Helen Macdonald, writer and naturalist

Helen Macdonald is a writer and naturalist who is best known as the author of H is for Hawk which won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa Book Award, and topped the sales charts. The book chronicles her experiences training a goshawk called Mabel while grieving for her late father.

Helen’s father was a staff photographer at the Daily Mirror and her mother was a journalist on local newspapers. In 1975, when Helen was five, her parents bought a house in Terkel’s Park, an estate owned by the Theosophical Society. It was here that Helen became a keen bird watcher and developed a love of the natural world, spending her days in fields and meadows where she collected specimens which she brought home to study.

When she was 12 she helped out at a local falconry centre and trained her first hawk, a kestrel called Amy. After graduating from Cambridge she worked for the National Avian Research Centre in Wales before returning to academia.

The death of her father in 2007 prompted Helen to buy Mabel and bring her home to live with her. Training Mabel was Helen’s way of dealing with her grief during what she describes as a very dark period of her life. The relationship between her and Mabel became so intense that she says she became more hawk than human.

Helen continues to write books and essays and present programmes about the natural world. She lives in Suffolk with two parrots she calls the Bugs.

DISC ONE: Wayfaring Stranger by Rhiannon Giddens With Francesco Turrisi
DISC TWO: Lully: Le Triomphe de l'Amour: Prélude pour la nuit, composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully, performed by Capriccio Stravagante Les 24 Violons, directed by Skip Sempé
DISC THREE: Michelangelo by The 23rd Turnoff
DISC FOUR: Ocean by The Velvet Underground
DISC FIVE: 'Corelli' Variations, Op. 42, composed by Sergei Rachmaninov, performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
DISC SIX: When We Were Wolves by My Latest Novel
DISC SEVEN: Point of View Point by Cornelius
DISC EIGHT: Time by Hans Zimmer

BOOK CHOICE: The Karla Trilogy by John Le Carré
LUXURY ITEM: Luxury bedding
CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: 'Corelli' Variations, Op. 42, composed by Sergei Rachmaninov, performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)

Presenter Lauren Laverne
Producer Paula McGinley