aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

It's all about the voice - Pigeon English

There are many parts that make a good book: plot, characters, dialog, setting. One thing that can make a book really special is a great narrative voice (usually first person, but not always). I feel like I can explain a little bit about how to craft a good plot, interesting characters, riveting dialog, an unusual setting.

But voice?

Voice, to me, seems like magic. How do you channel another human being so perfectly? I have no idea. I'm not sure I'll ever be really talented in this area.

I just finished Pigeon English. And if you are at all interested in reading a completely captivating voice, you should read this book. (In some ways, it's similar to Room: A Novel, another book for adults told by a child who doesn't understand the implications of everything.)

This is the American cover

This is the Britsh cover, which I like much better, although it bears a strong resemblance to another British import that I believe covers some of the same themes

From page 53:
Mamma doesn't like the shows, she says there's too much jibber-jabber. Her only favorite show is the news. Somebody dies on the news every day. Its nearly always a child. Sometimes they're chooked like the dead boy and somethings they're shot or run over by a car. One time a little girl got eaten by a dog. They showed a pictured of the dog and he looked just like Harvey. They little girl must have pulled his tail. Dogs only attack people who are cruel to them. Somebody should have told her to never pull a dog's tail,, they don't like it. Nobody told her and that's why she's dead.

Mamma likes it best when it's a child who died. That's when she prays the hardest. She prays proper hard and squeezes you until you think you're going to burst. Grownups love sad news, it give them something special to pray for. That's why the news is always sad. They haven't found the dead boy's killer yet.

I believe that is the voice of an 11-year-old. I even believe him as a Ghanian immigrant, a harder trick for a white guy to pull off, even if his bio does say he grew up in a housing project similar to the one he sets his book in.

In the book, Harrison Opuku, the narrator, sets out to find the killer of another boy in the projects. I quite liked it. The only thing that came as a surprise was the end, because there were still pages and pages left to turn, but they turned out to be acknowledgements and a reader's guide. Mentally, though, I wasn't prepared for the end because of the pages still waiting in my right hand.

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Tags: dueling covers, good stuff, voice

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