If you had told me 7 years ago that in 10 years time, I will fall perfectly in love with a memoir about a daughter dealing with the loss of her father through training a goshawk, I would have looked at you with one of the many strange facial expressions I own (others seem to find them humorous) and would have just kept on walking. Only recently has it come to light that my shyness as a child was an excuse for me to be rude to people who were only trying to help. Anyway, enough about analysing my childhood, I’m here to entail about the day I fell in love with Helen McDonald’s H is for Hawk . Just as the title implies, how convenient.
The start of this passionate love story started when my Samsung notified me Sara Quin from Tegan and Sara(a canadian pop duo composed of identical twin sisters, search them up) had added a new post to her SKQ Reads blog, in which she mentions, “I still get teary thinking about this incredible book. It could have been my new pet emotions, but I will never forget this one”, when referring to reading H is for Hawk. I like to think that it was the unusual name of the book that caught my attention during the late hours of the night, but the more I think back to that day, it was the fact that this particular book had made her teary, so the thought process that occurred instantaneously in my head was that if this book can trigger a deep emotional response from the reader, then I have to read this.
With the excitement bubbling away in my half-dazed mind, the research I carried out came like a blow to the stomach as I read that its was a memoir. It’s a memoir?! I don’t read memoirs! Soon after this bleak revelation, I grew melancholy at the fact that I wouldn’t be able to discover the feeling of crying because of some words etched on 306 pieces of A5 paper.
A few months later, in the blazing heat of July, I went on university scavenger hunt, when I was suddenly struck by a sign sent from the heavens above. It was at the University of Leicester, searching for the Parkinson Building, when my attention was stolen by the library window; sat perfectly on a pedestal shining in all its glory, a thick glass protecting it from the thick moist air of the mid-day heat, was H is for Hawk! The momentary burst of excitement only lasted for a nanosecond as my cousin claimed that he had found the building, what great timing.
However, that one second of the past remained planted in my brain up until the end of the summer when I took a trip to the nearest Waterstones in a great haste as I was reminded by my diary that I still needed to purchase a copy of Dr Faustus for my English Lit class. To my great misfortune, the store didn’t have any copies of the play in stock (which doesn’t come to a big surprise to me) but this didn’t stop the book nerd within me from carefully examining each bookshelf from top to bottom regardless of the genre. The seed of the past abruptly sprouted within my subconscious, taking on the form of an ebullient yellow bulb above my head (yes, like in the cartoons), and provided me with a huge sense of confidence, enough to make me ask one of the employees if they had a copy of H is for Hawk in stock.
She said yes!
So, there I was a week later, at home, enmeshed within the gigantic cushions of my small sofa, the tepid morning sun hovering in the sea blue sky, the steam from my cup tea wafting away in peripheral, when my eyes began to tear up. Oh god, I’m tearing up. It’s happening. This book is bloody brilliant, I thought to myself.
My love for McDonald’s memoir grew when she had mentioned something that really pulled at the seams of my most deepest thoughts, well, one thought in particular, the thought of nature being my portal to another world. “I wanted to cut loose from the world, and I shared, too, his desire to escape to the wild, a desire that can rip away all human softness and leave you stranded in a world of savage, courteous despair.” The words epitomising my obsessive need to gawk out of my bedroom window, my car window and even the school windows, left me in an overwhelming sense of shock, paralysing my body from head to toe. What probably felt like forever, but was most likely only a couple of seconds, I slowly regained the movement back in my limbs, and re-read the sentence over and over and over again, until it was ingrained into my memory. Someone finally understands what I feel! I’m not the only one! I’m not a weirdo! The feeling of constantly staring at the two tremendous green guardians with wide dark brown trunks supporting them, was one I found impossible to comprehend in to words. I remember as I tried to explain it to my mum one day after school and the majority of my speech consisted of incomprehensible sounds.
Although, H is for Hawk is a misery memoir in which McDonald grapples with the process of grieving and also a falconer’s diary about the hard-won trust between hawk and human, I have never felt more attached to a book in my life regardless of the many teen fiction books I have come across and the fact that I’m not the owner of any pets. Unless you count the goldfish I had when I was younger that was soon flushed when I had abandoned it to go on holiday.