H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald’s account of working through bereavement by training a bird of prey, has won the Costa Book of the Year award for 2014.
Macdonald, a Cambridge academic, was floored by grief over her father’s sudden death in 2007 and writes that she descended into a kind of madness. She had a recurring dream about hawks, birds that had fascinated her as a child. She bought a goshawk for £800, named it Mabel and began the process of training it – in the process learning to overcome her grief.
Writing the book was a cathartic experience, she said. “I realised I had to turn my gaze upon my grief as unflinchingly as the hawk used to turn her gaze on the landscape.”The book has already won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and made it into the best-seller list, but the £30,000 Costa award will bring it to a wider audience still.
Now in paperback, $26.99.