|Image Credit: List.Co.Uk|
Wow. I cannot recollect the last time I finished reading a book in 3 days. Umm. No. That doesn't mean that Pigeon English was this racy thriller that had me gripped. No. While Stephen Kelman writes a wonderful book, Pigeon English is a book that flows easily, not in a 'what happened next' way but in a 'what moved me next' way. I find that I need books like that every now and then. Too often, I end up picking books that move at a pace that would make a snail appear like Usain Bolt in comparison. It's often because the story sounds so wonderfully depressing that I pick it up - and then I find I can't get through. "Why can't you read normal books?" Birdy, one of the reviewers on this blog, asked me once.
Hmm, what is a normal book, I wonder? Pigeon English is not one. Would the current NYT Books bestseller - the EL James trilogy be considered normal? Let's not venture into that one. Stephen Kelman's debut novel was apparently lying in a literary agent's slush pile before around 10 publishers decided they wanted it. Sigh. The stuff that dreams are made of. And even as I drool in envy, I can also drool my praise. Pigeon English is a worthy debut. 11-year-old Harrison (aka "Harri") Opoku is newly arrived from Ghana, and lives in what appears to be a 'bad' neighborhood with his mother and sister, Lydia. As the narrator, Harri is inevitably funny - there is dry humor, naivety and innocence to his voice. And his thoughts and indeed, his English is like none other.
The book opens with a murder - one of Opoku's - classmates is killed, and both Harri and his friend Dean want to play detective. It lends an air of tragedy through the book - and evokes memories of the kind of gang wars that plague the U.K. But don't be fooled into thinking that this is a whodunit. There is simply no such solution. In fact, I was left a bit perplexed about some of the writer's motives. The pigeon, for instance, I just couldn't understand. There was not much of a connection, and it didn't add anything but fluff to the story. Pigeon English though should not be read for the attempt to inject a murder, or fantasy through a talking pigeon - no. It should be read for the wonderfully inventive thoughts of a 11-year old. Thoughts that are hilarious, and yet touching. It should be read for the little things that we sometimes forget after we decide we are grown up enough - the things we do in class, the teachers we love to hate, the wars we fought, the crushes we outgrew, and the sweet things that often come with just being young and free before we chained ourselves. Asweh! I mean it! This book is hutious.
Trivia : Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize 2011
Verdict : A wonderful debut novel that pulsates with promise, and is very very readable.
Rating : 3/5