Accra Book Club and Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English

During April 2012 the Accra Book Club read, met and discussed Pigeon English, by Stephen Kelman. I recommended that we read this book as it had a Ghana connection (perhaps the main reason) and also because it made the UK Booker prize shortlist in 2011, with several good reviews.

Interestingly none of us were really thrilled or highly enthusiastic about this book. Some admitted to not liking child narrators, and felt that Harrison Opoku did not behave in a “realistic” way for an eleven year old, even if he had just come to the UK.

There were also questions about the so-called pidgin English expressions which Harri uses; none of us had heard any of them despite having lived in Ghana for many years. Maybe because of our own Ghana experience somehow aspects of the emigrant/immigrant experience didn’t seem to ring true.

Personally I did wonder where Kelman got the Ghana background from – again, aspects of which grated a bit. We also felt that many of the characters seemed to be stereotypes.

And of course there was the omnipresent pigeon – a pigeon!?

However, this was a first novel, so I suppose one could give the author a bit of slack.

I wonder whether anyone else has read it, and felt this less than complete enthusiasm?


Ghanaian connections to the Man Booker 2011 longlist

The Man Booker longlist for 2011 has just been announced; thanks to my fellow blogger, Nana Fredua Agyeman of Imagenations for alerting me to this.

No Africans on the list, which is sad, BUT there are Ghanaian connections to two of the novels, which is unusual, to put it mildly.

Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English, is a story about eleven year old Harrison Opoku, who is living with his mother and sister in an inner city housing estate.  And yes, Harrison is a Ghanaian, even if the story is set in the UK…

The other Ghana connection is with Canadian author Esi Edugyan, whose parents were immigrants from Ghana.  Although her longlisted book, Half blood blues, is a story of Germany, of music and of betrayal, it is interesting to note that her first book, The second life of Samuel Tyne, is a gothic story focussed on the family of an emigrant from – guess where?  Ghana of course.

Kelman’s book was already on one of my wish lists, and I am happy to say that I have added both of Edugyan’s novels.

So not exactly Ghanaian authors living and working in Ghana, but the connections to this country do keep coming up…  Long let them do so!