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Pigeon English

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  10,776 ratings  ·  1,137 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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Average rating 3.52  · 
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 ·  10,776 ratings  ·  1,137 reviews

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Nov 04, 2012 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)
May 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
2.5 "well intentioned but sloppy and repetitive" stars !!!

I am a bit surprised that this was a Booker prize nominee for 2011.

An 11 year old refugee from Ghana moves to a poor neighbourhood in London UK and lives his life with his mother and sister while Dad and baby sister remain in Ghana.

He and his friends come upon a crime scene where an older teen boy is stabbed to death and the remainder of the book very loosely and sloppily becomes a bit of a comedic drama about his thinking processes, a
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
Petra X back to reality & the diet!
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
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
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, uk
Easy read.
Was cute reading from a young perspective sometimes.
Did not enjoy the ending. Found it pretty cheesy altogether.
Probs not recommend. Not life changing.
May 21, 2012 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
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
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
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
.....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
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 12, 2013 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
May 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 16, 2012 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
Apr 21, 2012 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
Reindert Van Zwaal
A book that is more about a way of being and thinking than about a story. The book is written in tiny bits and pieces switching from topic every few pages, matching the way of thought of the 11 year old main character. Because of this it didn't really bother me that the book has no real story. The writing style I found original, but I was a bit disturbed by all the violence the kids seemed to think to be normal everyday practice. Some parts were funny, but I wasn't touched. It also didn't seem l ...more
Andrea Mullarkey
Aug 02, 2012 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
Susan Abulhawa
Jun 22, 2015 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.
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
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
Zen Cho
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mainstream
Oh, it was good! I laughed out loud a lot. But it was sad. :( I totally wasn't prepared for the ending, though I knew it had to be kind of abrupt considering how the book was structured. This is one of the books where I thought it'd be really serious and literary and grimdark, and actually it's just very ... cute. With dark currents, of course, and sad serious stuff, but the main character is so cute and good-hearted. Ohhhhh I am sad about the ending now :((( ...more
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a beautiful book. Sad and heartbreaking though. Told in first person by an 11 year old immigrant from Ghana living in council housing in London. His whole environment is ominous and yet he sees beauty and things to love everywhere. He is telling his feelings and experiences to a Pigeon he has “adopted”. The Pigeon might be his guardian angel. Not sure.
Jul 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-owned
Although I'm known to hate on characters with annoying speech patterns (looking at you, The Cacther in the Rye and Everything is Illuminated), this book is incredibly important and the narrator's innocence only makes the situations and issues of the novel more poignant. ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Charm and peril are on full display in Stephen Kelman’s first novel, a finalist for the 2011 Booker Prize. "Pigeon English" is based on the true tale of a 10-year-old Nigerian who was murdered in London in 2000 by other boys just a few years older. That death sentence hangs at the end of this story, but Kelman writes in such a buoyant, delightful voice that you’ll want to forget where the novel is headed, despite some ominous reminders along the way. In a narrative that jumps and darts like its ...more
Mar 14, 2012 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
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
Ravi Gangwani
I think Stephen Kelman might have read 'Paddy Clarke Ha Ha HA!' and 'Curious incident of dog in the nighttime'. And then he must have read of murder of ' Damilola Taylor' ... After that using little bit of his imagination he put all in juicer-mixer grinder and the result was 'Pigeon English'.
The voice it sounded to me like little older version of Paddy Clarke who is solving the murder-case as same on the lines of Chris of 'Curious Incident ... '. Both the books i didn't like much ... Also there
May 02, 2011 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
Jan 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: work
Pigeon English is a striking but rather self-conscious novel that sets out to explore the plight of a naïve, imaginative Ghanaian boy who finds himself thrust into the brutal and casual violence of an inner London school and estate. The story brings to mind the real life murder of Damilola Taylor and there are some nice touches. What would happen if a young Ghanaian boy; naïve, new to an estate, untutored in the mores and codes of behaviour, decided to investigate a gang stabbing. Alongside this ...more
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