Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman was the book selected way back in November for us to discuss for January’s meeting and one where we thought the actual blurb and write up on the book gave the plot away. We were all in agreement that the book was readable, however some members thought the narrative was contrived and that the plot was solely based upon the Damilola Taylor story and questioned why the author had chosen purely to write about this situation. I thought it was quite a sad tale of someone wanting to start afresh in a new country, thinking that they were safe and away from any troubles they may have left behind. However, the fact that Harri, the main character’s Mother had paid a known gangster for their ‘safe’ passage to England was the crux of why the story would only end in tragedy.
We agreed that this was an authentic story about the life ‘on the street’ and we were all agreement that sometimes it’s worth not knowing what actual goes on in this situation, but it was certainly an eduction to some members of what is happening inner city in today’s society.
From the outset, Harri was attracted to the gangs, as he felt this was the way of gaining acceptance in a strange country. The fact he mimicked what they wore, but without the right clothing, he could only pretend to have the right trainers by putting the symbol on his trainers with a black marker pen. His sense of loneliness was echoed by the emergence of the pigeon into his life and the fact that this was the only thing that he felt he could talk to. By innocently thinking he could solve a murder case, he began to get involved with the life inside the housing estate that would eventually end in his demise. We all agreed that once you are in that environment of having nothing to do, no money and very little education, it’s very nearly impossible to escape.
A sad tale, but one which we did enjoy. Certainly not our favourite read but one which we felt gave us enough to form a discussion.