Afternoon all, Mad Martha with you again! Now Pigeon English by Stephan Kelman has been waiting on the shelf for quite a long while now, ever since I saw it in a second hand bookshop after having briefly read a review a month or two prior and remembering that it sounded like something I might possibly be interested in reading if I could find the time or motivation. I can now happily report that I have picked it off the pile and finished it, and am all the better for it.
Pigeon English relates the thoughts of Harri, an eleven year old boy who has recently migrated from Ghana to London with his mother and older sister. The story opens with Harri reflecting on the recent stabbing death of a boy in his neighbourhood, and continues on through a six-period during which Harri spends time investigating the boy’s murder, learning about girls, the social pecking order and certain English turns of phrase, and generally growing up. The pigeon of the title refers to a bird that alights on the balcony of Harri’s apartment one day, beginning a (slightly one-sided) companionship that develops during the second half of the book.
This book really surprised me. I was expecting a run-of-the-mill puberty story with the slight point of difference of a migrant’s perspective, but Kelman has really created a likeable character in Harri and has given him a charming, cheeky and endearing voice. Another great strength of this book is the issues with which it deals (specifically, the culture of violence, bravado and peer-pressure that exists in some sections of youthful society). The ending of this book came as a major shock, although admittedly the clues are clearly stated earlier in the story should the reader wish to take note.
But to cut a long story into seventeen syllables, here is my haiku review of Pigeon English:
A boy and a bird
present in living colour,
learning love and loss
I thoroughly recommend this book although I feel I must warn you that while the protagonist is quite young, the language use and some of the content suggest that this is a read for slightly older children (middle to late teens).
Until next time,