No Way But Gentlenesse: A Memoir of How Kes, My Kestrel, Changed My Life No Way But Gentlenesse: A Memoir of How Kes, My Kestrel, Changed My Life by Richard Hines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Richard Hines is a Yorkshire man through and through. Raised in, Hoyland Common, mining was the chosen career of his father and grandfather and many of the men in the village. He remember sliding down heaps of waste, hearing of accidents in the pit; knowing that his father would open the door the same time after a shift; there was that dread in the stomach that came when he was late. Sitting the eleven plus exam, it was hoped that he would pass and follow his brother Barry to grammar school. He failed and entered the local secondary modern school; a place that sought to crush the spirit and hopes of all children it was supposed to be teaching.

Despondent because of the cruel antics of the teachers and the system, Richard spent time walking the fields beyond the slag heaps. It was whilst walking the grounds of a ruin he saw a kestrel fly into its nest. Spellbound by the sight, it motivated him to head to the library to discover more on the ancient sport of falconry. They wouldn’t lend him the book, so he ended up buying that and many others as he devoured every piece of information he could about raptors. Having read everything it was time to find a hawk, and a friend of his came up trumps bringing him his first kestrel; Kes. Just from the information in these books he trained his bird, from the very first stages to flying it with lures.

If the name Kes is familiar, there was a film of the same name about a boy learning to love nature and training his kestrel. The film was based on the book, A Kestrel for a Knave written by one Barry Hines, Richards brother. Richard was employed on the film to train the actor and the three kestrels required for all the filming.

This is a fine quality memoir, full of gentle, lyrical prose. It is a sad book to read too; he didn’t have that educational opportunity that his brother did, ending up at the secondary modern, future potentially dashed. Life as the son of a miner was tough too, you never knew if you would see your father again when he left for work in the morning. The descriptions of the natural world that surrounded the man made waste from the mine make for good reading too. Mostly this is about the birds; that you can take a creature that is so very wild, and with persuasion and gentle coercion make it respond to your commands.

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