Top positive review
17 people found this helpful
Memorable, shocking, heartbreaking
on 13 February 2013
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.