Mister Pip

Mister Pip

3.66 (14,331 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

An inventive and original novel from this multi-award-winning author. Lloyd Jones' new novel is set mainly in a small village on Bougainville, a country torn apart by civil war. Mathilda attends the school set up by Mr Watts, the only white man on the island. By his own admission he's not much of a teacher and proceeds to educate the children by reading them Great Expectations. Mathilda falls in love with the novel, strongly identifying with Pip. The promise of the next chapter is what keeps her going; Pip's story protects her from the horror of what is happening around her - helicopters menacing the skies above the village and rebel raids on the ground. When the rebels visit the village searching for any remaining men to join their cause, they discover the name Pip written in the sand and instigate a search for him. When Pip can't be found the soldiers destroy the book. Mr Watts then encourages the children to retell the story from their memories. Then when the rebels invade the village, the teacher tells them a story which lasts seven nights, about a boy named Pip, and a convict...Years later, when she has fled the island for Australia, Matilda reaches for a copy of Great Expectations in the school library and realises that Mr Watts was reading them his own version of the text, another 'invention' of the original. Later she pursues Mr Watts's memory to Wellington, New Zealand, and that of Dickens and Pip to London and Gravesend. Jones frames Matilda's story with Pip's story and so creates a Pacific Great Expectations. Mister Pip explores notions of storytelling, and the role of imagination in inventing the self. Lloyd Jones always surprises, never stands still. This is inspired storytelling.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 240 pages
  • Penguin Group (NZ)
  • Penguin Books (NZ)
  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • 0143020897
  • 9780143020899

Author information

Lloyd Jones is an award-winning and critically-acclaimed author. Mr Pip has received universal critical acclaim and is being published world-wide. His novel The Book of Fame (2000) won the Deutz Medal for Fiction at the 2001 Montana Book Awards and the Tasmania Pacific Fiction Prize in 2003, and was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2003. His novel, Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance, was joint runner-up of the Deutz Medal for Fiction at the 2002 Montana Book Awards. It was co-published in Australia by Penguin Books. Lloyd Jones's other books include the controversial Biografi (1993), a travel book set in Albania in the aftermath of Communism. Biografi was judged one of the best books of the year in 1993 by the New York Times. His collection of short stories, Swimming to Australia (1991), was shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards. Choo Woo (1998), a dark and disturbing novel on the subject of child abuse, was published in New Zealand and Australia. Lloyd Jones lives in Wellington and publishes essays by New Zealand writers under his imprint the Four Winds Press.show more

Review Text

Bringing Great Expectations to desperate children ravaged by revolution, an eccentric teacher becomes a martyr to literature and transforms the prospects of a strong-willed girl. He's actually "Mr. Watts." But so identified does he become with Dickens' wondrous coming-of-age narrative that he's known as "Mr. Pip." Jones (Paint Your Wife, 2004, etc.) juxtaposes this English exile, married to a native black woman and now the last white man on an unspecified Survivor-style island, with teenaged Matilda, his most eager student. He's a stopgap professor, really, just volunteering to instruct 20 kids, seven to 15 years old, who gather for shelter from the war between the "redskins" and the "rebels." A long-bearded Scheherazade in a white linen suit, Watts draws out the telling of Dickens' classic to the children and soon we have the age-old tale: story as balm, spell, savior. He also invites the island mothers in for show 'n' tell: chances to share their wisdom. They offer fishing tips; rhapsodies of the sea; and one tells of a woman who "once turned a white man into marmalade and spread him onto her toast." That tale spinner is Matilda's mother, and she becomes Watts's rival, her pidgin Bible contrasting his Victorian tale; she is imperiled nature; he's threatening culture. He reminisces about "the smell of fresh-mown grass and lawnmower oil"; she fears the capture of her daughter's soul. And yet in time, for Matilda's sake, the pair negotiate a tremulous peace - one soon savaged by murder, as the redskins descend. As the revolution intensifies, the schoolhouse burns, along with Great Expectations. And Watts's last injunction to his students is that they rebuild the story orally, for themselves, piece by piece. A little Gauguin, a bit of Lord Jim, the novel's lyricism evokes great beauty and great pain. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

14,331 ratings
3.66 out of 5 stars
5 20% (2,830)
4 40% (5,717)
3 29% (4,210)
2 9% (1,236)
1 2% (338)
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