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Mister Pip ~ Lloyd Jones

February 28, 2010

The Sunday Salon.com

Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: The Dial Press
272 pages
ISBN: 9780385341066

You know that book that you’ve seen everywhere, on every blog, on every book club reading list, every indie store’s “staff favorites” table but you just can’t bring yourself to read? Mister Pip has been that book for me for quite some time. I just wasn’t interested in what I thought was a sleepy island rendition of (shudder) Dickens.

It, as it turns out, is not.

The Pacific island of Bougainville is your average postcard village-populated land mass. There are gekkos instead of running water, huts instead of steel buildings and folklore instead of school books.

Matilda, a preteen, and her classmates have never had any formal instruction and are just fine with this. When war with a violent and intruding people threatens the existence of their peaceful life, Mr. Watts, the last remaining white man on the island, changes that. The island youth, now students, begin to learn about Dickens’ Great Expectations, finding themselves head over heels in love with the story, the characters, even gloomy old England. Of course not all that sounds good is good. The lessons set in motion deep rifts in the community, trouble in tribal warfare and ultimate destruction and devastation as well as love and hope.

In overview, it reads like a warm fuzzy kids’ story but it has deep dark rivers of war and blood that run streaking through it. Tribal and racial lines are woven in as well as themes of the division and possible cohesion placed between old and new, east and west, mainland and island.

Because of the length (or lack there of) and sheer quirkiness of the book, it is hard to explain the true meat of the story. I haven’t read very much Dickens but Jones has made me eager to go grab up any I can find. It also, on more than one occasion, sent me on long bouts of Google searches about late 20th century pacific island life. It is, however short, a powerful little book that will wedge itself into your thoughts well after you’ve put it away.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. jpetroroy permalink
    February 28, 2010 4:10 pm

    Read Bleak House. It’s VERY LONG, but its one of my favorite books of all time 🙂

  2. March 1, 2010 1:15 am

    How weird – I haven’t seen this book anywhere but here! Or maybe, this is the first time I paid attention! ; –) It sounds pretty good. I read Great Expectations a million years ago and don’t remember it much, but maybe I should try to re-tackle that one first!

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