I've been reading this book with my Year 10 pupils as part of their exam preparation. I had never read the book, having only seen the film I managed to pick it as their essential read for a two year course! I really enjoyed it and thought it created a fantastic state of place so thought I'd review it on here in case anyone is interested. It also fits in with the Novella Challenge perfectly.
The novel is set in Nothern England in the 1960s. Set in a small working class town dominated by the coal mines, boys grow up pretty secure in the knowledge that they are heading for a working life spent in the mines just like their fathers and their fathers before that.
Billy, the novels main charcter is determined not to end up working in the mines. His life pretty much sucks! He lives in a single parent family (when those things were rare!), with a mother and brother too interested in drinking and gambling to pay attention to matters such as ensuring their is enough food in the cupboard, or that Billy is at home staying out of trouble. School isn't any better, the boy is bullied by both teachers and pupils, the classes just fill his day untill he is able to leave school and go start working life.
Billy's only escape from this is through training a kestrel, its the one thing in life that he is good at, the one thing he enjoys.
The descriptions in this novel create vivid pictures in your head of the various areas of Billy's life, from the cold bedroom, the council estate to the countryside surrounding the town.