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Written by Timothy Sexton
You could see the blood. It was darker than you thought. It was all on the ground outside Chicken Joe’s. It just felt crazy.
Jordan: ‘I’ll give you a million quid if you touch it.’
The novel’s opening lines delivers two important pieces of information in a quick and efficient manner. The world these characters inhabit is violent. And these characters are still innocent enough to see the blood of a victim of violence as something on which to take a dare.
This is me nine storeys up, perched on a windowsill quietly straining the remnants of my last millet meal. This is me pitying you, that your lives are so short and nothing’s ever fair. I didn’t know the boy who died, he wasn’t mine. But I do know the shape of a mother’s grief, I know how it clings like those resilient blackberries that prosper by the side of a motorway. Sorry, and everything.
After about thirty pages of narration by Harri, suddenly there is an interlude of sorts and the narration is delivered by the narrator’s “special pigeon.” The interruption of the narrative by these occasional philosophical musings of the pigeon are examples of “magic realism” in a novel that otherwise manifests no signature of that particular genre.
The dead boy was brilliant at basketball. One time he scored a basket from one end of the court to the other.
The blood outside Chicken Joe’s belongs to a murder victim who remains unnamed is only (and often) referred to as “the dead boy.” The lack of proper identification of the boy by name and the implicit disrespect of such casual reference to him exemplifies the novel’s themes about identity, class, status and culture.
Manik’s papa’s quite hutious. He’s always red-eyes. He knows swordfighting. Asweh, I’m glad I’m not Manik’s enemy!
Harri’s narration and dialogue is peppered with slang from his native Ghana. “Hutious” means scary or menacing. “Red-eyes” is a descriptive metaphor for rage or anger. “Asweh” is just what it sounds like: a way of saying “I swear.” The judicious use of such language endows the narration with a unique sense of character and the patois is for the most part easily defined through contextual connotation. Most importantly for most readers is that it doesn’t become intrusive with so many additions that one is constantly having to look up meanings like, for instance, the invented Nadsat of A Clockwork Orange.
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