The Hawkman

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

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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My Thoughts
The Hawkman is just one more reason that I am glad to have 'discovered' Buzz Books. This was featured in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition and if the excerpt hadn't captivated me, it is likely a book I would not have explored( as I seem to be drawn mostly to mysteries and thrillers lately). That would have been my loss since I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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**Big thanks to NetGalley for this digital copy in exchange for my review.**

It was a little slow to start, but I think that was my fault. I was expecting some wild fantasy novel. It was wild, it was fantastical, but it wasn't a fantasy. You only got to know 2 of the characters very well, and even that wasn't much.

I was also distracted trying to figure out when it took place. Again, that may be more my fault. The hints were fine, I just had to look it up and refresh my history knowledge.

But then, it just took off for me. The storytelling in this book was amazing! Not just the main characters, but there were little stories thrown in all over the place. Miss Williams was a writer, that's how she met Mr. Sheehan. She was teaching at the women's college. And that's really all I will tell you. It really was a wonderful story!
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I really enjoyed this book as a reading experience. It felt extremely immersive, and I struggled to put it down!
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THE HAWKMAN is a unique fairytale set against the backdrop of WWI and examines the trauma of war, isolation and the perennial fairytale notion that if we just extend a helping hand, we can change a life. 
Taking inspiration from lesser-known fairytales such as The Bearskin, it tells the story of the strangely nick-named, Hawkman, also known as Michael Sheehan, an Irish veteran of WWI and his saviour and friend, Miss Eva Williams. The story is told in a dreamlike fashion, alternating between different character's perspectives and fairytale re-tellings. 
For those who have an affinity for historical fiction the well researched depictions of the POW camps of the First World War and the experiences in orphanages at the turn of the century will be of particular interest. However the frequent segues into these perspectives can be disruptive to the main story. 
Often characters will begin to reminisce while in the middle of a conversation which can be confusing for keeping track of the story. That being said, the whole novel reads somewhat like a half-remembered dream, so this may be the author's intention. 
That is not to say that there isn't anything to enjoy in The Hawkman, readers of magical realism will likely find a great deal to love in the story. 
The benevolent, brave, characterisation of Eva Williams was a stand out for me and I was disappointed when she was sidelined from the narrative towards the end of the novel. Much of her experiences are given over to the other characters, which, for me, diminished her impact in the story's finale. 
While The Hawkman wasn't my favourite version of a fairytale re-telling, the story is one that will likely appeal to fans of historical fiction and magical realism.
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'The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War' is a retelling of the German fairy tale Der Bärenhäuter by the Brothers Grimm. I decided to read the book because I am a big fan of retellings as well as fairy tales in general.

Let's look at the fairy tale first. 
Der Bärenhäuter is the story of a young soldier who has no place to go after the war ended. He then meets the devil who has a proposal for him. The soldier won't be allowed to wash nor groom himself for the next 7 years. In exchange he will receive a clock that will always provide him with money. The soldier, lacking an alternative, agrees to the offer and dons the skin of a recently killed bear. After wandering for some years he meets the poor father of three beautiful girls and helps him with paying his depths. To show his gratitude the man offers one of his daughters as a bride. The youngest one accepts because he sisters turn away in disgust for the man. The soldier leaves to wander the land for three more years but then returns for his wife as the beautiful man he is. The scorned sisters get angry to a point when they kill themselves which in turn makes the devil happy as he now has two new souls.

I am familiar with the original fairy tale (having read a Brothers Grimm's collection recently) but I felt compelled to look it up because I couldn't see much parallels when reading 'The Hawkman'.

'The Hawkman' is the story of a young soldier who lost his home when the Great War ended. His distressing memories of the war are strewn throughout the story explaining to the reader how his lost his humanity. The Hawkman almost lives like a bird, not talking and secluded from the people around him until he one day meets Eva, an American schoolteacher battling her own demons. They face the villager's prejudices and find strength in each other until the next blow of fate. 

Talking about the main characters. Eva and Michael were interesting to follow along although I cared more for Michael's story despite the graphic scenes. You get to know more about Eva and Michael's past in several back flashes. To be honest, I wasn't prepared for this and it confused me more than once as it wasn't easy to tell when the POV or timeline changed in my edition. 
However, the added insight made it easy to understand their actions and root for the both of them. 
Unfortunately, I didn't care much about the other people in the book. I kept confusing them and still have the impression that the author didn't give them enough space to develop completely. 

Besides this small downside, I loved the writing. LaForge has a great way of describing and taking you into the story that I appreciated a lot. However, it might be hard to stomach for those who can't stand graphic recollections of war and fighting. He writing has a Victorian feeling to it and the scenes and metaphors she used were great. (view spoiler)

However, the book is rather short and I felt like there were whole parts missing of the story. Parts of it were rushed while others felt drawn out unnecessarily. All in all, I had my problems with the pacing. 
Another aspect I want to complain about is the reference to the fairy tale. I was looking the whole book for more similarities and was left somehow disappointed in the end, because both stories only share the basic idea. Just not what I expected. 

It still was a good read, beautiful prose with interesting aspects which will fascinate fans of magical realism more than those of fairy tale retellings. I am glad that I got the chance to read the book.
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This is a beautifully written novel. Exquisite in its intimate details of two tragic lives drawn together, we are captivated by the tale that the author states is based on a reading of a fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers (The Bearskin).
The story begins with the body of a dead bride found in bed and the bridegroom being evicted from their house by the seemingly wicked Earl.
Who were this couple?
We first meet the man as a bearded and often frightening shambolic homeless beggar, known as The Hawkman in the village of Bridgetonne. It is a few years after the end of WWI and although the village seems ordinary it is on the edge of a grand estate which hosts a developing Women's College training "nurses, governesses and young ladies of use".
Owner of the estate Lord Arthur Thorton has had service in the Boer War and lives with his wife Lady Margaret and son Christopher (injured badly in the trenches).
Miss Eva Williams has come from America to teach and is liked by all - particularly the Earl's son Christopher.
But she becomes concerned about The Hawkman and senses much beyond his portrayal as a frightening malignant scrounger. In fact he seems magical and appeals to her inner and outer senses.  Taking him in to live at her cottage (rented from the Earl) leads to an unravelling of both their past tragic lives and the gathering of strength and draining of love.
Miss Williams literally takes Michael Evan Sheehan (for that is his name) under her wing. The silent Irishman and the poetic beautiful American poet grow together.  There are detailed and revealing descriptions of Sheehan's imprisonment as a POW and his inability to adjust to life once he returns after the war. There are shades of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' in the intimate detail of shell shock (or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as we would know it now.
We learn also of Miss William's young life in America and the violence and hatred of nuns - linking well to her growing love for an Irishman and his views of his homeland.
I loved the author's style and the building of character and plot.   The ending is very emotional but well written.
Poetic and disturbing - so much of course like all fairy tales, I am so glad I read this wonderful novel and will be recommending it to others.
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*3.5 Stars*

The Hawkman, as title suggest was a fairy tale of war, a story of the Hawkman- an Irish musician and an American school teacher- Miss Williams, inspired from Grimm Brothers’ story- The Bearskin and recorded experience of prisoners of war. It was about the greatest war, its casualties, horrible mistreatments of prisoners during the WWI, and how it changed life of people including those survived the war; about courage, humanity, compassion, and resilience; society and its rigid stereotypical mindset.

The Hawkman (Michael) – He was an Irish musician, who had to be a part of war that taken from him his passion and humanity, abondoned by his own people and left to wonder the streets without food and shelter. Even though he was treated very cruelly, he never lost his sanity, never fought for his need and never was threat to anyone still people saw him as threatening diseased plagued creature. He was such a gentleman who suffered lot. Author write this character very creatively and for that I gave most of the stars.

Miss Williams (Eva) – She was American teacher came to teach at women’s college of Bridgetonne. She was smart, caring, compassionate, creative storyteller and an outstanding strong female character in the world of men. Her childhood was depressing and she suffered lot herself but she turned out a great woman who could see humanity in the Hawkman and taken him under her care.

What I liked-
Flowery, lyrical writing with the touch of both fantasy and reality that had a classical feel narrated by third person switching between present life of protagonists, their past and experience, and tales of Eva and her mother.

First chapter was much promising with wonderful description of The Hawkman, village, and earl of the village. I loved the way author described Hawkman’s look and how he got his name. He was one mysterious and weirdly interesting character that hooked me to the book from the very beginning. I wanted to know more about him and what caused him such appearance. Eva and her story inspired from Grimm brother’s told at the luncheon that was strikingly similar to Hawkman, was mesmerizing. All of her stories throughout this book was greatly narrated by author. But I admit some were very confusing, to be specific her mother’s tales and her childhood stories.

Lord Thorton and villager were the real antagonists of the book. They were awfully cruel towards The Hawkman and Miss Williams’ strong challenging thoughts. I couldn’t understand what Lord Thorton’s problem was. He was epitome of hypocrite and stereotype, rude and totally thoughtless who refused to understand condition of both Michael and Miss William. He acted heartless during their downtime.

Life story of Michael was sad and thought-provoking. One by one author told his story from his passion as a musician to his time in war, his tormenting experience on field, how he lost his hearing, fingers, voice, look, got awful disease that didn’t have cure, how ultimately he was abandoned by his own people, tagged traitor, and named The Hawkman by villagers. He was the worst casualty of the war, a living example of what war can do to a person. It was horrible to read his account.

Both Michael and Eva’s childhood was very depressing. It helped to get the clear background of characters. I liked the way they both cared for each other. It was poignant to read what they gone through in this book. The end of their story was fantastical and I liked to see development in Christopher by the end of the book.

why 3.5 stars-
Though the writing was outstanding that any literature lovers and students would love to read, it took lot of time and concentration for me to read this book.

Some tales and some part of Eva’s childhood was very confusing and so lengthy that it distracted me from the main plot and at the end I couldn’t understand it completely. Many times I put the book on hold and lost interest that I had in initial chapters and in Michael’s story. At some point it felt like it was focused more on writing than the story.

Another thing that I wanted in book was, Eva and Michael’s chemistry, more of their current problems, and their fight with society which was overshadowed by their past and childhood.

Overall, it was interesting, thought-provoking, beautifully written story but it was difficult to read for me. Those who like historical fiction with touch of magical realism will definitely enjoy this book.
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