Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A delightful and softly told story, 28 July 2010
This review is from: A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
A super piece of story telling about an under privileged teenager who trains a Kestrel. Great atmosphere and narrative tension but it's so short that Hines only just gets going before he ends. Really a children's book.

Billy Casper is a dissolute one parent teenager living in a Yorkshire mining town. He's a social and academic failure and his home life is a mess with a bullying elder half brother and a mother whose ambition is to snare another man.

But Billy has a rapport with nature and is a wizard at training animals. He takes a young Kestrel from its nest and, with infinite care and patience, trains it to the lure. Sadly the world is stacked against Billy and his brief interlude of peace and pleasure ends in conflict and disaster.

Hines is very good at the mechanics of telling the story, using Billy's family and school to permit him to reflect Billy's sympathetic relationship with the Kestrel and how it compares to his awkward relationships with human beings. The narrative tension comes naturally out of Billy's character and those of the people in his life. Hines deftly invokes the atmosphere of the town, the school, the mine and the fields around so that Billy's universe is complete for the reader.

The shame of it is that Hines only runs the story to 159 pages, which makes it fine for a children's book but makes it seem like a set of notes rather than a full blown novel to an adult reader. In particular he condenses Billy's thoughts on his missing father to a dream sequence that is the only duff note in the whole book. It ends up feeling like a script for a film - which of course is what it became.
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4.5 out of 5 stars (55 customer reviews)
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