H is for Hawk

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H is for Hawk
H is for Hawk (Macdonald novel).jpg
AuthorHelen Macdonald
PublisherJonathan Cape
Publication date
Pages300 pp.
AwardsSamuel Johnson Prize, Costa Book of the Year

H is for Hawk is a 2014 memoir by British author Helen Macdonald. It won the Samuel Johnson Prize and Costa Book of the Year award, among other honours.


H is for Hawk tells Macdonald's story of the year she spent training a northern goshawk in the wake of her father's death. Her father, Alisdair Macdonald, was a respected photojournalist who died suddenly of a heart attack in 2007. Having been a falconer for many years, she purchased a young goshawk to help her through the grieving process.


The book reached The Sunday Times best-seller list within two weeks of being published in July 2014.[1]

In an interview with The Guardian, Macdonald said, "While the backbone of the book is a memoir about that year when I lost my father and trained a hawk, there are also other things tangled up in that story which are not memoir. There is the shadow biography of TH White, and a lot of nature-writing, too. I was trying to let these different genres speak to each other."[2] White was the author of The Goshawk (1951), an account of his own attempt to train a goshawk.[3]

Kevin Jackson, writing for Literary Review, drew further comparisons between Macdonald and White, in that she resembles him "in her gluttony for words both homely and exotic, their associations and histories."[4] Macdonald's rich vocabulary is distinguished by her passion for precision, Jackson wrote: "Her eye is every bit as educated as her mind."

Judges of the Samuel Johnson Prize specifically highlighted that marriage of genres as one of the reasons for selecting H is for Hawk as the winner.[2]

An extract of this book is part of the anthology of Edexcel English Language IGCSE in the new specification.


In "H is for Hawk: A New Chapter", part of BBC's Natural World series in 2017, she trained a new goshawk chick.[5]

Awards and honours[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cambridge News, Interview: Cambridge author Helen Macdonald on grief, goshawks, and her best-selling book, H is for Hawk Archived 2015-02-06 at the Wayback Machine, Cambridge News, 7 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b Stephen Moss, Helen Macdonald: a bird’s eye view of love and loss, The Guardian, 5 November 2014.
  3. ^ Jameson, Conor (January 2014). "A place for the misfit". British Birds. 107 (1): 2–3. ISSN 0007-0335.
  4. ^ Jackson, Kevin (1 August 2014). "On Broken Wings". Literary Review.
  5. ^ "H is for Hawk: A New Chapter". BBC. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  6. ^ Clark, Nick. "Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction: Helen Macdonald wins with 'H is for Hawk'". The Independent. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  7. ^ "Helen Macdonald wins Costa Book of the Year 2014". BBC News. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  8. ^ a b "'H is for Hawk' shortlisted for the 2014 Duff Cooper Prize, longlisted for the 2014 Thwaites Wainwright Prize 2015". The Marsh Agency. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  9. ^ "2016 Carnegie Medals Shortlist Announced". American Libraries Magazine. 19 October 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  10. ^ "Meilleur livre étranger | Book awards | LibraryThing". www.librarything.com. Retrieved 22 October 2017.