Pigeon English, Stephen Kelman's debut novel, prompted a protracted bidding war between rival publishers before Bloomsbury eventually got their man. Since its release, the book has been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, the winner of which will be announced in London next week. But is Pigeon English worth all the fuss?
Kelman's novel tells the story of 11-year-old Harrison "Harri" Opoku, who has recently arrived in London from Ghana and lives on the ninth-floor of a crumbling tower block with his mother and Lydia, his older sister. This is the kind of place that will be instantly familiar to anyone who followed the street disturbances in London earlier this year.
Sharp knives and petty street crime populate these pages - there is Terry Takeaway, for instance, named in reference to his fondness for stealing whatever he wants, whenever he wants - but, oddly, these characters aren't crushed by their surroundings, far from it. Kelman's work suggests there is hope in the murky puddles of this downtrodden council estate and in the near-impenetrable patois of these inner-city kids.