As a young girl Helen Macdonald vows to train her own hawk, but it does not come to fruition until decades later when her father dies. In an attempt to deal with her grief she acquires a goshawk - Mabel - and begins the arduous challenge of taming the bird.
In this fascinating insight into the world of falconry, the reader is not only exposed to the day to day training but to the experiences of another falconer and author, T.H. White, who also found healing through this arcane sport.
Interwoven with memories of her father and lyrical descriptions of the English countryside, this is a deeply moving and unusual memoir. Winner of the Costa Book of the Year 2014.
Some liked it, some not. Great descriptions of countryside. Interesting comparisons between the author and T.H. White.
Hardly anyone finished this book. We found it tedious, drawn out and generally unappealing. We were disappointed after hearing great things and reading positive reviews but only 2 people managed to read the whole book.
This book was a definite "Wow!" for most of the group. The contrast between Helen and T.H. White was fascinating - with him being frustrating at times, but clearly showing the difficulties of raising a bird of prey. Educational at the same time. The recent update on TV of Helen taking on a new bird added immensely to the enjoyment of the book. At least one member is now seriously wanting to take on a hawk of his own!
Our group found this book a complex and slow read as it needed a lot of concentration. Over half didn't finish and struggled with the subject matter as it didn't inspire us enough to persevere. Despite all that the use of descriptive language was amazing as were the many new words to explain the behaviour of the hawk. An 'academics' book was one comment from a member.
We thought the book was beautifully written, but very dense, intense prose that required high concentration, particularly with so many interrelated themes. Only one member actually finished the book, while most of us read about two thirds. Some negative thoughts expressed about the morality of trying to tame such a magnificent creature.
We all took a while to "get into" this book but are so glad we persevered. It was interesting, thought-provoking, informative and initiated some very interesting discussion.
We were all moved, impressed, "enraptored" by the author's ability to engage the readers emotionally, and by her powers of observation and the way in which her grief and obsession with the hawk were reflected in her own journey through the phases the grieving process engenders.
The three that liked the book loved it. It was written on so many levels and the language and descriptive passages were exquisite. An insight into deep grief, but also a fascinating history of falconry. Unfortunately the other members were very dismissive, and thought the author self-indulgent and hated the falconry! (I loved it!).
An intense read, beautifully written and a wonderful range of words used. (Read with a dictionary beside you.) This book group is a bird loving group and so struggled with the taming of a wild animal, but still appreciated the story. One comment was - "I wouldn't recommend this book to someone who I thought was depressed". An excellent book on grief.
We very much enjoyed the language and the feeling for, and position on, the countryside ( and the idea of it being in part created by nostalgia). Given that 'The Goshawk' by T.H. White was the impetus for this book, the details of White's psychology and sexual identity was thought gratuitous, and in the end exhausting. It devalued her experience and it made it feel like the book was a compilation of academic essays.
We all loved this book - really challenging.