REVIEW: Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman


11318230Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
Published by Bloomsbury Books
Publication date March, 1st, 2011
Genres realistic-fiction, mystery, contemporary, crime
Pages 263
Format Paperback
Source Brought

Eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku, the second best runner in Year 7, races through his new life in England in his personalised trainers - the Adidas stripes drawn on with a marker pen - blissfully unaware of the very real threat around him. Newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister Lydia, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of city life, from the bewildering array of Haribo sweets, to the frightening, fascinating gang of older boys from his school. But his life is changed forever when one of his friends are murdered. The victim's football boots hang in tribute to him on railings behind fluorescent tape and a police appeal draws only silence, so Harri decides to act - unwittingly endangering the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to keep them safe.


A mesmerising book that should be loved and treasured by everyone, Pigeon English was such a thrilling novel to read. With witty characters and fantastic chapters, it's no surprise that I fell in love with Kelman's novel as soon as I began it. Pigeon English pulled me into its story that, at first, may appear to be just a fictional story but it actually has a deeper meaning to it behind the plot.

Harrison is eleven-years-old, a lover of sports and naïve to the world - which often leads Harrison to danger. Harrison Opoku is probably one of the most realistic characters I have ever met, he was written phenomenally and his naïvity often reminded me of what I was like when I was eleven - as his childlike nature gave me nostalgia as it kept on reminding me that I was fairly silly when I was younger. Kelman has written a brilliant protagonist in Pigeon English: he was witty, sweet and overall, determined to solve the mystery of who murdered his friend. It's often hard to write in the perspective of a young child, but Kelman has managed to create a likeable character and he does it brilliantly. 

Harrison's family were equally exceptional. Lydia Opoku was possibly one of my favourites because I really enjoyed seeing the brotherly/sisterly love between her and Harrison - as while Lydia wanted to fit in with her new friends, she also wants to protect Harrison from the dangers he's putting himself in. Harrison's mother was amazing, she was incredibly comedic in some areas of the novel and I fell in love with her. I really enjoyed meeting the Pigeon, he was an interesting character that complimented the tone and feel of this one-of-a-kind story. But, I would have loved to see more of Harrison's father as he only had a small part in Pigeon English and I would have enjoyed learning about him more. However, while Kelman has creating a very realistic family, Kelman has also written a dark gang that clearly portrays some gangs in our society today, and he highlights these issues wonderfully. 

The plot of Pigeon English is beautifully intricate, there are wonderful elements of foreshadowing and the was that Kelman addresses our society is just...perfect! I'm purposely going to be bleak about the plot because it's great and the very moment that you're pulled into Kelman's novel, there's no going back.

This book made me laugh, cry and - most importantly - think. Pigeon English is a book to fall in love with - Kelman deals with the shocking reality of teenage violence, and I think it's fantastic that there is a novel out there that is so realistic yet, isn't boring to the point that I believe that I am reading an informative piece of writing, This was just a brilliant novel to read, and it will haunt me for the rest of my days.

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