Pigeon English

This novel by Stephen Kelman is told in the engaging voice of Harrison, a boy from Ghana, in London to start a new life with his mother and sister (another sister and his father are still in Africa but hoping to come to Britain).  The world as seen by an eleven year old in a new country is fascinating, especially as he tries to negotiate social conventions and the pecking order of school boys.

This is London, though, where knife crime is a big problem; already a teenage boy has been killed and Harri sees himself as the detective who can solve the crime.  This makes him watchful and alert to those around him.  His older sister’s choice of friends is not wise and this brings her and Harri closer to some unsavoury characters.

The world of children trying to be both tougher than they should be and more worldly wise is effectively evoked.  Harri’s voice carries us through the story, observing the world and making sense of it. His optimism is infectious, especially his hope that his younger sister and father will soon arrive and they will all be united.  This is the background for a further, dramatic event that non-plussed me and left me feeling sad about all the Harris in the world.

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