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Get personal with Helen Macdonald
Helen Macdonald is an English writer, naturalist, and an Affiliated Research Scholar at the University of Cambridge Department of History and Philosophy of Science.
Other Books by Helen Macdonald
- When Helen was young, she remembers her father telling her that 'when you wanted to see something very badly, sometimes you had to stay still, stay in same place, remember how much you wanted to see it, and be patient.' (p8) How is being patient important to Helen throughout this book?
- Helen has lost her father and is grieving. Where did you find yourself drawn to her in sympathy or empathy? Were there times when you found her less sympathetic? If yes, when?
- "The book you are reading is my story," Helen writes. "It is not a biography of Terence Hanbury White. But White is part of my story all the same. I have to write about him because he was there." (p.38) How does T.H. White's life story help the reader understand Helen's journey?
- Helen finds her father's photographs help her feel that something of him remains, although he has gone. Does this resonate with your experience of the grieving process? What material things have become important to you after the loss of a loved one?
- After living several days with her hawk in her flat, Helen observes, "I was turning into a hawk" (p85). What do you think she means?
- How important is human friendship to Helen as she travels through her grief?
- Helen describes training a hawk in close detail. Does that engage you or are other parts of the narrative equally or more important to you?
- Helen describers herself as 'a watcher' (p68): a characteristic she says has both positive and negative aspects. How does being visible or invisible change in significance as Helen trains Mabel?
- On page 129 Helen puts forward the idea that "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." On the following page she quotes T. H. White: "Sometimes a reckoning comes of all the lives we have lost." (p130). What is White reckoning with? What about Helen? How similar are they and what connects them, beyond training goshawks?
- When Mabel catches a pheasant, Helen helps her pluck the pheasant as 'unconsciously as a mother helping a child with her dinner.' (p 184) Then, as the hawk eats, she starts to cry. Is this a turning point, and if so, why?
- Helen was eight years old when she first read T.H. White's "The Goshawk" and initially she disliked it. How do her views on White's book evolve over time? What books have you changed your mind about over the years?
- This is a story of a woman grieving in a highly unusual way. It is a deeply personal story but what makes it universal? How does it speak to your own life experience?
- Helen describes her state of mind in close detail. On the very first page she says, "I felt odd: overtired, overwrought, unpleasantly like my brain had been removed and my skull stuffed with something like microwaved aluminium foil, dinted, charred and shorting with sparks." Where did her expression of feelings resonate with you?
- "Hunting with the hawk took me to the very edge of being a human," says Helen (p 195) What prevents her from going over that edge?
- Ultimately, Helen will stop looking after Mabel. How important is letting go of the hawk to Helen's journey?
Questions adapted by BookBrowse from publisher's reading guide
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H Is for Hawk by
Publication Date: 2015-03-03
When Helen Macdonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhoodbut she'd never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White's chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her" tested the limits of Macdonald's humanity and changed her life.
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by
Publication Date: 2016-03-08
This captivating story follows -- over the course of four seasons -- a misfit man who adopts a misfit dog. It is springtime, and two outcasts -- a man ignored, even shunned by his village, and the one-eyed dog he takes into his quiet, tightly shuttered life -- find each other, by accident or fate, and forge an unlikely connection. As their friendship grows, their small, seaside town suddenly takes note of them, falsely perceiving menace where there is only mishap; the unlikely duo must take to the road. It is a moving depiction of how a relationship between fellow damaged creatures can bring them both comfort.
Wesley the Owl by
Publication Date: 2008-08-19
Written with the same heartwarming sentiment that made the memoir Marley & Me a runaway bestseller, biologist and owl expert O'Brien chronicles her rescue of an adorable, abandoned baby barn owl--and their astonishing and unprecedented 19-year life together.
Love, Life, and Elephants by
Publication Date: 2012-05-08
Daphne Sheldrick, whose family arrived in Africa from Scotland in the 1820s, is the first person ever to have successfully hand-reared newborn elephants. In this heartwarming and poignant memoir, Daphne shares her amazing relationships with a host of orphans, including her first love, Bushy, a liquid-eyed antelope; Rickey-Tickey-Tavey, the little dwarf mongoose; Gregory Peck, the busy buffalo weaver bird; Huppety, the mischievous zebra; and the majestic elephant Eleanor, with whom Daphne has shared more than forty years of great friendship. But this is also a human love story between Daphne and David Sheldrick, the famous Tsavo Park warden. It was their deep and passionate love, David's insight into all aspects of nature, and the tragedy of his early death that inspired Daphne's vast array of achievements.