This book has to go down as an instant classic by Helen McDonald. It offers readers a true insight into the life of the author as a Hawk trainer, highlights the need for people to develop their own ways of coping with life's ups and downs.
The book is based on author, Helen's, life and her deep fondness for all things bird related. She has a fascination with the creatures, having been a falconer for years.
Recently, as the first few chapters tell us, Helen has taken a fancy to training Hawks, most notably her pet Goshawk called Mabel. Known as one of the world's most savage birds, we hear of how Helen bought the bird to help cope with her father's recent passing.
The book focuses on Helen and her new best friend Mabel. A predominant amount of her time is spent with the bird, trying to train it as best she can. This takes a long time, but after a while she begins to get the hang of it and Mabel gets more used to her.
Throughout the book there is a deep connection between Mabel and Helen's deceased father. It's almost as if, to her anyway, that this is a reincarnation of his of sorts. Therefore it's no surprise Helen is at first sceptical to let the bird free to help her hunt, for fear it flies away never to be seen again. She eventually takes the step and brings her bird hunting, to a great success.
This book is not all about the success involved in training the bird, but more offers us an insight into the workings of a fragile mind through times of hardship. Helen has numerous problems in her life, her father's death currently the major one.
Since his passing she has become a bit of a recluse, preferring to live in solitude with her beloved Mabel than have other human contact. In fact she doesn't feel comfortable around other people anymore. Nightmares follow her father's death and plague her senseless, making her crave a life of solitude.
The troubles of Helen don't end there though, as she loses her job at a local University and could soon lose her home. She struggles daily with communicating with other people, and has struggled immensely with this since writing a speech in honour of her father and reading it at his memorial.
In the book, Helen mentions many of her favourite authors, most frequently T.H White. He was a fellow bird lover, but also a famous failure in the bird world, with his book being called an amateur attempt by a lot of critics. We hear of how T.H. lost his bird, as a result of not treating it correctly.
Helen relates to this author, as she feels she is a failure herself, while she also uses her birds, like he does, as an escape route to live a life of solitude. Through training her beloved Hawk, Helen begins to overcome some of her deep fears. This leads to a sort of change occurring in her as she writes a sentimental memorial for her father and begins to realize her support network of friends and family care about her deeply.
The major turning point in this book occurs when Helen loses Maybel whilst on a hunt. She then realizes, like T.H White, she too was not paying her bird the attention it needed and deserved.
This helps her realize that she is in dire need of help, and encourages her to visit a therapist for the first time since her father's passing. The book ends with Helen taking a trip to America with her friends and family, having a great time in the process.
The book shows the fragility and loneliness involved when someone is suffering from mental health issues and grief. It offers a great insight into the workings of a depressive mind. The bird is an obvious reference to her father in this book, with it leaving a reference to her father's death.The book ends with a degree of optimism and hope, as Helen overcomes her latest grief and it helps her overcome the death of her father.
A great read, offering an intriguing view into the workings of the human mind in times of grief. It shows the fragility of the human mind in lifes ups and downs. Mental health is as relevant as ever these days, making H is for Hawk an excellent and insightful read for all.