Pigeon English

Author: Stephen Kelman

I selected this book from a pile of recommendations shared with me as part of a Book Spa at the wonderful Simply Books in Bramhall. It’s not something I would have necessarily chosen for myself when just browsing a bookshop but I really enjoyed it. Another book with an unexpected twist at the end and tears shed along the way. It was published by Bloomsbury in 2011 and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.

Set in a very realistic, fictional housing estate in London, the story deals with rising knife crime, impact of gangs and the realities of life growing up in such an atmosphere and environment. It is told from the first person perspective of Harrison – the 11 year old main character who has moved to London from Ghana with his mum and sister.

The stylised writing took a little while to get used to but once I had read the first chapter or two it became effortless. This way of writing was impactful – as you become completely immersed in the character (his thoughts, emotions and skittish internal monologue). You really get a sense of what his life is like and the impact of his circumstances.

From the start, it centres around the murder of a young boy, by stabbing, on the estate. Alongside his friends, Harri sets about trying to identify the killer whilst navigating the usual trials and tribulations of a pre-teen facing peer pressure, negative influences, family dynamics, hormones and friendships.

This is a moving, hard-hitting and relevant novel that will unfortunately reflect the lives of many young people today.


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