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'A Kestrel for a Knave' by Barry Hines

I am fifty four years of age and have been a voracious reader for most of my life so I've covered a fair few literary texts, but I'm still struck by how many great books have so far passed me by. And this is one of them. Inspired by a recent TV documentary about the book and subsequent film, I bought and read it, and it fully justifies its status as a modern classic. For those of you who, similarly  have not met this book, it charts the story of Billy Casper, a working class boy in a South Yorkshire mining town, brought up by a single mum in the contrasting proximity of the Pit and the open countryside. He finds redemption from his harsh life and brutal education by capturing, rearing and training a wild Kestrel he names Kes.
          The strengths of this book are the juxtaposition of an existence trammeled by poverty, a lack of hope that arises from a total lack of expectation and ambition from an education system that has already labeled him as a failure, and the symbolic …

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