Wednesday, April 20, 2016

MISTER PIP






Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones, Dial Press, 2006, 256 pp
 
 
Summary from Goodreads: In a novel that is at once intense, beautiful, and fablelike, Lloyd Jones weaves a transcendent story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the power of narrative to transform our lives.

On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, where the teachers have fled with most everyone else, only one white man chooses to stay behind: the eccentric Mr. Watts, object of much curiosity and scorn, who sweeps out the ruined schoolhouse and begins to read to the children each day from Charles Dickens's classic Great Expectations.
 
 
My Review:
A friend from one of my reading groups loaned this book to me, saying that it was a special book for her. I convinced another one of my groups to read it and we all found it special and great.
 
Thirteen-year-old Matilda lives in extreme times on a tiny tropical island near Papua New Guinea. Because the island is rich in copper it has been mined for a long time by an Australian company. In the early 1990s when the story opens, Bougainville Island is beset by civil war over ownership of the mines. Who knew that was going on then?

Mr Watts (called Pop Eye by the natives) is the only white man remaining on the island. He has stayed behind after all the other whites have abandoned the place because his wife is a native. He takes on the role of Matilda's village school teacher and along with math, etc, reads the students a chapter a day from Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. 
 
The kids are captivated. Pip begins to invade their minds and dreams as well as the village because they go home and tell their parents the story. But Matilda, whose father left for the mainland six years ago and has not been heard of since, begins to look at Mr Watts as a father figure. Meanwhile she is navigating her devoutly Christian mother's inexplicable moods. Her imagination becomes taken over by the young orphan Pip, Miss Havershim, the other characters, and London.
 
It is an unusual story about the effects of white culture on a native island recently occupied by priests and businessmen but now taken over by Charles Dickens. Of course, as the civil war escalates, it all gets mashed up into catastrophe. Reading about the way Matilda makes her way through it all, in the captivating first person voice of her older self, was as captivating to my imagination as Pip's voice was to Matilda.

Great Expectations is my favorite of the Dickens novels I have read. Lloyd Jones somewhat parallels the twists and turns of that novel and Matilda's fate does so as well.

What I took away was the idea that cultures may mingle and borrow from each other, but to most people, home is home.


(Mister Pip is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

13 comments:

  1. Hmm what an unusual little story. Does Pip's voice help save her in the end? I think that is my favorite Dickens novel so far as well. Various versions have been done of it -- but nothing perhaps like this!

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    1. I can't answer your questions without a spoiler. Maybe I could say Dickens helps her save herself.

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  2. Sounds like Mr. Dickens (instead of religion) helped to spread the whites culture in the island.

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    1. Well yes, at least for Mathilda.

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  3. What a fascinating review of what sounds like a unique book. I can see why both your friend and you consider it "special."

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  4. I love when I read a book that is unique!

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  5. Oh my. We were assigned Great Expectations in eleventh grade English class. For four decades, it was the only book in my life that I didn't, couldn't, finish once I had started it.

    Although Mr. Pip sounds intriguing, I think my experience with Great Expectations would get in my way of enjoying it.

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  6. I can certainly understand that!

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  7. Hello dear Judy!! This book sounds interesting. I am always fascinated by your reviews and "behind scenes". I am ashamed, but confess I have never read Dickens; -(((

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    1. I think a reader could enjoy Mister Pip without having read Dickens. I never read Dickens until a few years ago. I started with David Copperfield.

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  8. Thanks for sending me the link to this, Judy. The book sounds interesting, although I usually don't like this kind of genre. But since you told me you liked it, I will put it on my wishlist.

    Happy Reading,
    Marianne from
    Let's Read

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    1. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it.

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    2. I'm sure I'll read it one day, just my TBR pile is getting larger and larger ... ;)

      Happy Weekend,
      Marianne from
      Let's Read

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