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Pigeon English

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  8,199 Ratings  ·  942 Reviews
Lying in front of Harrison Opoku is a body, the body of one of his classmates, a boy known for his crazy basketball skills, who seems to have been murdered for his dinner.

Armed with a pair of camouflage binoculars and detective techniques absorbed from television shows like CSI, Harri and his best friend, Dean, plot to bring the perpetrator to justice. They gather evidence
Hardcover, 263 pages
Published July 19th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Petra X
May 05, 2015 Petra X rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
This book is about a kid from a Ghanian family living on a rough council estate in London and his experiences after seeing a murdered child. It's told in a very authentic voice, the writing very emotive - the bullies hurt me, the murder worried me, I felt for the family still at home in Africa and I hoped he'd get through, still the same go-for-it, full-off-life kid. There was one irritating note which was that there was a pigeon whose voice could only be 'heard' by the reader. It really spoiled ...more
Nov 05, 2012 Snotchocheez rated it really liked it

Asweh, I spent hell of donkey hours reading this, got ants in my pant getting through the pigeon parts (hutious! Made me go red-eyes proper), wore out my bo-stylez trainers (Diadoras) walking back and forth laughing full stop and getting all stomachy over the mad crazy adventures of Harri and his sister Chlamydia. For real. Advise yourself!!! Totally fine good book, better than X-Men, innit.

(but for realz for real, a very impressive first novel by Stephen Kelman. Pigeon English's obvious (to me)
K.D. Absolutely
A novel with a very strong message yet the telling is very soft, innocent and sweet. It’s like listening to the flapping of the wings of a butterfly: the sound it creates is almost inaudible yet its impact can cross oceans. This novel was one of the 5 shortlisted novels for Booker 2011 but in the final deliberation lost to Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending. But in my humble opinion, this is better. Probably the reason why it went to Barnes was: this is Stephen Kelman’s first novel while Juli ...more
Pedro Benoliel
Yesterday I bought a book. It was called Pigeon English. It only cost 50p from the cancer shop. I don't think it has cancer though. I bought it because the cover was bo-styles. There was also a bit about an award.

BOOK COVER: 'Shortlisted for the Man Booker Award 2011'.

I read it right after I bought it. It was on the train. The train takes one hour and twenty minutes to get to Waterloo. And then I was on the bus. And then another bus. And all the time I read this book. It was pretty good. It was
Asweh, it was very funny reading this book. But it was also very sad. It took donkey years for me to get through the first half of the book; the pidgin-Londonese sounded dey touch to me. And the story was heavy in my hands.

But 11-year-old Harri Opoku from Ghana grew on me, and I gradually learned the lingo. In a violent, gritty council estate, Harri struggles to get through the days, trying to solve the murder of a boy with his best friend, Dean; everybody is afraid to speak to the police, and
Harrison Opoku, an 11-year-old boy whose family have recently arrived in England from his native Ghana, is the narrator of this sad and funny hybrid of a coming-of-age tale and and a murder mystery. At the beginning of the book, a boy Harri vaguely knows is stabbed and killed, and he and his friend Dean set out to catch the murderer. Their mission forms the backdrop for Harri's lengthy observations on life in England: the social hierarchy of his school, a first crush on classmate Poppy, home lif ...more
May 25, 2012 ·Karen· rated it did not like it
Shelves: brits
I would have liked to hear more from the pigeon.

No, actually that's not true. Harri's repetitious, boring style grates very quickly and I thought to begin with that the voice in italics would be a bit of relief. Which just goes to show that I'm not much good at thinking. The voice in italics turned out to be a pigeon. Come on. In the words of Big John McEnroe - you cannot be serious.

Plot so thin as to be utterly transparent, two narrative voices that are properly vexing, this doesn't have an awf
Sep 21, 2011 Marialyce rated it it was ok
.....and the reason this has been nominated for the Mann Booker award is??????

A good concept gone totally wrong.....

I have to say that I have never been a fan of a child narrator. I think it takes an especially gifted author to speak authentically as a child unless that author is a child himself.

I didn't care for the absolute jumpiness of the story, written as though the narrator was on something and in somewhat hyper text pieces that were interjected. The characters did not appeal to me and a
Told from the perspective of Harri, an eleven year old who recently moved from Ghana to an inner city council estate, this novel perfectly depicts the horrifying reality of gangs and knife-crime in London.
When a boy is murdered outside a fast food restaurant, Harri and his CSI-obsessed friend Dean take it upon themselves to investigate the crime themselves. However in an estate which is run by the Dell Farm Crew and where the police can't be trusted, Harri's innocent investigations lead him int
Aug 09, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: loanable, novels, teen
There are three aspects to this debut novel that are probably going to make or break the average reader's reaction to it. The first is that it is largely plotless -- instead it follows an 11-year-old immigrant from Ghana as he makes his way around the impoverished London estate new home. The second is that it is narrated in his broken, or "pidgin" English. And the third is that at the start and end of some chapters, it also features some first-pigeon narration from, well, a pigeon.

Personally, wh
Aug 21, 2013 Stephanie rated it really liked it
I should probably write a long detailed review of this book; it really deserves it. But I am not the most articulate person and I don't feel I could give it it's due praise in words that would convey how I felt about it.

I should have known that reading a book in a language other than my own would be difficult; I speak American Southern English and this is written in London slang English. Yes, I got most of it but much of it was truly a foreign language. I still don't know what "hutious" means an
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman is the story of a young boy, newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister, making his way through the mean streets of London. Eleven year old Harrison Opatu is filled with gusto-for life, for language, for experiences of all kinds. He is filled with the magic of childhood. His relationship with his sister Lydia feels real and authentic. His mother is trying her best to support her children as a nurse while keeping them safe and instilling good values ...more
Andrea Mullarkey
Aug 02, 2012 Andrea Mullarkey rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I like to read books nobody is talking about so I can champion them and find them new readers. And sometimes I just want to read the book everybody else is talking about. Pigeon English was one of those books. It’s the story of 11 year old Harrison Opuku, an immigrant from Ghana living in a London housing project. It’s a first person narrative and I had the distinct sense I was watching the world through Harri’s eyes. He has very clear ideas about the world and how it works, though of ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Sandie rated it it was amazing
Prepare to fall in love. Harrison Opuku bursts off the page and into the reader’s heart. Harri is eleven, a recent immigrant from Ghana. He is now living in England with his mother and sister; his father, grandmother and baby sister left behind until the family can afford for them to come also. Living in the projects, Harri is amazed at all the new things he sees. The subway is an amazing item that he can’t quite believe work. He thinks it is bo-styles; the word for the ultimate cool. He is thri ...more
I might have enjoyed this book a bit more had I not felt like I was paging through my 5th grade diary the entire time. The narrator—an 11-year-old Ghanian immigrant named Harrison—isn't what you'd call precocious exactly, but he's sweet and uncorrupted despite the urban blight surrounding him. While the other boys in the council houses are busy sticking each other with sharp objects and threatening each other with violence, Harrison is deeply concerned about pigeons, stray animals and his father ...more
Mar 13, 2012 Tamaracj rated it did not like it
If it were possible to give this book zero stars, I would. Although the premise behind it is interesting and novel enough- looking at the troubled marginalized youth in London's inner city from their own perspective - the execution was atrocious. I can't recall the last time I skipped through so many pages of a book. The idea of the eleven year old as narrator works for the first few pages. Then, as 'yout speak' does, it just starts to grate on you. What I found ironic was that the book received ...more
There is a frightening irony about this story by Stephan Kelman; the reader finds herself willing the narrator, a recent immigrant, to return to the peace and security of his African village and so escape the jungle of a modern British housing estate. Kelman doesn't pull any punches as he describes, through the eyes of this eleven year old Ghanaian, the dangers which beset the young and the old, the handicapped and the marginalised in the the modern urban ghetto, a grim underworld where senseles ...more
Susan Abulhawa
Jun 22, 2015 Susan Abulhawa rated it it was amazing
this was a tender, beautifully told story. written in the voice of eleven year old Harri, recently arrived in London with his mum and sister from Ghana. His father, grandmother and baby sister Agnes stay behind until the family can afford to be reunited. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, this coming of age [combined with murder mystery] grabbed me by the heart with urban London slang, ‘pidgin’ English. It was a bo-styles story. Harri was an utterly lovable character that I’ll not soon forget.
May 02, 2011 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: passed-on
Sometimes all you need to pull you into a book, to take you to places that maybe you wouldn't usually choose to go is a voice. A voice that makes you believe and care.

Pigeon English, Stephen Kelman's debut novel, speaks with one of those voices.

It belongs to eleven year old Harri. He, his mother and his elder sister have come to London, leaving his father, grandmother and another sister behind in Ghana until they can find the means to join them. Harri's new life begins high in a tower block in t
Mar 14, 2012 Alistair rated it it was ok
It was okay, about summarises it.
The trouble with books which have been shortlisted, or awarded something, is that you approach them expecting to be impressed. I wasn't impressed. I didn't dislike it, it was not bad, I just wasn't impressed.
Good things:
- I like a child narrator. I think it's probably an easy way to get sympathy for your main character. On the whole, I liked his figure of speech, though it was not in itself enough to keep me interested.
- It made me think a little about what life
Grace Harwood
Jul 16, 2013 Grace Harwood rated it it was amazing
I came to this book out of curiosity because I'd heard so much about the author and how he'd had so many offers from publishers for his first book when he was an unknown author. It's so hard to get published (it took me five years to get even one offer for my book), I was just so envious of this author and how easy he'd found it to get that book deal. And then I read it - and suddenly, I understood. Pigeon English is an AMAZING book. It so deserves to be published. The subject matter is sometime ...more
John Frankham
Aug 20, 2015 John Frankham rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
An 11 or 12 year-old first-person narrative telling of five months in the life of a Ghanaian boy in a London housing estate. Gangs and violence, and worse, underpin the whole story.

Of the 30+ books in the modern novel category in my GR list, this has the lowest-but-one overall rating, yet has a great number of 5-stars as well as 1-stars.

I can see the parallels mentioned by the author, the blurb, and reviewers - with Tom Sawyer, The Catcher In The Rye, and so on, but for me it fails utterly.

The s
Gozde V
I like Man Booker books. I like reading them. But every once in a while, I can't help but think some of them are just overrated.

My mood usually affects my overall liking of the book I'm currently reading and I was in a pretty down mood when I was reading Pigeon English. But to be honest, I don't think my thoughts would differ even if I was in my most cheery self.

I'm sure Mr. Kelman has created some loveable characters but sadly, I could feel no sympathy towards any of them. Yes, even Harri.

I d
Aug 10, 2015 Sub_zero rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reto-2015
Este es uno de esos libros que por su extrema peculiaridad obligan al lector a tomar posiciones muy alejadas de lo que se considera habitual. En mi caso, Los consejos de la paloma funcionó bastante bien durante su primer tercio; Kelman consigue crear una voz única a partir de los deslavazados pensamientos de su protagonista, un niño de once años procedente de Ghana que subsiste en un suburbio londinense frecuentado por individuos de la peor calaña. Se trata de un singular coming-of-age repleto d ...more
Jan 11, 2011 Janet rated it really liked it
Eleven year old Harrison (Harri to his friends) Opuku is a recent arrival to England from Ghana. He is still young enough to believe he can influence the world around him by whether or not he steps on cracks in the sidewalks, but at the same time old enough to be approached by the neighborhood gangs as a potential member. It is this juxtaposition of innocence and experience that I found so interesting about this book.

The story begins with the murder of a local teenager and is told from Harri's
Robyn Smith
Jun 26, 2011 Robyn Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very sad, moving story of an 11-year-old Ghanaian boy living on a housing estate in Britain, trying to survive the machinations of gang members and his sister's friends who sexually abuse and harass him. There is also his relationship with one of many pigeons who visit his flat who seems to serve as his guardian angel.
However, he witnesses an act of extreme brutality, which pervades the book with a sense of menace present throughout.
Told in the boy's voice, with its intriguing mix of African a
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is the first book I read from the longlist for the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

I really enjoyed this. Harri, the eleven-year-old protagonist, is a (possibly illegal) immigrant from Ghana, living in the projects in London. The book is full of a mixture of slang and beliefs from Ghana and his new community. Like most children, he doesn't fully understand what is going on around him, and has no grasp of the danger and violence he is surrounded by. I think that makes the story more compelling than i
Kathy Hiester
Sep 27, 2011 Kathy Hiester rated it it was amazing
Pigeon Engish is a heart breaking story at Harri, who along with his sister and mother, move from Ghana to an indigent inner city project. Harri makes a convincing eleven year old narrator, feisty and first, in disparity to the misfortune that surround him in the form of dearth, prostitution and gangs. As Harri tries to navigate his new life he finds himself evenly deterred but yet enthralled by the crime that surrounds him. I was extremely touched by and dismayed by many elements of this story, ...more
Jul 31, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing
This was my second reading of 'Pigeon English' and despite finding it as compelling as the first reading, I had to keep stopping for breaks because I couldn't bear the thought of what would happen to Harri. The characterisation in this novel is amazing! Brilliant work. I skipped over the pigeon snippets, I just couldn't suspend my disbelief enough. Despite these, this book is a must. Read it and weep; you will.
Mar 25, 2012 Donna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting narration which i struggled with but also enjoyed. The ending shocked me but only because despite expecting it i didn't want it to happen.

I probably wouldn't recommend it but can definitely see the story being told happening up and down our inner cities.

its shocking and scary, emotional and enthralling all wrapped up in 263 pages.
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