The Nature of the Beast

Janni Howker, Author Greenwillow Books $11.95 (137p) ISBN 978-0-688-04233-2
Howker's first novel more than lives up to the expectations in readers of her debut, Badger on the Barge and Other Stories. The very young British author's narrator here is Billy Coward, a Lancashire lad. Billy's dad, Ned, and grandfather, Chunder, and all the men in small Haverston are out of work when the mill closes down. The mysterious beast lurking on the moors, slaughtering the town animals, aggravates the desperate situation. To Billy, the predator represents the ills afflicting his only kin and neighbors. He goes off alone to kill the beast, one dark night, and this is the story's hair-trigger climax. But events before and after are what impress one profoundly. This is a tragedy, focusing attention on real people who lose not just necessary wages but dignity, self-respect and hope. Every person involved makes us more aware of human beings as victims of injustice. Howker's perfectly individualized characters compel our caring as we feel them reacting to misfortune in different ways: Chunder changing from a starchy grandad into a fearful, crying old man; Ned driven to vandalism in his impotence; the shop steward cracking up when he realizes the mill owners are lying about ""negotiations to keep open''; Billy's mates and a sympathetic teacher, to name only a few. This is literature. (12up)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1985
Release date: 09/01/1985
Hardcover - 978-0-7451-8503-3
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