H is for Hawk

H IS FOR HAWK

BY HELEN MACDONALD

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From an early age, Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer. She learned the terminology and read all the classic books on the subject. Years later, her father dies and she is struck with grief. Deeply depressed and lost she becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk.

Unbelievably she does just that, buying Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and taking her home to Cambridge. There Helen embarks on  the long and incredibly strange business of trying to train one of nature’s wildest creatures.

This book has won many awards and prizes due to its devastatingly honest account of a woman struggling with grief whilst undertaking the supremely difficult process of training a hawk. The writing is beautiful and raw and human truths most of us recognise are uniquely framed within the language she uses. It is a thrilling memoir but also a chilling one.

As a reader I was fully immersed in her hawk training/grieving process, feeling like I was swept along for this macabre ride whether I liked it or not.

“I had lost all hope in her coming but I called her all the same. And she flew to me. She flew like a promise finally kept.” Continue reading

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As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust

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AS CHIMNEY SWEEPERS COME TO DUST

BY ALAN BRADLEY

As I’ve said before the Flavia De Luce novels are my absolute favourite and us fans have been counting down to the seventh installment in this fantastic series – As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust – for what seems like forever! The last book The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches finished on a most exciting and unexpected cliffhanger.

Here, we pick up our brilliant young Flavia at her impertinent best as she finds herself “banished” from her beloved Buckshaw home in Bishops Lacey and “packed off” to her mother’s old boarding school in Canada.

Flavia takes an instant dislike to her escort across the Atlantic – Ryerson Rainsmith: “On paper, the man was already dead.” When she finally arrives at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy she finds it full of bizarre rules, an intimidating headmistress (“The woman’s moods appeared to be connected to some inner weathercock that swung wildly round with every word. One moment she was almost tender, and the next a harridan”) and a murderess among the teachers. All isn’t as it seems with the resident girls either who disappear with alarming regularity.

Flavia starts to realise that the game is afoot and as a budding chemist and amateur poisons expert, she is soon on familiar ground when a body falls from the chimney in her room and she is dealt another gruesome puzzle to investigate. Through the unraveling of this mystery, Flavia begins to discover what it means to be her mother’s daughter and what the true purpose of the Academy really is. Continue reading

Howl

HOWL AND OTHER POEMS BY ALLEN GINSBERG

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Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) has always been on my radar but I’d never really read Howl properly until now. I confess to it being my Morrissey obsession that brought him into my thoughts again. Moz’s track Neal Cassady Drops Dead from his sublime 2014 album World Peace Is None Of Your Business containing these lyrics:

Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s tears shampoo his beard
Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s lips tighten and thin
Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s hosed down in a barn
Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s howl becomes a growl

Ginsberg was a renowned poet and a founding member of a major literary movement as well as a champion of human and civil rights. He is most remembered for Kaddish – the tragic biography of his mentally ill mother – but most of all for Howl – the long, relentless, rhythmic verse with it’s famous opening line:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness Continue reading

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

BY ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

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This wonderful take on our favourite Sherlock Holmes stories is part of a new series called Classics Reimagined. For art and book lovers alike, these collectible titles are each illustrated by graphic artists and illustrators from around the world. Each artist offers their own unique visual interpretation of the most loved and read literature from renowned authors. The results are stunning!

I had been eyeing up this particular volume in my local Blackwells for some weeks before I bought it. Then payday came and it was mine! The cover is soft and luxurious, the pages thick and glossy, the artwork modern and thrilling and of course the twelve stories within are absolutely brilliant.

The 12 gripping crime stories in this book are:

  1. A Scandal in Bohemia
  2. The Red-Headed League
  3. A Case of Identity
  4. The Boscombe Valley Mystery
  5. The Five Orange Pips
  6. The Main with the Twisted Lip
  7. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
  8. The Adventure of the Speckled Band
  9. The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
  10. The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
  11. The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
  12. The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

Conan Doyle’s Holmes would only deal with the unusual or fantastic cases. He enjoyed experiences that combined the striking, the bizarre and the criminal. He saw applying his clever logic to help out the frantic characters that knocked at his Baker Street door, as his art. My favourite of these excellent tales was the Red-Headed League which presented Holmes with “quite the three pipe problem.” I also particularly enjoyed The Five Orange Pips and The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. Continue reading