BIRDS OF THE AIR by Ray Salisbury


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Salisbury, who's been chronicling the childhood of a Sussex boy named Simon Lewis (Close the Door Behind You, 1983; When the Boys Came Out to Play, 1984), here checks back in on the lad in the early 50's, just as he's about to turn ten. Simon's just the same, a dreamer and an asker of endless why questions who doesn't excel in school but nonetheless seems to have something between his two pink ears. As in the earlier books, he's still taking the rap for the village bullies, Gibbser and Gander, being generally misunderstood by surrounding adults, and running amok in a countryside that seems ever on the verge of transforming itself into the world of The Wind in the Willows. As Simon passes his first decade, he watches the extended Lewis family juggle the responsibility of caring for senile old Gran (Simon's great-grandmother), celebrates his dad's lucrative new job, vandalizes a van blaring campaign slogans for the Conservative Party, kisses a few girls at the back of the schoolyard, attends the Festival of Britain with his class, and then sadly fails the exam that would have sent him on to high school. Thus, the book ends on a chilling note, with Simon forced, for lack of any other options, to run with a violent, lower-class crowd. Perhaps a realistic assessment of the way the English educational system ignores all but the fastest starters, and a subtly successful re-creation of a ten-year-old's point of view. But by now, even Salisbury fans will come away hungry for something more than the countless vignettes from Simon's not-so-wondrous years.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Andre Deutsch--dist. by David & Charles