Tag Archives: Stephen Kelman

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.

Review

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.

4/5

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

The Waterstones 11: Pigeon English


So it’s been a while since I’ve done this but I did promise to review extracts from all of the Waterstone’s 11.

The Waterstone’s 11 are a group of 11 books by new authors that will (or have) be(en) released in 2011.

You can read my reviews for:

The Coincidence Engine, The Sentamentalists, When God was a Rabbit (whole book review), The Tiger’s Wife, and, City of Bohane

Pigeon English- Stephen Kelman

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. (from Waterstones)

Thoughts from Synopsis

Pigeon English has already been released and I’m quite eager to get a hold of a copy based on the synopsis. I think it would be interesting to see about the contrasting cultures and it sounds like it may be written in a pretty engaging way. Plus on a personal note it sounds like it could be set in the area where I work (although there are areas like it up and down the country). The added crime element I think will add some excitement, which may make it more readable and stop it being to slow or pondering.

Thoughts from extract

I liked the tone of Pigeon English a lot, it reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and looking at the synopsis again it may have other similarities. The tone was really innocent and child-like but talking about serious things, somehow it made some things seem sadder because it was almost brutally honest. I could really imagine that English was not the boys original language, or at least not the slang that he heard having moved to England. It was really simple and easy to read but I don’t think it lost anything from that, it just seemed more authentic.

It makes me more sure that it will be how I imagined from the synopsis, and I certainly would like to keep reading.

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Filed under Fiction review