‘H is for Hawk’, Helen Macdonald (Jonathan Cape, 2014)

I found this a compelling account of working through bereavement, the loss in this case of the narrator’s father. The book is an account of how the narrator (Helen) comes to acquire, train and co-habit with Mabel, the goshawk. It is an account of loss and recovery.  What is also worked through the book is an account of TH White’s battle with goshawks and his own demons. A couple of points stand out for me.

One, the patience that is required to work with Mabel. There is particular point where Helen describes Mabel startling when she is, as it were, absent-mindedly perusing her surroundings and suddenly sees Helen. Mabel is shocked to find Helen there. It appears she had been able to relax in Helen’s patient company to the point where she had forgotten she was there at all.  Helen traces the root of patience to the capacity to suffer.

Two, the sense of the wild that the goshawk brings with it, and which mirrors something of the narrators’ wild and bereaved soul. Part of the books’ power is derived from the sense of the wild that grief has introduced to the narrator’s psyche. Being bereaved unhinges you; you fall off your perch and have to find your way through hedgerows and malts to a new kind of balance.

Also, once read, you don’t look at the countryside the same way.