Book Review : The Hawkman
A Fairy Tale of the Great War
By Jane Rosenberg LaForge
A great war, a great love, and the mythology that unites them; The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War is a lyrical adaptation of a beloved classic.
Set against the shattering events of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at the tale’s heart are an American schoolteacher—dynamic and imaginative—and an Irish musician, homeless and hated—who have survived bloodshed, poverty, and sickness to be thrown together in an English village. Together they quietly hide from the world in a small cottage.
Too soon, reality shatters their serenity, and they must face the parochial community. Unknown to all, a legend is in the making—one that will speak of courage and resilience amidst the forces that brought the couple together even as outside forces threaten to tear them apart. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review, all opinions are my own. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read modern literature! I would consider The Hawkman a modern classic because of the use of classic literary themes like forgiveness and redemption.
The Hawkman focuses on two characters, with only a few minor characters entering the scenes. Known as the Hawkman, the Irish musician suffering from the after-effects of the war, Mr. Michael Sheehan, and Miss Williams, the American teacher dominate the fairy tale.
Even though the novel introduces the Hawkman first, I’m going to focus on Miss Williams as my introduction. She is faced with prejudice against women, is seen as an old maid and yet, she continues to extend kindness. I felt like she had a backbone and would do the right thing under any circumstances. She seemed like a person to be admired, though she would never be famous or important by the standards frequently eschewed by the world. Even though her mother had warned her as a child to never touch a bird, she feels prompted to extend her kindness to the broken man on the street. After she chose to reach out to him, she realizes that she needs to continue because he is now dependent on her.
Through the trauma of WWI, and his reception back in polite society of Great Britain, Mr. Sheehan has been transformed from a man to a beast. His eyes are yellowed, his hands like claws and his steps mincing and uncertain like a bird. He is feared and hated by his fellow men. I had to ask myself, when do men become beasts? Is it when they are no longer seen as human? Does the transformation take place internally or from external forces. I feel like Mr. Sheehan became a beast because of the way he was treated by others. Miss Williams is the first to see him as a broken man rather than a creature to be shunned. Once he is adopted by Miss Eva Williams, she becomes his entire world and he will do whatever he must to protect her.
I enjoyed reading The Hawkman with its beautiful prose and veiled hints. If I were to make an editorial change, it would be to break up some of the scenes where the reader learns the history of both Mr. Sheehan and Miss Williams. I was so intent on what was happening in their current situation, I desperately wanted to know more and receive the background a little more slowly. With that said, I can’t remember more poignant and stunning descriptions of war. How can one write something so beautiful about something so awful? Both of their backstories are critical to understand the motivation behind each of the characters. Even minor characters, like Christopher Thorton being reticent, receive a quick fleshing out. Each person felt like they had a full life backing up their actions.
It was interesting to view this story as a fairy tale. The moment I finished the epilogue, I returned to the prologue to link the scenes together. It was within the last few chapters and the very beginning where I felt the connection to a fairy tale. It was surreal and sublime.
Here are a few quotes for your enjoyment:
“But she had not found the England she expected when she arrived. The place and its people were impenetrable in all aspects: the tart curve in their speech, the defeated fabric of their clothes, the sallow nature of their complexions.” (Loc. 202)
“His fingers were like leaves, their reach toward the sun and meaning. She saw no harm in touching him, although she knew the danger of touching birds, particularly hatchlings.” (Loc. 233)
“Their bodies could be next on that pile. He resolved, if not for himself, then for Altman, to never alter his appearance. If he lived to grow out his hair, a beard, his fingers and toes to claws, until he was ape, or bear, or anything more natural than he was.” (Loc. 813)
“He could provide each note with the isolation it deserved, before it was grafted onto the next; he could make way for the slip of an instant, so the phrase could be savored, without his crushing it. This was a compromise, between music and vacuum, and he would jeopardize neither if he could keep what his hands and body had suffered away from the instrument.” (Loc. 912)
“She was about to leap from underneath the blankets the nuns had piled atop her when she was suddenly in a larger room – the dormitory in the children’s asylum. She had been stripped of her blankets, and given an anemic substitute that did nothing to keep out the consuming winter temperatures.” (Loc. 1628)
“Sheehan jammed the letter his mother had written into his fist, and then he picked it apart, as if dressing a chicken.” (Loc 2315)
I recommend The Hawkman, and look forward to more books by LaForge.
I would love to hear your thoughts on The Hawkman, did you find it convincing, surreal or obtuse?
If you would like to read more books with a surreal quality try:
The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan
Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
Trick of the Eye by Dennis Haseley
The Girl In Between by Laekan Zea Kemp