falconry and training a hawk. It has quite a lot about an earlier British falconer White. And it’s about grieving her father’s death. As Dwight Garner put it in The New York Times, “Helen Macdonald’s beautiful and nearly feral book, H Is for Hawk, reminds us that excellent nature writing can lay bare some of the intimacies of the wild world as well. Her book is so good that, at times, it hurt me to read it. It draws blood, in ways that seem curative.”
Over lunch, another long-time writing friend whose work I admire said H Is for Hawk is her all-time most loved book. Who could resist endorsements such as these? Would you care to read with me?