The Hawkman

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

I'm a bit iffy on what I would want to rate this book. The writing comes off as a bit stiff but the plot was interesting. It had a few things I liked but quite a few things I didn't care for. It's somewhere between 2.5 - 3 stars for me.
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Where do I even start. I've got so many things to say that I don't even know which one should go first. My thoughts right now are just as confused as this book is, at least in my opinion.

This book is based off the fairy tale The Bearskin by the brothers Grimm, and also reminds in broad terms of the most famous Beauty and the Beast. I strongly recommend reading The Bearskin first, if you're not already familiar with it, to better understand the premises and the characters of this book.

I have to say that, upon finishing this book, I happened to ask myself: “What did I even read?”, for this book left me with no particular feeling, if not a sense of irritation for the time I lost reading it. I found it very distracting and hard to connect to − my mind couldn't focus on the story at times, I had to reread some passages once or twice, and I even thought about DNFing the book  because I saw no point in finishing a book I wasn't enjoying. Still, I pushed myself to finish it.

I had problems with The Hawkman as soon as I started reading it, not only because the writing style made it very difficult for me to get into the story, but also because the author decided to tell us how the book would end right in the very prologue. This is a choice I've encountered a few other times in the past and never enjoyed − sometimes I ask myself what's the point of writing a whole book if you're going to tell the reader how it will end straight away, but I still haven't found a satisfying answer.

The writing didn't amaze me as well. It felt like the author wanted to create the atmosphere proper of fairy tales through her writing, but didn't quite succeed. To me, it just seemed concocted, even pompous at times, and not in a positive way.

I had such a hard time connecting with the characters too, because they just didn't feel real enough to me. Eva Williams, the professor and storyteller, felt very flat and flawless, quite like an angel − kind, charitable, a perfect soul in an ugly world. She had literally no character development throughout the story, she was just too perfect to be real. Michael Sheehan, “The Hawkman”, felt a little bit more real, but I think that 200 pages weren't enough: the trauma he went through during the war was too profound, and even if he goes through some minor development, he never had a real opportunity to overcome his past and sufferings.

The last thing I want to address in this review are the many stories that are told through the whole book. In my opinion, they were very unnecessary and added nothing to the story itself. Maybe the author thought that adding a lot of stories would help with the whole fairy tale atmosphere and such, but they just had no purpose, if not leading to another story, and another one after that.

In the end, I just didn't like one bit of this book, and I'm very sorry for that because the premises made me hope for a good read.
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Well Ms La Forge, you have ripped my heart from my chest, stomped on it, squeezed it and released it into the air like a bird ... in the most delightful way.
The Hawkman begins with the untimely and unusual death of a woman on her wedding day in a small village in England, and from there her story unfolds.  

Ms Williams is an American woman, a storyteller who has been employed by the local college, post World War I.  She is somewhat of a misfit, due mostly to her flights of fancy and her 'American-ness'.  English people don't really get her and her liberal views.  In the same village there is a vagrant known as The Birdman, who is reviled and abused by the community.  The locals don't know why he came to their village, he has no family ties.  They want him gone but Miss Williams sees the humanity in him and. one day when she meets him in the forest she shows him extraordinary kindness without seeking any kind of explanation or reward.

The prose of this novel is lyrical and a bit dense at times, but when read aloud, is a real treat for the ears.  The characters are so human and are beautifully drawn.  Their stories are heart-breaking, uplifting, frightening and sublime.  It is a fairytale about war, but it is also a story about the capacity for kindness and love in humanity, how we endure through adversity and, ultimately, what makes us want to keep living ... the wondrous people around us.
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Love it! It's a page turner. I would definitely recommend this to my friends. This is a wonderfully sweet and story. The author perfectly captured the best of life that I will most remember.. So overall, I give this book 4 stars.
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This is a book which I imagine will receive a lot of hype and praise, going along as it does with the current craze for magical realist historical fiction.  I enjoyed it, certainly, and there is some lovely writing here.
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The Hawkman is a book that has tested me, thoroughly, on my ability to give any kind of coherent review. Set in the aftermath of the great war, the story of Michael and Eva twists and turns - sometimes a fairytale, sometimes evocative story of emotional connection and its power over our human lives, sometimes a heartbreaking tale of how easily we can "other" people and turn on ourselves.

The prose itself is absolutely gorgeous - "He was a man of discards sewn together, and Christopher wondered how it was that the village, his father, and even himself had managed to stretch such a small, improbable reliquary of self-doubt into a vast, frightening figure of half-man and half-monster." Undoubtedly, this will be a book that divides its readers - it's not an easy read, but instead demands your full attention and thought - but I suspect it  will find itself only growing in recognition as the years go by.
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Can you judge a book by it's cover? I chose this book because of the cover. Beautifully written story that takes place at the end of the Great War. Between fantasy and reality, it touches on many aspects of the traumas and cruelties of war and society. But, believe there is kindness and compassion despite the prejudices! Thank you Net Galley for the opportunity to review this work. 3.5 Stars
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The Hawkman presents an adaptation of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale "The Bearskin" set in the aftermath of World War I in a quiet English village. The titular character is Michael Sheehan, an Irish pianist who was a German POW; having settled in England (unable to return to his native land), he spends his time lurking about the outskirts of the village, content to remain mute to the world. Eva Williams is an American schoolteacher who discovers his existence and his overall treatment from the villagers, and strives to help him regain his identity. 

The story blends the eventual friendship that blossoms between these two misfits in this provincial town with exposition about their previous lives - Michael's experiences in the trenches and in the German POW camp, and Eva's childhood upbringing with the storytelling mother. The flashbacks for each are lengthy and poetic - rich in description but slow the momentum of the present-day story.  There were times when the past and present blurred, bringing forth an almost surreal aspect in the narrative structure.

I enjoyed the story - the insight into a veteran's struggle to return to civilian life, and the misunderstanding / ignorance (denial?) of the effects of the First World War on those who survived.
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I wasn't able to finish it. My only problem was with the writing that I found kind of "stiff", which made the pace slow. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t read more than five pages at a time. And now I feel bad, because it doesn’t deserve the 1 star rating that I usually give the books I don’t finish, because something tells me that this is a beautiful story and the two main characters were well written. Maybe the timing was not right… So I am giving it 2 stars and a ticket for re-evaluation in the future.
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A magical and unusual love story set in England after the First World War. Sheehan is a lost soul, shell shocked after his experiences in the trenches. But after being rejected by society he is found by Miss Williams, a young ‘cordial but stiff’ American teacher, who is determined to save The Hawkman from himself and the neglect of the community.
Written rather in the style of a fairy tale, we learn more about the main characters through flashbacks, which often themselves contain fairytale like stories. Not being a great reader of such tales, I sometimes found the detailing too much and did skip over some lengthy passages. The flashbacks didn’t generally work that well for me and felt too heavy in comparison to the main thread.
But I really enjoyed and was fascinated by the love story set in the present and would have given that five stars. I found it quite lovely.
A nicely written story that will make me try more from this author.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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Second time read. First time review.

I received this ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The first time I rated this book, I gave it a 4. Second time around, I did find myself getting a little bit bored here and there but it still deserves a 4.

The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War was a pretty interesting book. The world and the characters were still intriguing that it kept my tapping my little page arrow on my kindle. Yet, again, I definitely did get a little bored. Now I'm not completely blaming the book or the characters, because my work days are filled with boredom but I will say that it was definitely better the first time I read it.

This book is a fairy tale about war. Well, it's more like it's about an Irish musician, Michael, and an American school teacher, Miss Williams. Out of the two, Michael was probably more of my favorite character. He lost a lot, mostly himself, after the war. He goes through want so many veterans, and mostly anyone that has been in a war, he is abandoned and left alone to rot. Well, until the day that Miss Williams finds him and takes him in. She showed so much compassion for someone she didn't know that it definitely gave me so much hope for humanity. 

Yes, I know that this is a book and that these are characters - it will still give me hope that people will end up doing the same thing today. Back to Miss Williams, well she hasn't had a cheery or happy past either. Nope, she has been fighting depression since day one. Now I have no idea what depression feels like but I know that it's a very serious thing to struggle with on a daily basis. It made me feel so sad for this character because of how she acted and treated other people while dealing with her own demons. 

Throughout the story you will feel that emotional tug at your heart strings. You might also fall in love with one or both characters and their amazing story. Michael and Eva had terrible childhood but they cared so much for each other that it made their lives that much better. 

Overall, the ending of this book was even more amazing the second time around. I will definitely be diving into this book for the third time sometime soon (maybe next year??).
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I am a sucker for a nice cover and this book really attracted me because of that. I initially struggled to get into this, but really enjoyed it once I did. I did find I needed to concentrate a fair bit
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Oh, how I wanted to like this book. It had everything I wanted: fantasy, a modernist retelling of a Grimm’s fairy tale, cloaked in historical fiction. Two fascinating characters, and a very sweet love story in the middle of it that vibrates with wonder all the way through.

And Jane Rosenberg LaForge, for the most part, pulls it off. Underneath the gorgeous cover lies a multilayered story that packs past on top of present, mystery on top of prejudice and casts a sprinkling of magic over all of that. Set in rural England after the Great War, the story focusses on Miss Williams, an American schoolteacher, who takes in the town misfit, Mr Sheehan. He is the Hawkman: almost an animal, who has withdrawn into himself after the horrors of the trenches and time as a POW. They are both lost souls, who gradually try and build a life together.

However, this isn’t a simple saviour story. It’s all about transformation. Mr Sheehan transforms from the Hawkman- as in Grimm’s ‘Bearskin’, doomed to be trapped in near-animal form- into a man, while Miss Williams dooms herself by nursing him back to health. And as she retreats for comfort into the fairytales that she writes in her spare time, it’s clear that a transformation is happening to her too…

The Hawkman is a wonderfully delicate story. LaForge’s writing is intricate, exploratory and almost wistful, weaving together reality and magic with folklore to delve into the backstories of her two main characters and explore the horrors of war through Mr Sheehan’s eyes. Here, silence takes on a power of its own: as a method of protest, of communication and transformation, as a way of demonstrating the damage left behind by the war. And the ordinary is made wonderful by the beautiful descriptions, the delicately drawn-out metaphors that litter the writing like jewels, drawing together the past and the present.

It’s a stunningly complex novel, really: one that deserves an essay more than a book review! LaForge reframes the narrative of war by looking at it through the lens of the magical; recasts post-war England as land of folklore, and throws the faults and cruelties of humanity into terrible relief whilst doing so. She’s piecing together a story that tries to make sense of life after the Great War, and showing how telling stories can help us do that.

However, this book also has its drawbacks. It’s long. It’s complicated, and sometimes it gets so lost in the backstory of its characters that you lose your place and become disengaged. It makes you work for the meaning you get from it. And sometimes, that sort of opacity is not what you want from a book. Perhaps I was in the wrong mood for it, but at times I struggled to carry on reading it.

As allegory, as a folktale, The Hawkman is a beautiful story. The faint air of melancholy that permeates the whole book makes for a memorable, haunting tale that brings magic and history a little closer together. If only it were a little clearer!

Three word review: haunting. Mystical. Sad.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Amberjack Publishing for this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I found myself struggling through the first quarter of the book but once I got past it, the rest was surprisingly an easy read.

Originally I was intrigued on the idea of taking a fairytale and blending it with historical facts of WWI but this expectation of mine based on the book blurb was not to be. Instead, the book came across as a well researched yet fictionalized version of the war veteran, Mr. Sheehan, coming to terms with the reality of living after the war with some elements of fantasy thrown in.

The overall flow of the book felt a bit disjointed as the flashbacks of Mr. Sheehan dominate more than half the book and doesn't allow for more backstory on Ms. Williams, the other half of this book to be well represented or fleshed out so that when she becomes more of a central character in the last 1/4, it's hard to connect with her, much less understand what her role is.

Beautifully written, sometimes heavy in prose and symbolism, and well researched, this reads better as a fictionalized account of a war veteran than a fantasy-themed novel.
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I love the cover and the description is what compelled me to read this book but the story would wander between fairy tales, Michael's time spent in the war and Eva's childhoods and back to the present. The writing is beautiful and I wish I had liked this book more but I needed it to be more focused.
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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. 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.
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I was incredibly drawn to this book over the premise but it unfortunately didn't work for me. I think the writing is beautiful at moments but a bit over the top which dragged the progression of the plot. I got to around 40% and couldn't really continue - may pick this up later when I'm more in the mood for something atmospheric but putting it down for now.
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I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review of the book. 

I ADORED the authors writing in this novel. It's beautiful and she is an amazing story teller! This was my favorite part of the novel. I thought it was a unique idea to weave a fairy tale esque (fantasy) story into historical fiction and I imagine that it is tough to do but I thoroughly enjoyed it and think she did a really great job! The cover is very pretty, too!
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Books set during WWII are hitting top charts these days. Good thing too, considering that it definitely is one of the most important eras of our history. Add magical realism and a sprinkle of fairy tale atmosphere and you've got yourself a wonderful read. I really, really enjoyed the beautiful prose and the story hit all the right spots. It could have been longer, I wouldn't have complained.
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Felt like a bit of a slog. Slightly leaden prose. But did give a good sense of place. Might be a better winter read than spring/summer.
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