Close this search box.

H is for Hawk

A Book Review

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here

Title: H is for Hawk Author: Helen MacDonald Genre: Memoir Content Warning: Brief, scattered language


When Helen Macdonald’s father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer—Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood—she’d never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk’s fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White’s chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself “in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her” tested the limits of Macdonald’s humanity and changed her life. Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer’s eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator. Goodreads

My Thoughts

I have always had a strong interest in raptors and falconry, and was interested in this book solely because it had “hawk” in the title (hence its appropriateness for the assigned book challenge cattegory). H is for Hawk is extremely well written, and this is one of those rare occasions when I think a book lives up to its best seller hype. The descriptions of the English countryside made me pine for my home across the sea, and I love love loved Mabel the goshawk. The central core of the story—Helen’s grief over her father’s death—is handled with grace and raw honesty. And the prose was gorgeous. MacDonald definitely has a way with words. The only thing I didn’t love was how much page time was devoted to T. H. White and his own goshawk, Gos, about which he wrote a book called—go figure—The Goshawk. While some of the details were nice and it provided a nice juxtaposition for Helen’s own experience training Mabel, it felt at times like a rather tedious book review. I would rather just read The Goshawk myself instead of a synopsis scattered throughout another book. This would have been a solid 4 without it. Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5) Add to Goodreads buy from amazon Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
[box border_width=”2″ border_color=”#b9e4ee” border_style=”solid” icon=”book” icon_style=”border” icon_shape=”circle” align=”center” title=”Heads Up, Book Lovers!”]

Looking for some great books to read this year? Book Depository always has excellent deals with free shipping worldwide! Plus, you get a sweet little bookmark designed by independent artists, to boot. And until March 23, 2020, you can get 40% off select bestsellers!


Know someone who would like this post?
Please share it!

Jess Friedman
Jess is a Canadian-American who’s always ready for the next adventure. She loves all things living, always has a million creative projects in progress, and polishes her nerd badge daily. She is passionate about helping families make and preserve treasured memories that strengthen bonds across generations. You can read more posts by Jess here.

Let’s connect!

You might like these posts, too

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Psst! Want all the best memory keeping secrets?

Join the VIP club to get a once-a-month newsletter full of resources, exclusive offers, and fun surprises. Also, no spam, because eww.

Personally, we're big fans of good ol' chocolate chip, but we do use digital cookies to improve your experience with Jest Kept Secret and help the website function smoothly. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our privacy policy.