April Book of the Month: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H_hawkFor the first time, we've picked a non-fiction title for our Book of the Month for one simple reason: it is utterly unmissable.  H Is For Hawk has won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the 2014 Costa Book Award and looks set to gather many more. It is a highly original hybrid of memoir, nature-writing and biography, written in the most beautiful and moving prose.

Helen MacDonald fell in love with hawks as a little girl and trained them throughout her life. Following the sudden death of her beloved father, she decides to train a goshawk, a species famous for its tricky nature. She calls her hawk Mabel, and slowly begins to build a relationship that guides her through her grief and provokes a deep understanding of human nature and our connection to the wild.

Threaded into the story is the troubled life of T H White, author of Sword in the Stone, who also tried to train a goshawk. MacDonald's honesty, fierce intelligence and raw emotion make this book completely captivating. As Mark Haddon said, 'it just sings', as if MacDonald captures the bird's soaring flight with her own vivid style.  

H Is For Hawk is about death, love, memory, landscape and human frailty. It is a book unlike any other, and one you will never forget.

This book giveaway is sponsored by
Vintage Books

What the critics said

"This beautiful book is at once heartfelt and clever in the way it mixes elegy with celebration - elegy for a father lost, celebration of a hawk found - and in the finding also a celebration of countryside, forbears of one kind and another, life-in-death. At a time of very distinguished writing about the relationship between human kind and the environment, it is immediately pre-eminent." Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate

"Cunningly plaited and - almost - devastating… It deserves to sell shedloads and win prizes, it is naturalist writing of that spectacular quality that is literature too." Angus Clarke, The Times

"One of the most eloquent accounts of bereavement you could hope to read… A grief memoir with wings." Caroline Sanderseon, The Bookseller


What Mumsnetters said

"This is quite an extraordinary book. Even if you don't know anything about hawks, or think that you wouldn't like a book about them, still read this - it is so good." DuchessofMalfi

"Really one of its own… So unique and powerful." mytartanscarf


About the author

Helen MacDonald is a writer, poet, illustrator, historian and affiliate at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. Her books include Falcon (2006) and Shaler's Fish (2001).

You can follow Helen on her excellent and very funny Twitter feed.



Webchat with Helen Macdonald

We are delighted that Helen will be joining us on Thursday 30 April, 9-10pm to discuss H Is For Hawk, her writing career plus much more. Please feel free to discuss the book here throughout the month and then come and meet Helen on the night, and ask her a question or simply tell her what you thought of the book. Look forward to seeing you on the 30th.


Book giveaway

Vintage have 50 copies of H Is For Hawk to give to Mumsnetters: to claim your copy please fill in your details below. We'll post on the thread when all the copies have gone. If you're not lucky enough to bag one of those, you can always get a Kindle version here or paperback here.



Last updated: about 3 years ago