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A Kestrel For A Knave Paperback – 1976

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin (1976)
  • ISBN-10: 0140029524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140029529
  • ASIN: B003U2KXXO
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 11.2 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 124,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

A Kestrel for a Knave is a novel by British author Barry Hines, published in 1968. It is set in Barnsley, South Yorkshire and tells of Billy Casper, a young working class boy troubled at home and at school, who only finds solace when he finds and trains a kestrel whom he names "Kes"

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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Alex Magpie on 31 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
AKFAK contains the harsh reality of life for a boy, Billy, mistreated at home and at school and fated to work in a dead end job in the mines. His escape is his kestrel that he has reared and trained from a chick.
Hines never sweetens the story with false sentiment but keeps all the action gritty and realistic. What is surprising is that it is very easy to sympathise with Billy despite his prickliness, bad manners and violence. Hines portrays him, as a normal boy brought up in poverty without any aspirations- his bad behaviour is a product of these social elements rather than his true self.
There is a strong sense of love underneath the frustration and anger. Billy lives for his kestrel and his sense of devotion is what lifts an otherwise bleak social study to more optimistic levels. The Casper family have a strange mixture of violence, jealousy and love between them- it seems that despite the anger and threats their family must stick together.
The film, Kes, although very similar to the book and a wonderful work in its own right, has a different ending- perhaps motive enough for the film's many fans to read the book and see what really happened.
AKFAK mixes vivid descriptions of the countryside and small industrial town with fleshed out characters with great dialogue and a story that's simplicity tells a moving and plausible tale of hope and grim realism.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 13 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
The poverty and hopelessness of a boy, Billy, whose only pleasure is in training a Kestrel makes a fiercely poignant story. His father leaves home, probably forever, his mother is no solace - more concerned with her tawdry one nighters. His brother Jud, much older than him and already working down the pit, is only interested in betting on the horses. There is one teacher at school who encourages Billy and winkles out of him a story for the class based on his activities with Kes, the bird he took from a nest and trained, stealing a book in a shop to give him the knowledge of how to fly and care for his bird. The sequences describing him flying the bird have a rough, but entirely lyrical feel. He loves the Kestrel and takes care of it religiously.

Another teacher, the Games teacher, makes fun of Billy and is pointlessly cruel, making him the butt of unfeeling jokes. Jud often sends him to put money on horses at the betting shop and one day Billy is too late. He spends the money on meat for the bird. But Jud deals out a cruel revenge.

This is a simple but searingly sad story. Unusual in that it is honest and forthright about the way Billy's life is narrowing as he approaches the age where his only hope is a manual job, either that or the pit. It's not a happy ending for Billy.

This book was made into a film, Kes, which has a different ending. The book has no time for sentiment. It's a sorrowful yet piercingly honest picture of a child without any consolation. Billy's not a hero, and probably will never climb out of the deadening and futile future that is all the world has planned for him.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Paul Johnson on 24 Aug. 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this book years ago, and chose to re-read it a few weeks back, which proved well worth it.
With having family from the area of Yorkshire where the book is set, it is fantastic to read how accurately the dialog reflects the language of the area. It also goes a long way to expressing the hard realities of life in poor mining communities.
At a time when we are once again debating the quality of the education system in Britain, and the old argument of 'things were better in the olden days', the impression given of the school in this book is the strongest argument against!
I love this book and would recommend it to anyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
'Kes' remains one of my all time British movies, and the book that director Ken Loach based his masterwork on, 'A Kestrel for a Knave' by Barry Hines is so good, that it remains on the school syllabus to this day.

It tells the bittersweet story of young Billy Casper, a Barnsley schoolboy from a broken home whose destiny to work down a pit is temporarily relieved by the satisfaction of taming and training a rare bird. Hines brings Billy so vividly to life, his personality, unhappy school and family life with a violent older brother and a neglectful single mother, as well as his love for the bird, his only real friend who he nicknames 'Kes'.

The book has lost none of his magic and appeal despite it's age, and unlike most children's books, it doesn't come with a happy ending. 'A Kestrel for a Knave' is a bleak story set in the north, and although few of the other characters in it are on the right side of likeable, Billy Casper remains a hero in the literacy world, whose life is still being discovered by schoolchildren today.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By "choclate_milkshake" on 23 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
The book entitled,"A kestrel for a knave",is about a young,poor,unwanted boy who is trying to survive a crucial life.He is mistreated in the school and in his home by his mother,Mrs.Casper and other close and distant persons in his life.He has one friend that he relates to in this text and that is his kestrel,Kes,which he had to fight for and achieve her possesion as well.Him and the kestrel have a remarkable relationship,like no other pet and its owner.He has a dull future that entails working in the coal mines and continue running erruns for his mother and his brother,Jud.I give this book a two thumbs up and encourage all young people to read it and realize how lucky in life they are.I am 13 years old and this book has changed my life with its motivation.It has changed me by allowing me to realize how fortunate in life I am;to have parents that care,a positive environment to develop in,and the understanding that although my life is not perfect,I am more fortunate than some people in some parts of the world.
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