Before we get started, yes – I do know that is not how you spell Pidgin and no – the title does not need to be changed. By Pigeon English I am referring to the literary novel by Stephen Kelman. I doubt you would have heard of it but if you have congratulations; if you haven’t don’t worry about it. This book came to my attention when I found out it was one of the novels I am studying for my GCSE’s and my friend mentioned to me that it was a tribute to Damilola Taylor. That instantly caught my attention.
Pigeon English is a riveting book following the life of a first-generation immigration by the name of Harrison Opoku who recently relocated from Ghana to Peckham with his mum and older sister Lydia. He is curious, good-natured, and innocent, although at times finds it difficult to maintain this innocence in the face of pervasive peer pressure, crime, and violence that he encounters steadily throughout the whole novel.
‘The flowers on the coffin said Son and Forever. But it felt like Forever was already finished. It felt like somebody took it away when they killed the dead boy. It’s not supposed to happen.’
The novel is thick with character development and enough plot twists to leave your head in a spin, but the steady development of the story allows you to connect deeply with the protagonist and empathise with the growing pains he faces. All throughout the book a cyclical narrative of violence is explored but through the viewpoint of an eleven-year-old not only incites comedy but also allows the reader to experience a different mindset to harrowing experiences.
Pigeon English features many diverse characters all with their own stories to tell however most notably is Harri, the protagonist who is known for overlooking prejudice but most importantly his love of pigeons. There is also Lydia. The sister of Harri and a teenager who is struggling to adapt to a new country but still remember her roots at the same time.
The book is a must read which highlights the issues that some people face on a day to day basis whilst shedding light on a child’s inner world during these experiences!