Pigeon English, By Stephen Kelman

Meet the gangs 'cause the boys are here

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The Independent Culture

Stephen Kelman's bestselling, Booker-shortlisted debut is narrated by 11-year-old Harrison Opoku, a Ghanaian immigrant who becomes embroiled in a gang war taking place on his south London estate. Harri's voice, with its sprinklings of slang ("dey touch", "dope fine") is beautifully captured, and adult readers will notice a wry edge to his matter-of-fact observations ("grown-ups love sad news ... it gives them something special to pray for").

The "pigeon" on which the title puns – a sort of feathered guardian angel who speaks in the form of italicised platitudes – is a magical conceit that never really comes off. But the violence that surrounds Harri, and his own tragically belated awareness of it, seems all too real.