Friday, July 1, 2011

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Normally I don’t read books with kid main characters (unless it’s a kids’ book), but I read a glowing review of Pigeon English that said it’s for anyone who loved Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha. OK, that’s me. So I started it on my lunch break and immediately couldn’t put it down. Like Paddy Clark, this is a novel told so closely from the point of view of the main character that I absolutely felt like I was seeing the world through his eyes, living inside his thoughts.
Twelve-year-old Harrison Opuku has recently moved from Ghana to a large housing estate (that’s British for the projects) in London and he’s trying to understand his new world and his place in it. His narration is a funny, endearing, wonderfully confusing mixture of British and Ghanaian slang. I’m still not 100% sure what hutious means. When a boy in Harri’s class is killed, possibly by the menacing Dell Farm Crew, Harri and a friend decide to use their detective skills to find out what happened. This isn’t really a mystery though. This is Harri’s story. He is so in love with the world and so fascinated with his surroundings that he could have become ridiculous at any moment, but Kelman manages to keep him filled with joy and real at the same time. This would make a fantastic book club selection – was Harri real for you, what do you think about the ending, what about the sections from the point of view of Harri’s pigeon? It’s on the short list for the Booker Prize and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it wins.