by Stephen Kelman
2011/263 p. / Kindle
I am sooo glad that the author and protagonist of this fine debut novel are both male. When Harrison, the main character, age 11, talks about urinating on the cleaning bubbles I had to check. Had this NOT been a male author, I was thinking, how the heck would she know? A male author lent some authenticity there and in a couple other places. This is a good thing. (lol) I truly enjoyed this book.
Harrison (Harri) Opoku, our 11-year old protagonist, makes the story come alive with all his love of life, his hopes and fears, his intelligence and imagination. He, his mother and sister have immigrated from Ghana to London where they live in a ghetto area housing project complete with gangs, drugs, and the usual mayhem.
The main plot, which weaves its own way through the narrative, concerns the murder of a boy from the neighborhood. Harrison and his best friend, Dean, decide to play detective.
But the real story is the language, the structure, the immigrant experience of today, the relationships between Harri and his family, his friends and the world – not to mention a pigeon which talks to him lending a kind of magical realism to the entire work. – and it works!
The narrative is peppered with immigrant lingo and gang-slang such as one would hear in a setting like that. It’s perfect. And there are little hand-drawn graphics, just because – kind of like graffiti in the book?
The major theme of protection, who and what all protects you – who do you protect, connects all the dots, from Ghana to … well … to the end. This is not a long book but it wasn’t a quick read for me because it’s so dense with the lingo, metaphors and the rhythms of life.