THE GAMEKEEPER

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First published in 1975, this British blue-collar novel follows a year in the life of gamekeeper George Purse, who left a big city steel mill to work at a duke’s expansive country estate in hopes of creating a better life for his wife and young children. Purse’s primary duty is to prepare his assigned 5,000 acres for a once-yearly pheasant hunt, requiring him to raise the fowl while protecting them from poacher and predator. The gamekeeper pursues his duties with stoic dedication throughout the seasons, often putting himself and his eldest son at odds with neighbors who question his dogged commitment to restricting access to lands of abundance the nobleman rarely visits. Written in a biographical style that is light on plot, the narrative unravels as a linear series of vignettes that document the gamekeeper’s daily life: his routines, tools, and practices. Hines has a keen eye for nature, and his prose is at its finest when describing Purse’s adventures on the lush landscapes, especially his interactions with animals. Though disparities of class and privilege cast a persistent shadow across the pages, they are more a snapshot in time than a challenge, much like the antiquated depiction of gender roles in this nearly half-century-old novel. The storytelling is engaging, with sincere moments of humor and introspection, but the limited scope of the story makes arrival at the final pages a little less rewarding, an additional stop rather than a destination.

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