28 June 2023


"H is for Hawk" by Helen Macdonald was published to much acclaim in 2014. Though there are many side-tracks, it is essentially the true story of how the author acquired and trained a young goshawk, learning to live with it, feed it and gain its trust.  This is a very emotional journey for each of them. Helen doubts herself and the tactics she employs - often based upon her extensive research  into the history of falconry but she gets there in the end. She calls her hawk Mabel.

Evolution over millennia has made Mabel an expert predator. Everything about her - from her mighty  talons to the various kinds of feathers on her back to her eyesight and her curved beak - they are all about killing her prey and surviving. Such  a bird cannot be tamed but a patient falconer might succeed in building a workable partnership.

In the spaces between the lines, the book is haunted by the memory of Helen Macdonald's late father Alisdair. He meant a great deal to her and she loved him entirely. That sense of loss is woven into her relationship with Mabel.

Okay - I could write a whole lot more about the book but suffice it to say that I finished it down by the pool this afternoon. It was a most enjoyable read. In my memory it will always be associated with Sicily.

Tomorrow - Mount Etna and Taormina if we can manage to get up in time.


  1. It's funny how books can bring back such "place" memories. Glad you're having a good time.

  2. Don't miss Taormina; it's so beautiful.

  3. I loved that book, and recommended it to my book club. They, however, hated it. Hated it! But to be fair, I'm much more "into" birds than anyone else in the club.

    Enjoy Mt. Etna!

  4. I have that book. I have started reading that book more than once. I can't seem to break my way through it. Perhaps because it is so much about how much she loved her father. That is a hard subject for me.
    I can't wait to see your pictures of Mount Etna.

  5. Sounds like a very interesting story. Birds can be handled some more , some less.

  6. It's interesting that the goshawk cannot be tamed.

    Mount Etna should be quite fascinating.

  7. Sounds interesting, but not so much that I would hunt down a copy. I already have 200+ books unread on my kindle.

  8. And very fittingly so, since Federico II (Friedrich II), (in)famous Staufer-Kaiser of old, was an expert falconer and even wrote a book about falconry. He lived from 1196 to 1250, and I have written about him on my blog several times, for instance here:

    Taormina is beautiful; the view from the amphi theatre is breathtaking. A fellow blogger of ours lives there; Francesca (Saucy Siciliana) has occasionally been commenting on my blog.

  9. Oooo, Mt. Etna! I can't wait to see your photos, Neil!

  10. I too loved that book, but had a shocking experience of Goshawks the other day when my daughter and I went to a nest webcam and managed to catch a goshawkling attack, kill and eat its weaker sibling!!

  11. I read it on a cruise with my family in 2015 -- so for me it's always associated with being in our ship's cabin somewhere off the coast of Central America!

  12. I agree it was a most enjoyable read. One of those books that you remember always. Thanks for mentioning it.

    1. A Kestrel For A Knave (Kes) came to mind when I read your post.


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