I must say that I had never heard of Ken before and looking through his back catalogue I can see why! I like love stories, be they straight or gay, as long as the love is sincere and the emotions finely wrought as they are here. The book is a slow burner (and I suspect a little autobiographical) but it has very strong characterisation and a real sense of place and although set in rural Hampshire, brought back strong memories of time I spent living in rural Devon when I was younger. The lonely old country widows, the gruff but warm hearted farmers and warm and friendly country boys. Somehow, even now, boys brought up in a rural environment are more relaxed , more cheerful and have less guile than their townie counterparts, well at least I think so!
The atmosphere of the book reminds me very much of the much overlooked Irish writer Forrest Reid who loved the countryside and loved writing about boyhood. Many of his works centre around lonely boys in a rural setting who are sensitive and shaped by their beautiful surroundings. However this book being set in more modern times shows a boy much more direct and open in his longings. I am guessing the book is set in the early 60s pre Wolfenden/Stonewall and the only thing that slightly bugs me is whether a boy at that time would be so comfortable with his sexuality. Most books of the period (with the exception of Angus Stewart's recently released "Sandel") normally contain a lot of angst and end in tragedy. However I guess shielded by his rural upbringing this lad had a chance to grow up naturally. One other slight criticism is some of the physicality and urges in the book are expressed with a bluntness that jar with the otherwise lyrical tone of the book. That is a minor criticism though and did not detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. I read that a film is being made of this. I just hope they get the casting right if and when it is made.