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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak but beautiful tale of freedom
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...
Published on 31 Jan 2003 by Alex Magpie

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
A bit slow.
Published 1 month ago by Martin Wenn


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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak but beautiful tale of freedom, 31 Jan 2003
This review is from: A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics) (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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memorable, shocking, heartbreaking, 13 Feb 2013
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics) (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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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A motivational classic, 23 Feb 2004
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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Relevant, 24 Aug 2003
By 
Paul Johnson - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics) (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It would have been wasted on me before now, 20 Feb 2012
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I never read this at school, although it was a set text at GCSE for a long time. I can see why. It is short. It is powerful. It is about a kid the same sort of age as the children who would be reading the book, and it has plenty of things that examiners like to ask you about in terms of symbolism, metaphors and social messages. I imagine, that were I to have been set to read it as a child, I would have hated it. Now that I am forty, I find it a deeply interesting book which asks a lot of questions about poverty, society, the class system, the effects of a broken home, and social mobility. What is interesting to me is that in these times of austerity, the things that Billy is facing are clearly things that have not gone away in the intervening years since the book was published. The metaphor of the kestrel is really interesting and the parallels between the pitiless hunger of the kestrel and Billy are finely drawn. I'm glad I waited all these years to read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pocket of Silence, 10 Feb 2012
This review is from: A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Barry Hines was born in 1939, in a mining village called Hoyland Common in the north of England. He worked as a teacher for several years, before becoming a full-time author and scriptwriter. He is probably best known for "A Kestrel for a Knave" - which was adapted for the big screen as "Kes".

The knave of the book's title is Billy Casper : a teenager who lives in a small Yorkshire mining village with his brother, Jud, and his mother. The family's life is far from idyllic : they live on a working-class housing estate, there isn't a lot of money to spare and not a lot of food in the house. Neither Billy nor Jud - who works down the mine - seem to be terribly impressed with their mother. However, while Billy is merely disobedient, Jud appears to be a good deal more caustic. (She doesn't appear to pay them much attention in return). Jud is a particularly dislikeable character - a selfish bully, who's quite happy to take his foul moods out on Billy.

Billy's in his last year at school, but things are there are little better. He's in the bottom class of his year group, and struggles to read and write. He has no idea what he wants to do when he leave, so long as it doesn't involve going down the pit. He's always on the margins and doesn't really have any friends. Some of the teachers are little better than Jud; one - Mr Sugden, the PE teacher - is as pathetic as he is nasty. (Only one of them, Mr Farthing, could be described as pleasant).

The one good thing in Billy's life is Kes, a kestrel he's raised and trained himself. When asked, Billy claims he'd "found" Kes - that she'd flushed too early, and was too young to look after herself. In reality, Billy took Kes from the nest while still a chick - but he has proven to be a dedicated and caring owner. Billy has changed dramatically since Kes' arrival : she's given him a focus and a sense of responsibility. In fact, he's been spending so much time looking after her, he no longer has the time - or the inclination - to get into trouble away from school. (Unfortunately, his former cronies aren't happy about his desertion, and sometimes like to make his life difficult).

Although Billy wasn't based on a real-life person, he is a character that's very easy to identify with. Looking at the afterward, it seems the book has become an inspiration to many of its readers - people who either knew, or were on the verge of becoming, a real-life Billy Casper. For myself, though, the inspiration is having a tough time competing with a lot of sadness, loneliness and loss. Occasionally, I'll read a book and wonder what happened to a character after the book's final page. Billy's one of those characters : I really don't see him having an easy life, but I hope he was able to find some sort of happiness. A great book, totally recommended.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Grace of the Falcon, The Dedication of the Falconer, 18 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Although written in the 1960's this book remains as poignant and striking as it was when published.Depicting the life of a teenage boy, named Billy Casper, the book covers just one day in his life. In that single day the book encapsulates the boys' dedication towards his Kestrel, his turbulant home life and troubled schooling. The brutality of life around the mines of Yorkshire is depicted perfectly and the author, once a teacher himself, paints an acurate and astute portrait of education at that time.
Throughout the entire book its main charactor is depicted struggling against the people who oppress him, his family, teachers and those who say he 'will work down the mines'. By the end of the book the reader has encoutered everything from passion, jealousy and hatred, but throughout the novel the overriding feeling is of one boy trying to survive.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic for kids of all ages, 19 Oct 2014
By 
Amazon Customer (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics) (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No frills, 14 May 2009
Gritty, poignant, and faintly depressing; this novel by Barnsley-born Barry Hines truly deserves to be called a Twentieth Century classic. I highly recommend watching Ken Loach's superb 'Kes' after reading this, as it does the source novel proud.
This Penguin version is nicely bound and presented and is a competitive price on here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What more can be said - superb., 30 May 2014
By 
Scampo "Steve C" (UK) - See all my reviews
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As an English teacher this novel proves to be a popular "read" for teenage students - boys included. It is very much a 1960's novel in some ways, yet transcends its era in terms of style and the way it is so easy to empathise with its protagonist. It makes a fairly obvious political statement yet has a plot that is immediately engaging with lots of tension.
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A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics)
A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics) by Barry Hines (Paperback - 25 May 2000)
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