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Review: Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones

Matilda’s small island of Bougainville is at war.  The redskins are invaders and many of the young men from her village are engaged in fighting them; she lives her life constantly tense and alert, deprived of many of the privileges she experienced in her youth.  There is no electricity, no running water, no schools, and the villagers must live off the land.  There is just one white man left in the village, and eventually he takes initiative and starts a school.  His teaching consists mainly of reading Great Expectations aloud to the class, and Matilda for the first time discovers the power of literature.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this book.  I absolutely loved when the teacher, Mr Watts, began reading Great Expectations. It was just magical to see Matilda learn about stepping outside of her life for the first time, and she remarks that she feels like she knows Pip and is completely bound up in his story.  She felt like a kindred spirit after that.  The book started out so charming.  The war parts, however, made me distinctly uncomfortable and sad, as one might expect, so the book was certainly not all a joy, and it’s hard to say I enjoy people being hacked into pieces.  It all seems to happen very abruptly, especially when I realized that the author was trying to convey a message about morality.  He asks us to consider what a good person is and what a good person does, and the result was quite shocking and upsetting.

I much preferred the parts on the island to the end of the book, but I appreciated that too.  I can understand why Mister Pip was shortlisted for the Booker prize.  It’s such a compelling tale about the power of story and really looks at the consequences of our actions, the horror of war, and simple goodness.  I was really surprised by what I got out of this slim volume, and I definitely recommend it.

I am an Amazon Associate. I borrowed this book from my local library.

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