This is a book first about death. And then about life, or a life regained.
As of the second chapter of this incredible memoir, Helen Macdonald's father has died, unexpectedly and too soon, as with most deaths of loved ones. A professional photographer as an adult, as a child he'd been an amateur plane spotter, watching and photographing as World War II fighters flew over England. He seemed to spend his life looking upwards, and Macdonald believes he was likely the inspiration for her own addiction to watching - in her case, birds rather than "aeroplanes."
Additionally, it's a book about a goshawk, an emblem of wildness and predatory expertise, who is restrained and tamed by Macdonald. The hawk's beauty and humor are admirable, and yet as Macdonald reminds herself, her reason for being is hunting. She is, Macdonald writes, "thirty ounces of death in a feathered jacket."
Helen Macdonald became fascinated with hawks and falconry as a child, reading T. H. White's "The Sword in the Stone" wherein King Arthur as the Wart takes on the form of a hawk as part of his instruction under Merlyn. And then she read White's "The Goshawk," and the seed for her possession of what is considered to be the least tamable of hawks was planted.