“We carry the lives we’ve imagined as we carry the lives we have, and sometimes a reckoning comes of all the lives we have lost.”
Ms. Macdonald is reeling from the sudden death of her beloved father. Cambridge educated, a writer and a naturalist, she turns to a skill she has cultivated since childhood, falconry. She gets it into her head to train a goshawk, a notoriously difficult raptor to deal with, and is soon on her way to Scotland to obtain the captive bred bird she will come to call Mabel, from amabilis, meaning lovable or dear.
Books that have animals as emotional saviors are not new, but this one seemed to take an interesting tack. While she is taming this creature it seems she is exploring her own wild nature. I listened to the audio book, which was narrated by the author. It was rather moving and poignant at times, but I did have some difficulty with the graphic death and destruction. Listening to it didn’t give me an out, no opportunity to peek through my fingers or skip ahead past all the blood and viscera. But that is just my tender sensibility, the material was handled with care and never felt gratuitous. Amid all this, Ms. Macdonald also studies and ruminates on T.H. White’s own experience and book about training such a bird, A Goshawk. Some of that seemed to meander a bit to me, but that’s a small quibble.
All in all, I am glad I experienced this book with Ms. Macdonald’s own voice as narration, but I still might check out the print version at some point, perhaps even in tandem with the T.H. White.