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ON the bookshelf
1 H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Review by Ben Walter, Fullers Bookshop
Driving back from feeding my chooks in Cygnet the other day,
I saw a shadow sitting on a telegraph pole and steered the car
abruptly from the road, scrambling for the camera. ‘Brown falcon,’
I thought. Not a rare sighting, but there he was right in front of
me, and I slowly followed him up the road, taking a series of fuzzy
I’ve become increasingly obsessed with birds, and raptors in
particular – if falconry were legal in Australia, I’d find it hard to
avoid taking up, even with its more grisly components. And I’m
sure I’m not the only one, for Helen Macdonald ’s book H is for
Hawk has enthralled many readers in the English-speaking world.
Her book is not so much a celebration of falconry as an account of
her intense relationship with a goshawk in the wake of her father’s
death, a relationship that she pursues as a means of trying to cope
with her grief. Macdonald ’s nature writing is truly breathtaking,
unravelling the personality of her goshawk – how she sits
contentedly on her perch inside, or suns herself on the lawn, or
waits to unleash all her force and energy on an unsuspecting rabbit.
Less successful in the early parts of the book are descriptions of
the British author T. H. White and his inexperienced attempts to
train a goshawk from his own place of personal darkness. At times
this overwhelms the main narrative. ‘Get back to the hawk,’ I was
thinking – though these parallels become more evenly balanced as
the book proceeds.
H is for Hawk is a work that beautifully explores the natural in
the midst of the very personal. It gave me an even stronger desire
to keep a peregrine falcon one day – though I suspect that I’ll be
sticking to chooks for some time yet.
2 The Essential Lingo Dictionary by John Miller
Budgie smugglers, Footscray Florsheims, more front than
Myers – the uninitiated would be f lat out like a lizard
drinking trying to work out what Australians are talking about.
This book reveals all.
3 Solomon’s Noose by Steve Harris
Aprisoner volunteers to become Her Majesty’s hangman to
improve his lot in life. This true story of Solomon Blay is
set against the Gothic world of colonial Van Diemen’s Land in
the time of convicts, bushrangers and rough justice.
4 Short Stories from World War Two
by Anthony R. Hope
More than 100 million people across the globe were
directly involved in World War Two. This book follows
the fascinating paths of eighteen of these men and women,
recounting their personal experiences during the deadliest
conf lict in history.
5 High Beam by SJ Brown
Something is rotten in the state of Tasmania. Brad Finch, star
player of the Tassie Devils football team, is the victim at the
heart of a murder mystery. Forensic analysis, dogged detective
work and inspiration may prove insufficient in the search for
the true perpetrators.
6 The Governor’s House by JH Fletcher
Two remarkable women are united by blood but separated by
time. Convict, bushranger and pirate, Cat Haggard becomes
an entrepreneur and pillar of colonial Tasmanian society. But
could she be involved in the disappearance of a priceless treasure?
A century later, Cat’s descendant Joanne, Dean of History at the
university, has the task of locating the missing artefact.
7 The Lost Pages by RD Francis
Danger, intrigue and mystery unfold in this modern-day
story based on historical facts about the lost pages of the
Book of Kells. Intelligence officer Jack Harrison has retired to
the quiet and seclusion of Tasmania – but he is persuaded to
take on one last case. It takes him back to Europe as he follows
important leads. The story concludes with surprising discoveries
for everyone, including the experts.
8 Beneath the Mountain: A History of South
Hobart by Alison Alexander
Everything that has ever happened in South Hobart is part of
this fascinating book, from Aboriginal days, through early
industries along the Hobart Rivulet – brewing, milling, tanning,
even producing shell necklaces and wombat coats – and from
grim days for female convicts at the Cascades Female Factory to
the development of today’s comfortable residential suburb with
its wealth of different activities and people.
48 Journeys AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
IN TASMANIA TODAY
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