Helen Macdonald wins 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize


British author Helen Macdonald’s ‘H Is For Hawk’ has won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction for her memoir about how training a falcon helped her to deal with the grief of her father’s death.

The UK’s premier prize for non–fiction was announced on 4 November and honoured poet, writer, and historian Helen Macdonald.

She “has written a book unlike any other, about an obsession with a wild creature, brought to life in prose sometimes technical and always striking, and set in English landscapes observed with a visionary eye”, the official website reads.

“Writing about wild life and the environment has never been better or better informed than this”.

‘H Is For Hawk’ tells the story of how through training the female goshawk Mabel, the author was able to overcome in her struggle against the overwhelming suffering following her father’s sudden death from a heart attack.

Already being described as a classic of nature writing, ‘H is for Hawk’ is the story of how one woman trained a goshawk (photo: waterstones)

After the tragic event, Macdonald began to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a falconer and her “obsession” for birds of prey. She bought Mabel and began to train it in her Cambridge home throughout a process which is charted in the book with “originality and poetic power”, as described by the chair of the judging panel.

Macdonald said: “She had no past or future, she just lived in the present. She was incredibly ferocious and full of life. I spent so much time with her I started to forget what it was like to be human at all”, BBC News reports.

“I ended up feeling like I was more like a hawk than a person. It really made me think very deeply about life and death. The book at heart is a love letter also to nature and the world around us”.

Though this year’s shortlist included four female authors, it was the first time, for a female writer, to win the most prestigious prize in non-fiction in two consecutive years.

The writer, who is a research scholar at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, developed her love for nature and wildlife at a young age and has previously published books including ‘Falcon’ and ‘Shaler’s Fish’.

Her latest work, which was awarded the £20,000 accolade at a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London, is the her most personal and intimate narrative yet.