H Is for Hawk

Narrated by: Helen Macdonald
Length: 11 hrs and 6 mins
4 out of 5 stars (3,251 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

When Helen MacDonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer 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 anger 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 journey into Mabel's world. Projecting herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her" tested the limits of MacDonald's humanity.

By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement, a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, and the story of an eccentric falconer and legendary writer. Weaving together obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history, H Is for Hawk is a distinctive, surprising blend of nature writing and memoir from a very gifted writer.

©2014 Helen Macdonald (P)2014 Isis Publishing, Ltd. UK

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Mabel The Hawk--The Fire That Burned The Hurts Away

First let me start by saying that I was wary of buying the audio version of the book when I found out that the author was the narrator. This often goes terribly wrong. I was really looking forward to this book and didn't want it ruined by a narration problem. I need not have worried, MacDonald's narration was absolute perfection. The timing, the tone and her ability to capture the emotion and the energy of the story were all spot on. I loved listening to MacDonald tell her own story.

The writing was beautiful, tragic, poetic, insightful and difficult listening in parts. At first I hated the look back at TH White's life and experience training his own hawk. Then, gradually because of MacDonald's deft storytelling ability I felt sympathy for White and his misery. What's more, having recently finished reading the bio of Alan Turing and I was fascinated by the similarities in White's and Turing's childhoods and experiences in school.

This book offers a window into MacDonald's experience of complicated grief. It shows us how being in and a part of nature and wildness helped her find her way through. I found myself completely engaged and totally wrapped up in the history, detail and experience of falconry. However, be aware that this is a story about hawks--fierce predators and involves a fair amount of discussion of hunting, blood, and prey. All that said, it is a beauty of a book that allowed a glimpse at life through someone else's eyes. I loved it.

130 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Perhaps the best book I've ever listened to

Would you consider the audio edition of H Is for Hawk to be better than the print version?

I have not read the print edition. However, I think the author's performance of her work is truly wonderful.

What does Helen Macdonald bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Her feeling in the narration is beyond compare.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, this is the first book I have ever listened to that I could hardly stop listening to.

Any additional comments?

The best listen ever.

18 people found this helpful

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So Far Beyond my Expectations

I had read the reviews but they did not prepare me for this book being so sublime.. Helen Macdonald is a wonderful writer and narrator. A beautiful experience to listen to this book.

20 people found this helpful

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Enter the world of falconry

My love of birds was taken to new heights by Helen Macdonald. She introduced me to a whole new world as she described in magnificent, emotionally charged detail, what it is like to train these amazing creatures. And yet, in the end I found the human was the one who learned the true life lessons from the art of falconry, and this left me yearning to learn more!

18 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Beautifully read by Helen herself

I have a much greater knowledge of this "sport" and see through the book there are deeper meanings to it. However the exquisite reading was the reason I kept listening. I wonder if I would have even finished one chapter if it were in paper. This book moved me greatly-. Grieving for her father and her quest to understand White, as well as herself. Marvelous.

17 people found this helpful

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Words elude me...

But, the author doesn't have this problem. Wow! Probably not for everyone... But, I believe everyone should read it. Or listen to it... As Helen Macdonald does a superb job telling this story herself.

Thank you Ms. Macdonald!!!

7 people found this helpful

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Splendid mix of genres

What an eye opening book to your own thoughts on growing up, loss and grief. But don't get stuck on these words. Reading about the above themes can be difficult but the author integrated research on a naturalist who shared a passion of hers - falconry. I've had to stop reading to google and learn more about this fascinating hobby but also about the bird itself and its strengths and weakness (in a dummy-proof way). With her experience of raising Mabel she looks into herself to help her out of her mourning. This book is poetic both in writing about this animal and in writing about her experience with her father's passing. It was a true joy to read.

21 people found this helpful

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Fabulous Book and Reading

I have listened to several audiobooks since joining Audible but this is the first I have listened to that is read by the author herself. It brought the experience up to a new level for me. The emotion was intense and events conveyed almost as poems. I honestly hated for it to end

13 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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One unbalanced character analyzing another

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I don't know, I suppose, dealing with tortured soul of Mr. White and the confused grief of the author after loosing her father was not my idea of fun.

What do you think your next listen will be?

not anything by this author

Would you be willing to try another one of Helen Macdonald’s performances?

no

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I gained some understanding for Hawks

Any additional comments?

yes, leave the wild animals to the wild, they don't need you, and you can best get comfort from other humans not look for it in a wild animal

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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English Literature

I feel you need to love birds to enjoy this story, most certainly, raptors. I listened to the entire book though at times it went on and on, with descriptions of landscapes, falconry vocabulary and the hawk trainer's inner thoughts and fears as she worked through the early death of her father. There is also a story within a story about T.H. White, author of the Sword and the Stone, and his unsuccessful attempt at training a Goss Hawk. The book follows the difficulties he encountered in his life, the struggles within himself as well as weaving in the tale of a woman's psychological journey through the connection between humans and hawk.

5 people found this helpful