It took me 40p to get truely involved in this story - approx. 1/4 of the book. That quarter sets the background for what is to come in the remainder, when the protagonist, Billy, goes to school and one day shows the hilarity, banality, hopelessness and tragedy that surely will be a microcosm of Billy's whole life.
For me, school was not nearly so grim as for Billy, but I could relate strongly to his experience; casual cruelty (from teachers), injustice, bullying, that one teacher who is still capable of seeing pupils as human beings, fighting a losing battle against the indifference of all the others. Best days of our lives? I always thought that was some kind of sick joke. I was never so glad as to be out of that environment. Billy is 15 and will shortly be out of it, too. He doesn't have the fun and excitement of University and myriad possibilities afterward to look forward to, though. He's not that bright and there aren't many options. All he really knows is that he doesn't want to go down the pit. A mine that twenty years later would probably be closed, like almost every other in Britain, leaving him almost middle aged with no useful skills, not that he or the author would have known that. Since his father left home, his mother is going through the motions of raising him, more interested in her affairs, his brother hates him and there's little money. About the only thing Billy has of any value, and that to him alone, is the kestrel he trained himself. Is that enough?
Powerful, simple writing carries this story of working class northern Britain in the 1960s to an end likely to induce despair.