Jo's Reviews > Pigeon English

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
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's review
May 02, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: hometown-glories-uk, just-been-cutting-onions, e, hometown-ya

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 into dangerous territory with devastating consequences.

This book fascinated me, not just because of the realistic portrayal of gangs but also because of Harri's descriptions of his day-to-day life and how radically different his life in the UK is in comparison to his old life in Ghana. Kelman did a stellar job setting up the differences between Harri's culture (especially when describing his mother's beliefs that he picked up and his father's situation back in Ghana) and the culture he is plunged into while in London, where most of his friends are also from different countries and are going through similar things as Harri. London is now a complete cultural melting pot and Kelman perfectly depicted this, with humourous and sometimes shocking consequences.
It is Harri's wide-eyed innocence that makes this book so endearing and a riveting, fascinating read. Harri is definitley one of the best and most authentic narrators I have read for a while. He is intelligent, loveable, always funny and has a great way of observing his surroundings that create, even if his language is simplistic and sometimes misused, a perfect picture in your mind.
I have read a few reviews that have said people were initially put off by the fact that book was narrated by an eleven year old.... but trust me, Harri will win you over. There are some real laugh-out-loud moments, especially when he is talking to his friends at school and his sister, Lydia.
Considering every time I turn the news on, there is a new report of a gang killing (not just in London), 'Pigeon English' was a frighteningly real portrayal of urban crime and the innocent people who get caught in the crossfire.

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Asra Ghouse An echo of my thoughts on the book! Wonderful review :)

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