I think I've mentioned before that my older brother is a Master Falconer and that I was 6 when he got his first bird, thereby beginning a lifelong obsession. From that time on, much of our life revolved around his falconry (hawks in the back yard; hawk food, which is really just corpses of birds and small animals, in the freezer, etc). So much so that my younger brother's first word was "bird" (he was born 4 years after my older brother got his first bird). So I was interested when I heard about this book, but put off by the emphasis on the falconer getting a goshawk to cope with her grief at her father's death (seemed too sentimental to me) and by the following blurb on amazon:
"An experienced falconer—Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood—she'd never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk's fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss,"
Falconers don't talk about their birds as "vicious predators" or "deadly creatures" so I became suspicious of Ms. Macdonald and her "falconry." Most of the falconers I know have trapped their hawks, not purchased them, so I was suspicious of her on those grounds, too.
I needn't have worried. It's not possible that she wrote the blurb on amazon because she sounds and behaves like every dedicated falconer I've ever known. So much of this felt so familiar to me, but Macdonald is such a great writer that she made me think about exactly what goes on with falconers and reminded me how grief feels. I even sort of liked the part about White and his falconry although some of his blunders with Gos were painful to read about for me, just as they were for Macdonald. She does a good job of explaining how bad--even cruel--his blunders were. I didn't learn a lot about falconry that I didn't already know, but I did learn some things about it in general and about the differences between falconry in the U.K. and the U.S. My brother reported that he read it (he's not much of a reader) and thought she did an excellent job of describing the mind of a falconer.
I have a friend who is a reader, but has no experience (even second hand the way mine is) with falconry and he loved the book. He, my brother, and I all highly recommend it.