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H is for Hawk

Free trip to Southend.  Auntie needed Uncle to fit a new shower.  Did I want to come with?  Yes, I said.  Their house was a living, working museum of my childhood and admission was free.  I would make the sandwiches for the drive.

I needed a book for the return trip.  I would stay longer than Uncle and I wanted to stop off in London on the way back.  I booked a casual date with Oxfam. 

I walked in and the hawk on the cover looked at me.  H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald.  I’d heard great things about it, but non-fiction?  Could I do this after several uninspired attempts at getting back into fiction?  Perhaps non-fiction is the antidote.  The hawk on the cover continued to look at me as it perched stock-still on its Perspex stand.  Do I want you, I thought.  Do I need your heaviness in my bag? Are you worth carrying across London during the tube strike?  Yes, the hawk said.  Okay, I replied.  I parted with £2.49.  RRP £14.99.  The bargain hunter in me was delighted.  Words are important, I said as I slipped it into my bag.  It aids recoveries.  I know, the hawk said.  I know. 

After a week in Poland, my ears were still adjusting to understanding the conversations of passersby.  The voices of the town folk are louder than they need to be.  There is a tension in their faces that radiates down to their feet, changing the way they walk.  They drag resentment in sack loads behind them.  I offer them a pinch of compassion in a smile as they pass.

I turn into Waterstones and suddenly I felt free.  There is a balance to the people here.  I once had a lucid moment in a similar bookshop.  Yes, my future would involve books in some way.  No one writes anything worth reading until they’re at least thirty anyway.  Citation needed.  And numerous exceptions should to be ignored. 

The tall ginger bookseller sees me looking open-mouthed at J.L Carr’s A Month in the Country.  I read that recently, he said.  It’s one of those rediscovered classics, like Stoner.  I tell him that I saw it only the day before at a car boot sale but didn’t buy it.  Could kick myself.  A few minutes later, fate tugs at my sleeve and I am willed to the counter.  I ask if there are there any book clubs running at the moment.  The bookseller defers to his colleague next to him.  She prints out the details.  The next meeting is on dad’s birthday, but she doesn’t know this.  I  make a mental note to add an extra £10 to the value of his present by way of an apology.  The next book to be discussed is H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald, she says.  Well, knock me down with a feather, comes a muffled voice from my bag.


  1. Will be interested to know what you make of it. I found it almost too densely lyrical. Wanted to give air to so many phrases.

  2. Hi Ana. I'm glad you think so - I thought it was just me. I'm 100 pages in and I can't ignore the slight problem I'm having with its style. While the content is clearly well-informed, its delivery is ever so slightly clunky and smacks of ostentation.


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