Wednesday, 3 February 2016
reading about Mabel the goshawk
I've just finished reading the Helen Macdonald book 'H is for Hawk', about her very personal story whilst training of a goshawk. It's been a Costa book of the year.
It is a cracking read, about one person's coming to terms with changes in her life and with the raptor almost like a Philip Pullman sprite providing some of the counterpoint.
Helen drives from Cambridge to Scotland to transact for the goshawk, seen in an online advert.
Originally a different raptor was earmarked but this became her immediate preference. Then we hear how this captive-bred, 2 month old goshawk appears as “A reptile. A fallen angel. A griffon from the pages of an illuminated bestiary."
I love Helen's writing style and the descriptions of the goshawk, wired for its hunting tasks with astounding eyesight operating across more spectrum than humans can see and with reflexes jacked for ultra fast flight transitions when on a hunt.
The goshawk gets the name Mabel. Apparently the best hawks don't have names like Hunter, Flash, Thunderbolt and so on - the more gentle the name the better spirited the hawk. Mabel, the lovable.
A goshawk takes immense patience to train and we get the sometimes stream of thought account of the odyssey.
Helen runs a parallel story of the hit-and-miss training of another goshawk, this one in the hands of the novelist T.H.White, best known for stories like 'The Sword in the Stone'.
In some part this whole book is steeped in a mono-obsession about every aspect of working with hawks whilst also a story with a real heart. Well worth a read.