book-reviews

The Goshawk

by T. H. White

Rating: ★★★★

T. H. White is sick of modern life, and wants to retreat into a properly medieval character. His method of doing this is to take up falconry, something he presumes to be a nearly-dead art, which he tries to teach himself from an ancient manual.

From such a foreboding description, you would imagine that it all goes terribly, and White himself seems to feel like it did. No doubt his approach was ill-informed and he could have managed it better, but to call it a disaster would be overstating it. White does manage to tame his proud falcon using the methods from his ancient manual, and progress, while painstakingly slow, is evident. Close to the end, he has Gos flying to his hand from a distance, and even making a kill on his command. Gos' final disappearance is down only to absent-mindedness about a string.

The real poetry of the book, though, is in White's description of the process, of exhausting himself in a battle of wills against this formidable creature in something that is an ode both to the power of man and the romantic yet inapproachable nature of the wild one, which both fascinates and horribly frustrates White.

The Goshawk is a quiet, well-paced book, on its face nothing but a personal diary of events, but in fact revealing a great depth of character and a subject worthy of reflection, with just a tinge of romance.