Pigeon English- Stephen Kelman

Pigeon English is one of the Waterstone’s 11, you can read my initial thoughts here and find an extract on The Waterstone’s Website

Synopsis (from Amazon)

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.


When I read the Waterstone’s 11 extract for this I was really excited, the first section with the dead boy was moving but believable, Harri didn’t really know the boy, and was equally sorrowful about the death and intrigued. I must admit though that in some sense the extract and the blurb for Pigeon Englishwere misleading. I expected it to be more about the dead boy, but really it was more about life on an inner-city housing estate and learning about a new culture. That’s not really a bad thing, and actually I think I prefer it that way. In some ways there was a disturbing element to this story, that a boy of such innocence could be influenced in some of the ways Harri was, and could just walk into trouble when really he sees what he is doing as a game. I work in a nursery in an area similar to the one in which Harri lives, and it kind of hit close to home and it makes me hope that things will have changed by the time the kids I work with grow up, I don’t want them to end up in some of the troubles that happen in the area.

I found the voice of Harri was really authentic but after a while I did find him a little irritating, especially him constantly saying ‘Asweh’, after a while though I was able to ignore my annoyance as I got more into the actual story. In some ways the way he talked was important to the story, it showed how innocent and naive he really was, and I think that was important, I think I would have just thought he was an idiot if his voice hadn’t been naive, but instead I was wishing for him to talk to someone older about things. The end was absolutely heartbreaking, and brought me close to tears, that’s when I knew I had really come to like Harri.

Was it worth my excitement? Not really but it’s still and thought provoking read and well worth the time.



Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

8 responses to “Pigeon English- Stephen Kelman

  1. I’ve almost finished this now and am finding his voice increasingly irritating. I also don’t get the continual ‘Asweh’ I can’t see myself being moved by the ending, but I look forward to finding out 🙂


  2. Lucybird

    That bit did annoy me right to the end, but I managed to block out the general annoyance, and I think the end made my annoyance less of a bother. I hope you end up liking it


  3. I liked the premise of this one, and think I might enjoy it. Nice review.


  4. Lucybird

    Thanks 🙂 I hope you do like it


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