Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Pigeon English

Written by Stephen Kelman

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Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011 One of the most urgent and important books of the year, Pigeon English is full of tragedy and despair but also shot through with a fragile but unwavering strand of hope.

Harri Opoku is newly arrived on the run down London estate that will be his home. There’s much to learn; how to fit in, who to trust, what to fight for. Hari does all he can to keep a low profile and to run with the pack enough not to get caught out alone. But, when his friend is murdered, Harri’s unswerving determination to find out the truth makes him vulnerable. Very vulnerable.

Stephen Kelman pulls no punches in this frightening realistic portrait of growing up today.


Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku, the second best runner in Year 7, races through his new life in England with his personalised trainers - the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen - blissfully unaware of the very real threat around him. Newly-arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister Lydia, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of city life, from the bewildering array of Haribo sweets, to the frightening, fascinating gang of older boys from his school. But his life is changed forever when one of his friends is murdered. As the victim's nearly new football boots hang in tribute on railings behind fluorescent tape and a police appeal draws only silence, Harri decides to act, unwittingly endangering the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to keep them safe.

From Autumn 2015, Stephen Kelman's deeply funny, moving idiosyncratic and unforgettable novel will be an AQA GCSE English Literature set text.


'Simultaneously accurate and fantastical, 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

'Pigeon English is a book to fall in love with: a funny book, a true book, a shattering book' Erica Wagner, The Times

'Stephen Kelman's [first novel] has a powerful story, a pacy plot and engaging characters. It paints a vivid portrait with honesty, sympathy and wit, of a much neglected milieu, and it addresses urgent social questions. It is horrifying, tender and funny ... Brilliant' Daily Telegraph

'The humour, the resilience, the sheer ebullience of its narrator - a hero for our times - should ensure the book becomes, deservedly, a classic' Daily Mail

About the Author

Stephen Kelman

Stephen Kelman was born in Luton in 1976. After finishing his degree he worked variously as a warehouse operative, a careworker, and in marketing and local government administration. He decided to pursue his writing seriously in 2005, and has completed several feature screenplays since then. Pigeon English is his first novel; he is currently working on his second.

Author photo © Jonathan Ring

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Book Info


272 pages


Stephen Kelman
More books by Stephen Kelman


Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Publication date

9th April 2015




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