Helen Macdonald Wins 2014 Costa Book Award for ‘H is for Hawk’
British author Helen Macdonald’s memoir about how she coped with the grief of her father’s sudden death by training a goshawk has won the 2014 Costa Book of the Year award.
Macdonald’s book H is for Hawk, which has received almost universal critical praise and the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in November, won on the first ballot by the panel of nine judges, jury president and novelist Robert Harris.
Macdonald said she hadn’t expected to win, and hadn’t expected the book to have the effect that it did,
“It felt like a real goodbye to my dad and the person that I was, so it was cathartic and I didn’t expect it to be.”
“This bird that people think is a symbol of wildness and ferocity is in fact both a murderous creature but also something that plays with the kitten and watches television with me.”
From the age of seven Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer. She learned the arcane terminology and read all the classic books, including T. H. White’s tortured masterpiece, The Goshawk, which describes White’s struggle to train a hawk as a spiritual contest.
When her father dies and she is knocked sideways by grief, she becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She buys Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and takes her home to Cambridge. Then she fills the freezer with hawk food and unplugs the phone, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this widest of animals.