Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize

H for Hawk

Helen Macdonald


17th October 2017

7:00 pm

at il libro

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Acknowledged for her fitful brilliance as an occasional author and as the pre-eminent female voice in a province dominated by men, Macdonald found herself approaching her 40s without family, job or home and then – very suddenly – in mourning.

Macdonald loses her bearings after her beloved father’s sudden death. She retreats from the human world. She’s a poet, historian and longtime falconer, and for complicated reasons, she seizes upon a strange yet sublime prescription for what ails her: She will raise and train a young goshawk, a cur of a bird to some, notoriously difficult to tame. Bigger, “bulkier, bloodier, deadlier, scarier,” she says, than other hawks they are sometimes confused with.

H is for Hawk is at once a memoir, as the author grapples with the grieving process, and a falconer's diary about the hard-won trust between hawk and human.

In some traditions, hawks are considered spirit messengers to a world beyond, and Macdonald comes to understand that part of her bond with Mabel was her desire “to fly with the hawk to find my father; find him and bring him home.” But as Mabel matures into a confident hunter, she brings Macdonald a different kind of discovery: that grace resides in the most unlikely places — and that moving forward means leaving some things behind.

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