Derek Allen (Standard British accent)
Well, the book I’d like to talk about is called H is for Hawk, which has been something of a publishing sensation since it came out in 2014. It’s a book by Helen MacDonald and what’s it about? Well, it’s quite difficult to say, really, it’s... it’s about many things. Helen lost her father quite recently and it’s... so it’s a... it’s an autobiography, an account of her grief, if you like, her mourning, and how she copes with that, so it’s a very personal journal from one point of view. And how does she actually cope with that? She tries to get over everything by buying a goshawk, which costs her something, if I’m not mistaken, something in the region of about £800, and she trains this goshawk. The goshawk, you may or may not know, is like a huge hawk, a very beautiful animal, which is difficult to tame and to... to train. And she deals with her grief – and she recounts this; this is the main subject of the book – through her training of the goshawk. It’s a beautifully described story... it’s written beautifully, and with many... one of the major strengths of English Literature has always been that ability, from Hardy to many other authors, to describe nature, and she does a very good job of that. For... I think English people also have a very strong bond to animal stories. I speak for myself; when, for example, a book called Kes by Barry Hines, another story of a relationship between a boy and a kestrel. And she, in a certain sense, takes up that theme. She also looks at another writer called T.H. White, who wrote a marvellous book about a hawk (The Goshawk - ed), again. I won’t tell you what the end of the story is. I can only say that the fact that there is this goshawk in her life is what actually enables her to overcome her... her grief. As she says, “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief and numb to the hurts of human life”; I think a very nice phrase to... to describe both the hawk and her own... her own sensations on losing her father.
(Derek Allen was talking to Mark Worden)