The Goshawk
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The Goshawk

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  187 ratings  ·  23 reviews
What is it that binds human beings to other animals? T. H. White, the author of The Once and Future King and Mistress Masham’s Repose, was a young writer who found himself rifling through old handbooks of falconry. A particular sentence—”the bird reverted to a feral state”—seized his imagination, and, White later wrote, “A longing came to my mind that I should be able to d...more
Published April 25th 2012 by NYRB Classics (first published 1951)
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Lance Greenfield
This was one of the books that I had to read for O-Level English literature, and it was the only really interesting one out of the set. (These were the UK school exams for 16 year-olds back in the early '70s).

This is a role model for those who would practice the craft of writing great literature. The language is so descriptive and captivating and really pulls the reader in to experience the emotions of the author.

We were told that this is NOT the way to train a falcon, but it is a brilliant acc...more
Last spring I reread The Once and Future King, and ever since then I've been wishing there was more of it. Recently I went looking for other T. H. White books, which I had never done before, and came across this one. It chronicles White's efforts to apply the falconry methods of the Middle Ages and train a bird named Gos.

In some ways The Goshawk is a difficult book to read. A certain amount of failure seems inevitable, and there's cruelty in the sport of falconry that contrasts with White's deep...more
The oddest thing happened while reading this book. Having just finished White's Sword in the Stone, and having just learned what an acciptor is (raptors, including goshawks, who diet on other birds) I discovered that T.H. White had written this memoir. But while reading it, I kept thinking that White, who referred to himself as an austringer (a keeper of goshawks) lived in the 1600s. The language of this "sport" is so specialized and near-archaic the book read as such. Plus, one of the handful o...more
This is a beautiful book, and one that I would recommend to anyone who is beginning at something new. T.H. White is best known for the Sword in the Stone books, I think, but his writing is totally different here because, without taking any of the introspective or analytical detours that can so quickly become tedious, his account of the day to day work of training a goshawk is deeply personal and poignant. Although it's not the gripping page turner that gets written about, this book is worth read...more
White's utterly charming use of language manages to save what would otherwise be a repetitive journal primarily concerned with a hopelessly redundant pastime. Can't go too far wrong with couplets such as this: "Standing in the thick grass, with slow heart beats soothed by the still night, I thoughtfully broke wind. The horns of elfland faintly blowing." Plus, I also have a penchant for memoirs concerned with personal failure.
I like nature writing, but it often lacks a story. This book did have a plot, but it was a bit in and out. I really enjoyed it though. Some brilliant passages on relationship between people and animals, eg:
"The thing about being associated with a hawk is that one cannot be slipshod about it. No hawk can be a pet. There is no sentimentality. In a way, it is the psychiatrist's art. One is matching one's mind against another mind with deadly reason and interest. One desires no transference of affec...more
The author, as well as being a professional writer, was an avid sportsman and this was a well written account of his efforts toward training his own Gos. But with no knowledge or experience, he embarked upon the rigorous task of an Austringer while not realizing that a Goshawk should only be attended by the most experienced handlers. Falconers train falcons; Austringers train accipiters and other hawks. Goshawks, the largest accipiter, are infused with extreme independence, wildness and intracta...more
I love T. H. White, and the reason why I love his writing shines through in punctuated brilliance in this brief book. Be aware that the descriptions on the back cover are misleading: This is NOT a book about good falconry. This is a book about terrible falconry performed with zeal fired by the best intentions and armed with very antiquated source material.

Still, White's enthusiasm for the sport and for the intense relationship between falconer and hawk is moving and incisive. His joys and pains...more
Biographical inference and intrigue aside (is there a homosexual subtext? A masochistic one?), and White's beautiful control of the elements taken as a given, The Goshawk seems to me a book fundamentally about patience - and would work perfectly well as an obscure kind of parenting manual. The very notion of patience as an active force is a revelatory one.

Also very funny - I'll be stealing 'like being chained to a moron in a chain gang'. And I could happily have read a much longer version of th...more
Stuart Ridgway
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It took me back to a time on farms in the North and Midlands where I spent hours waiting for hares, rabbits and pigeons. The countryside and the practices of local people were really well drawn. I know nothing about bird handling or the austringer but this gave a very personal and untainted view of a man taking on the wild and his struggle in a field he was new to. Yes there were times when he appeared naive, but that is the point, he was honest about his position...more
I come from a family of twitchers all obsessed by birds. Most of them love this book but I was never able to get into it. Perhaps because reading books at school tends to be like a dissection experiment and only great stories can survive that process intact. This book is by its very nature detailed and technical - a diary and a step by step approach to the training of bird and handler in the art of falconry. Not a book to read under a school Eng Lit microscope.

Maybe I should read it again and s...more
Al Maki
White's memoir of learning how to train hawks on his own, using a medieval treatise and trial and error. Beautifully told.
While I am a great fan of quality nature writing, have a keen interest in ornithology and found the prose of White to be excellent, there was nothing in this book to hold my attention. Truth be known I had barely made it half-way through before another page of well-dressed tedium caused me to stop. Perhaps I'll re-visit the book in the future and re-consider my opinion.
Nov 09, 2009 Karen rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Karen by: Sheepngoat1
Just starting this as something to distract from class-related reading. A friend handed this to me about a week ago and I cracked the cover last night. From reading the introduction, I know it'll be something I'll like. Thanks John, you know me well.
Naser Al Wasmi
An entire book about the relationship between a man and his bird. If you have any interest in falconry, or books, you should read The Goshawk.
a true account of a patient man's endearing attempt at befriending a free-spirited hawk.
I think this would have worked better for me if it had been a little more Disney.
Loved the description of how White works through to a relationship with the goshawk.
Bob Peru
fantastic. you learn a lot of obscure and esoteric stuff in this book. but useful.
Avis Black
White's written some good books. This one is a complete vacuum. Skip it.
Baxter Trautman
Diverting story of British falconer working his first hawk.
This is wonderful, perfect book by a learned, lonely man.
Jon marked it as to-read
Aug 19, 2014
Ed Price
Ed Price marked it as to-read
Aug 18, 2014
James is currently reading it
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Aug 17, 2014
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Aug 15, 2014
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NYRB Classics: The Goshawk, by T.H. White 2 5 Oct 23, 2013 04:26PM  
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Born in Bombay to English parents, Terence Hanbury White was educated at Cambridge and taught for some time at Stowe before deciding to write full-time. White moved to Ireland in 1939 as a conscientious objector to WWII, and lived out his years there. White is best known for his sequence of Arthurian novels, "The Once and Future King", first published together in 1958.
More about T.H. White...
The Once and Future King (The Once and Future King #1-4) The Sword in the Stone (The Once and Future King, #1) The Book of Merlyn (The Once and Future King, #5) The Once and Future King (The Once and Future King, #1-5) Mistress Masham's Repose

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“It happened like this in the world. Old things lost their grip and dropped away; not always because they were bad things, but sometimes because the new things were more bad, and stronger.” 0 likes
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