Posted by: istop4books | February 13, 2009

Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones

Mister Pip Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

My review

 


rating: 4 of 5 stars
An interesting and unusual story that unfolds on an island in Papua New Guinea. Narrated by Matilda, a thoughtful young 13 year old who lives with her mother during the turbulent times of civil war. As all villagers who are able, flee the island for safer grounds, just a handful of neighbors remain, mostly women and children, a couple of older men, and a very odd white guy named Pop Eye and his black wife.   Supply boats no longer stop with goods, the school teachers have left and there is no gas for the generators. The remaining folks make do with fish, fruit, vegetables, a few pigs and chickens.  They live a life of survival, in daily fear of the redskins and the rebels – the two warring factions. The children miss going to school until the only white person left volunteers to take on this task.

Mr. Watts , commonly known as Pop Eye,  is odd, he walks around with a red clown nose and dragging his quiet, unsmiling wife in a trolly.  He promises the kids to do his best and allows for the fact that he won’t be able to answer all their questions.   What he can do is give them something to look forward to.  He introduces the children to the book, Great Expectations, where they meet Mr. Pip. He reads them a chapter a day, and the kids are enthralled.  Watts gently and slowly allows the kids to experiment with their imaginations, to travel to another world without leaving the classroom and to dream of a life without rebels and redskins. At the same time, Matilda is so enthusiastic with this book that she causes her mother to feel pushed aside. This causes quite a riff which I thought was brilliantly explored.

Along the way, the civil war comes front and center to their town and nasty, horrific things occur, which is a common thread in all places ( as a friend in Serbia so eloquently reminded me.)  But at this point, the writing went flat, the author glazed over the disturbing bits and I’m still out on a limb as to whether parts were edited out or if this was intentional. I actually think it might have been intentional to not dwell on these events, as Mr Watts’ importance was not in the ending, but in imparting a love of words, of storytelling, of books and authors. He was able, for a few short months, to give the island kids – who had nothing more than the rags on their backs, an escape, an illusion, and something to look forward to in those days of incredible trials and suffering.

Matilda moves on, grows up and deals with her blackness in a white world.  She learns the real meaning of her time with Pop Eye/Mr. Watts and comes out of it a better person. 

View all my reviews.

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Responses

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