The book club I’m part of read this the month before I joined, and so it had always been on my TBR list, just because I caught the tail end of their conversation. I found it at a discount book sale, and picked it up right away.
It’s the story of Helen, who, as a girl became obsessed with falconry. She learned the lingo, observed other falconers, and read all the books – including TH White’s The Goshawk.
When her father dies in her adulthood, she channels her deep grief and sense of loss into that obsession, becoming determined to train a goshawk – considered to be the most challenging bird of prey to train. She buys Mabel, brings her home and begins the long process of getting to know this hawk, training her, and revisiting the English countryside that held so many memories of her father. At the same time, she revisits White’s The Goshawk, and her hawk-training plays out in parallel to his; in telling her story, we also get a bit of a biography of White as well.
This book had so many aspects, it was hard to know how to categorize it. One part is an actual practical explanation of falconry, with fascinating details that I had no idea about. One part is this reflection of TH White – his story, and his failure in training his own goshawk. Finally, at its core, it’s a story about loss and grief, and the steps we take to move through into a place of healing. It’s a beautiful reflection on a daughter’s love for her father, and how she keeps his memory alive while finding a way to move her life forward.
The reflections on White are the parts that felt the most disjointed to me. Often in books when another piece of literature is referenced, it leaves me feeling inspired to pick it up, curious to experience what the character did. In this case, the references were so detailed, I almost feel like I don’t need to read The Goshawk because I learned everything I need to know about it here.
All told, I did enjoy this beautifully written book, and found it both informative and touching.