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.