H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald: reviewed

The sales of this book have surged. The text has secured a lot of publicity, and it has won a prestigious award. So it was interesting to see what was the cause of all the fuss. It is an emotional melodrama with some flashes of good writing, but it is also a history book with a certain bias. The natural world aside, it contains a bourgeois take on the Cold War.

The book is meant to be about hawks, T.H. White, and grief, but because the author had a kitchen sink approach to her subject memories of the Cold War kept coming back to haunt her. This was most evident when she equated vile Nazism with state socialism by the use of the word totalitarianism. However, it was also apparent when Lenin’s tomb suddenly appeared in the text. Russian technology also made an unnecessary appearance.

This mattered because she was forced to admit that she had believed history to be over in the Fukuyama sense. It also was responsible for her misreading of the Hungry Thirties. She referred to the craze for hiking in that decade but ignored the mass trespass on Kinder Scout, for example. The selective silences and dubious inclusions in this text distracted from the ability of the author to grapple with psychology. In the end, this book was disfigured by the confused liberal and conservative ideologies that kept on parading when the last page was completed.


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