In all of the sparkling and well-deserved reviews of this book, I haven’t come across anyone who has mentioned the title. Why did Macdonald want to do anything to associate her book with Sue Grafton? Aside from that, this might be the most perfectly written and compelling book I’ve encountered in a while. Macdonald, having just lost her father, interweaves three stories – her memories of her father, the life of T.H. White, and her efforts to overcome her father’s loss by training her goshawk, Mabel.
There is not a missed step here. In tightly compacted prose, Macdonald searches within herself and within White as she mourns her father’s death. She is adept at taking us through the technical language of falconry and the internal struggles of a person (herself, White) pulled in many directions. From beginning to end, Macdonald is honest and true. Her writing reminded me of Annie Dillard’s. In certain places, I could sense that she might have had more to say -for example, about the cross-pollination of nature over time – but that she was wise enough to restrain herself in order to maintain the focus where it needed to be.
I found it kind of amazing that what seemed to me to be a grief memoir was so popular and well-received. Now I understand why.