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Pigeon English Hardcover – July 19, 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize


"This boy’s love letter to the world made me laugh and tremble all the way through. Pigeon English is a triumph." —Emma Donoghue, author of Room


"Remarkable . . . Kelman’s creation is plausible, convincing and often enchanting." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


"Pigeon English in a category beyond genre . . . This [is a] work of deep sympathy and imagination."—Boston Globe


"Continually surprising and endearing . . . There's a sweetnees here that's irresistible." -- Washington Post


"Ingenious . . . Pigeon English packs a wallop." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer


"The mystery is secondary to the pleasures of listening to Harri as he prattles on winningly in a mix of street slang and Ghanaian expressions." —Christian Science Monitor


"Pigeon English is a fascinating look at a culture pushed to the margins by a nation’s economic and empathic indifference." —Time Out Chicago


"A startlingly assured piece of work . . .With a very light touch, Kelman makes us view from a new perspective the kind of story we’re used to reading about in the newspapers . . . Kelman is a writer to watch." —Mystery Scene


"The humour, the resilience, the sheer ebullience of its narrator—a hero for our times—should ensure the book becomes, deservedly, a classic." —Mail on Sunday (UK)


"Pigeon English is a book to fall in love with: a funny book, a true book, a shattering book . . . If you loved Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or Emma Donoghue’s Man Booker–shortlisted Room, you’ll love this book too." —The Times (UK)


"Fantastic . . . it seems hard to believe this is the author’s first book." —Guardian (UK)


"Like Harper Lee’s Scout Finch and Miriam Toews’ Thebes Troutman, Stephen Kelman’s Harri is an original who seems to breathe real oxygen" —Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)


"Rich with lingo, energy, and occasional terror, Pigeon English is a stark and funny look at life in London’s rough housing projects. A compelling anatomy of our inner cities, Stephen Kelman’s debut novel navigates the hectic, modern world while coping with its most violent accompaniments." —Tony D’Souza, author of Whiteman and Mule


"Utterly convincing and deeply moving, this is a book that we should all read if we want to understand the ugly world that we have somehow managed to create on the edges of society." —Clare Morrall, author of the Booker-shortlisted Astonishing Splashes of Colour and The Man Who Disappeared

Book Description

HMH Hardcover, 2011
ISBN 978-0-547-50060-7
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (July 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547500602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547500607
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,134,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Andrew Ellington VINE VOICE on July 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The story of Harri Opuku, an eleven year old immigrant from Ghana living in London with his older sister and mother, is one that may take you by surprise; as it sure did me. Written with a stylish mix of Anthony Burgess, Bret Easton Ellis, JD Salinger and newbie Helen Grant, `Pigeon English' has a heart and soul all its own.

Not to point fingers, but this is everything that `Little Bee' should have been.

Stephen Kelman's debut novel certainly has wet my appetite for more to come, considering that `Pigeon English' had me glued from page one and kept me completely enthralled until the poignant and stunningly tragic conclusion. I cannot wait for him to deliver something of equal ferocity in the form of a sophomore novel. He is one that I am anxious to see what else he has in store; for he certainly has the talent to deliver.

`Pigeon English' tells the story of Harri, a young and naïve boy who is searching for some normalcy in his new environment. Coming to London in hopes of a better life, Harri is in a family divided as he awaits the arrival of his youngest sister and his father from their native Ghana. Harri tries to acquaint himself with his new life, but everything is so different, and when a young boy winds up murdered, Harri finds himself living out a real life horror show. Taking it upon himself to solve the murder, Harri pushes buttons and makes astute observations that betray his innocence and threaten his very life.

But this is all about Kelman, and his ability to create something so fresh with a prose ripe with clichéd opportunities. Instead of succumbing to a predictable thriller-type plot, Kelman makes the focal point of his novel Harri himself.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are three aspects to this debut novel that are probably going to make or break the average reader's reaction to it. The first is that it is largely plotless -- instead it follows an 11-year-old immigrant from Ghana as he makes his way around the impoverished London estate new home. The second is that it is narrated in his broken, or "pidgin" English. And the third is that at the start and end of some chapters, it also features some first-pigeon narration from, well, a pigeon.

Personally, while I tend to prefer plot-driven fiction, I can live with minimal or no plot if there is something to connect with. And in this book, 11-year-old Harrison (aka "Harri") Opoku is such a lovable, naive, child that I couldn't help but connect with his irrepressible spirit. Like Harri, moved from Africa to an alien first-world country at around age 10-11, and found it to be a similarly bewildering and hostile place. Others may find Harri to be too precious or unbelievably innocent, but I fell for him hook, line, and sinker. And to be fair, the book is not entirely plotless, there is a murder mystery to propel things, along with a minor romantic subplot.

I tend to really like writing that has a distinctive sound, from the thick Scots of Irvine Welsh's work to the Edwardian slang of P.G. Wodehouse to the Nadsat Anthony Burgess concocted for A Clockwork Orange.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This Booker Prize longlisted novel is narrated by Harrison Opuku, an 11 year old boy who has recently emigrated to an impoverished south London neighborhood along with his mother and older sister, while his father and baby sister remain behind in Ghana. His mother works long hours as a midwife, and he and his sister Lydia are left mainly to fend for themselves. Harri is a good boy, although a bit naïve in comparison to his classmates and the boys in the neighborhood. He lacks a father or other adult male authority figure that he can relate to, and falls under the influence of a local gang of older boys who terrorize younger kids in his school and conduct random acts of violence in the neighborhood, with little deterrence from the adults who live there or the local police, who are generally viewed as incompetent and hostile.

The novel opens with the stabbing death of a schoolboy on a sidewalk near Harri's flat. Harri does not know the boy well, as he is older and goes to another school, but he and his friends vow to find out who murdered him. Inspired by the American television show CSI, the boys use their fledging detective skills to spy on potential suspects and gather fingerprints and other specimens from the crime scene. Harri is generally well liked by his classmates, as he is a fast runner and a good fighter, and he eagerly participates in typical boyhood pranks and games. His home life is a bit dull, as his older sister finds him to be a bother, and he befriends a pigeon who serves as a companion, confidant, and guardian angel.

As the story progresses, the identity of the boy's killer is obvious to the reader, but not to Harri, whose investigation intensifies as he gathers more clues and puts himself in danger.
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