A Kestrel for a Knave (Barry Hines)

Quick revise

The novel looks at how life for one boy is dictated by where he lives and the attitudes of those he lives with. All aspects of Billy Casper’s life (other than with Kes) are sad and depressing. Others have a very low expectancy of what Billy can achieve in his life.

Barry Hines uses humour to present aspects of life as a way of lightening the mood and showing that all is not bleak, we can learn from this. The Kestrel (Kes) is Billy’s only source of hope in the novel, an outlet from the rest of his life.

Most of the novel shows a day in Billy’s life in chronological order, but there are a number of flashbacks to other scenes that have relevance to the story (such as finding the kestrel’s nest with babies in it) and also show Billy’s active imagination. The world of the novel is a cruel one and there is little sense of hope at the end of the novel.