Stephen Kelman - Pigeon English (4 stars)

Stephen Kelman's much-vaunted social drama of race and manhood.

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Pigeon English

Stephen Kelman went from redundant council administrator to becoming the subject of a 12-way publisher bidding war thanks to this exceptional debut novel. Penned with that unburdened lightness of touch perhaps only a writer who never believed his words would make it to print can muster, it’s not difficult to see why the interest was so great.

Harrison Opoku is an 11-year-old Ghanaian immigrant who lives in a derelict inner-city London tower block with his mum and sister. Following the fatal ‘chooking’ (stabbing) of a schoolmate, he launches his own investigation into the murder, while observing with hilarious and touching naivety the peculiarities of sink-estate life and its ubiquitous characters: local gang members, assorted alkies, petty thieves and destitutes, and even the manky pigeon that visits his balcony (and in turn watches over him, guardian angel-style).

An innocent abroad who draws Adidas stripes on his pound-store trainers and prays heaven is a place where goals have nets ‘so you don’t have to run miles to get the ball every time you score a goal’, Opoku’s plight is both heart-warming and heartbreaking, as his actions unwittingly speed the inevitable cruel crash of manhood into his quietly contented world.

Published by Bloomsbury.

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