Friday, 2 September 2011

Pigeon English

Title: Pigeon English

Author: Stephen Kelman

Number of pages: 288

Started: 31 August 2011

Finished: 2 September 2011

Opening words:

You could see the blood. It was darker than you thought. It was all on the ground outside Chicken Joe’s. It just felt crazy.

Jordan: ‘I’ll give you a million quid if you touch it.’

Me: ‘You don’t have a million.’

Jordan: ‘One quid then.’You wanted to touch it but you couldn’t get close enough. There was a line in the way:


If you cross the line you’ll turn to dust.

We weren’t allowed to talk to the policeman, he had to concentrate for if the killer came back. I could see the chains hanging from his belt but I couldn’t see the gun.

Read the first chapter here

Plot summary:

Newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister, eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku lives on the ninth floor of a block of flats on an inner-city housing estate. The second best runner in the whole of Year 7, Harri races through his new life in his personalised trainers - the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen - blissfully unaware of the very real threat all around him. With equal fascination for the local gang - the Dell Farm Crew - and the pigeon who visits his balcony, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of his new life in England: watching, listening, and learning the tricks of urban survival. But when a boy is knifed to death on the high street and a police appeal for witnesses draws only silence, Harri decides to start a murder investigation of his own. In doing so, he unwittingly endangers the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to try and keep them safe. A story of innocence and experience, hope and harsh reality, Pigeon English is a spellbinding portrayal of a boy balancing on the edge of manhood and of the forces around him that try to shape the way he falls.

What I thought:

Pigeon English was loosely based on the story of Damilola Taylor. It told the story of a boy newly arrived in London from Ghana. He was a likeable character and narrator, although there were some occasions where I found his commentary a touch grating. I got that he was young and perhaps a bit naïve, but I felt this got overplayed a bit.

There was also the pigeon. I am not sure about what I thought of the role of the pigeon, and its intermittent role as narrator and wise bird. I can see that it did ultimately tie the book together, but I am not sure I like animals being included in this way.

This book was amusing in places and nicely written, and it was an easy and quick read. It is actually quite difficult to comment on the book without revealing some key parts of the plot though. So, I shall say that it was well worth a read, particularly if you like pigeons.

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