Published by Vintage / HDBK Out of Print / PBK: ISBN 9780099575450

When you lose something your stomach plummets, until you remember. The same sensation happens when something occurs because of something you haven’t or shouldn’t have done. Something that might not be able to be rectified.

It can plummet, and never stop falling…

Time shifts and moves differently. Helen Macdonald describes casting her goshawk to the winds when she wasn’t as hungry as she might be. Standing still and persuading herself, against that same sinking feeling that it would be fine, and then realising and running to the next horizon to stop and stand in silence gazing around and listening for that all too quiet falconry bell, to give her some idea of direction. To actively listen; as I once did when I heard the tiniest sound of a bell, the hawk fed up and tired who had settled far out of sight on a roof. So soft it didn’t truly register. So far the falconer had to return to find her. I remember saying I thought I heard, I might have heard something, but I couldn’t be sure… Perhaps it was just that I hoped I heard…

She describes too in this extraordinary book the passion and raw wildness of a goshawk taken from its box after a journey across the Irish Sea – eyes large, feathers angled, hunched and feral -its eyes a mad impossibility.

She writes too of T H White the author of The Sword in the Stone, that brilliant novel of King Arthur that describes the medieval training and care of hawks so perfectly. She found The Goshawk almost unbearable when she read it as a child. I too found it disturbing and knew I’d never read it again, but had forgotten why.

She is a poet. Her writing as a result is superb. If you should read only one book of falconry, this should be it. The technical manuals are just that, and though neither those nor this can replace the thrill of handling training and hunting a bird, this does give a reflection, a shadow picture of that relationship.


I would love to meet her and ask her to sign my copy of this gorgeous volume. The dust jacket was designed by yet another artist whose work I have long admired, Chris Wormell and complements the book perfectly. If you can, buy it in hardback, though the paper would do as a reading copy…

A goshawk is a murderous force of nature, wild and impossibly remote an extraordinary creature of perfect design. I have had the privilege of handling one such goshawk at the Bird of Prey Centre – its character so much more complex than the eagle I flew so many years ago, and the harris hawks I have flown since.

If reading this awakens something within you, contact the English School of Falconry at the Bird of Prey Centre at Herrings Green Farm, Wilstead, Bedfordshire (www.birdsofpreycentre.co.uk)

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