A Kestrel for a Knave

A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines

In the small Yorkshire mining town of Barnsley, life for Billy Casper is raw and tough. School is a daily hell of bullying and failure as even the teachers seem to turn on him. Home offers no reprieve with a disconnected parent and an angry and at time ruthless older brother. There a few pleasures in Billy’s life until he finds ‘Kes’, a kestrel hawk, and through her, Billy discovers there is passion and joy to be had in the world after all. Barry Hines’s intense prose paints a struggling world of poverty, shrinking opportunity and fading hopes. The story may seem grim, but it is one of the most powerful coming-of-age stories I have every read. There is joy and grief within the pages, and passages of exquisite beauty within the prose.  A definite “must read”!

This modern popular classic was adapted for film by Ken Loach. The film, also called Kes, was awarded 4 British Film Awards on its release (1969) and has since achieved cult status.

Barry Hines (b.1939) was born in the mining village of Hoyland Common, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire and as an adult, was a teacher in the same area – he knew Billy’s life well.

Barry Hines died in March 2016 – just one of the many creative, talented persons the world lost that year.