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Mister Pip [Hardcover]

Lloyd Jones
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 31 2007
After the trouble starts and the soldiers arrive on Matilda’s island, only one white person stays behind. Mr. Watts, whom the kids call Pop Eye, wears a red nose and pulls his wife around on a trolley, and he steps in to teach the children when there is no one else. His only lessons consist of reading from his battered copy of Great Expectations, a book by his friend Mr. Dickens.

For Matilda, Dickens’s hero Pip becomes as real to her as her own mother, and the greatest friendship of her life has begun. Soon Mr. Watts’s book begins to inflame the children’s imaginations with dreams about Dickens’s London and the larger world. But how will they answer when the soldiers demand to know: where is this man named Pip?

Set against the stunning beauty of Bougainville in the South Pacific during the civil war in the early 1990s, Lloyd Jones’s breathtaking novel shows what magic a child’s imagination makes possible even in the face of terrible violence and what power stories have to fuel the imagination.

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From Publishers Weekly

A promising though ultimately overwrought portrayal of the small rebellions and crises of disillusionment that constitute a young narrator's coming-of-age unfolds against an ominous backdrop of war in Jones's latest. When the conflict between the natives and the invading redskin soldiers erupts on an unnamed tropical island in the early 1990s, 13-year-old Matilda Laimo and her mother, Dolores, are unified with the rest of their village in their efforts for survival. Amid the chaos, Mr. Watts, the only white local (he is married to a native), offers to fill in as the children's schoolteacher and teaches from Dickens's Great Expectations. The precocious Matilda, who forms a strong attachment to the novel's hero, Pip, uses the teachings as escapism, which rankles Dolores, who considers her daughter's fixation blasphemous. With a mixture of thrill and unease, Matilda discovers independent thought, and Jones captures the intricate, emotionally loaded evolution of the mother-daughter relationship. Jones (The Book of Fame; Biografi) presents a carefully laid groundwork in the tense interactions between Matilda, Dolores and Mr. Watts, but the extreme violence toward the end of the novel doesn't quite work. Jones's prose is faultless, however, and the story is innovative enough to overcome the misplayed tragedy. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This prizewinning novel by New Zealand author Jones is an eloquent homage to the power of storytelling. Thirteen-year-old Matilda is at a loss to understand the violence that has torn apart her tropical island. Her village, caught in the cross fire of the conflict between government troops and local armed rebels, has lost its teachers. The only white man to stay behind, the eccentric Mr. Watts, married to a local woman who is generally thought to be mad, takes over the post as teacher and begins to read to the class from his favorite novel, Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. Initially flummoxed by the meanings of such alien words as frost and moors, Matilda and her classmates soon become entirely riveted by the story and identify so heavily with the orphan Pip that Victorian England becomes more real to them than their own hometown. Provided with firsthand evidence of the power of imagination, Matilda increasingly sees it as a way to survive and even thrive amid the chaos of civil war. The accessible narrative, with its direct and graceful prose, belies the sophistication of its telling as Jones addresses head-on the effects of imperialism and the redemptive power of art. Wilkinson, Joanne --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Keeper of a Story May 24 2008
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
If you're like me, reading a good novel involves getting intricately involved in the life and times of its main characters. The internationally acclaimed New Zealand novelist, Lloyd Jones, has produced just such a literary gem that grants the reader a chance to get up close with various types who are struggling to define themselves in the story. The setting is a war-torn island off Papua-New Guinea, where the locals are beseiged on all sides by foreign troops, rebels, and aimless do-gooders like the Watts who have wandered in from somewhere south. The story involves Matilda and her mother trying to cope while the father is working in eastern Australia. Along comes Mr. Watts, who suddenly appears in the local village as the new school teacher. The single, solitary lesson for that year consist of Watts retelling Dickens's "Great Expectations" as it focuses on the life of Pip. He tells it so well that he succeeds in making Matilda actually conceive Pip as a real person in her very parochial existence. The adventures of Pip as he tries to make sense of his chaotic life in Victorian England start to play out as a reference in Matilda's equally uncertain life. The past quickly becomes the present as the children start to see Pip's prospects as being theirs in the future. The old cultural traditions and superstitions of the island get cast aside as even the older generation start to take an interest in this unfolding story. Just as it is wrapping up, the violence of the modern age intrudes on this little fantasy world that is starting to form. The island is attacked by rebel forces and Matilda's sense of hope bound up in this new found identity called Pip is destroyed. Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story for Booklovers June 24 2009
This book begs to be read over and over. It's a coming of age story. It's a story about racism, mother daughter relations,and it takes place in a remote island near Australia during a time of war. Matilda, a young girl, invites you into her world as she tells the story. You will fall in love with her and life on the island as she is exposed to another world through Dickens timeless novel, Great Expectations. The effect is transforming. She struggles with her mother's values and dilemmas of loyalty. Looking at war through Matilda's eyes is fascinating and heartbreaking. How she will be changed! The writing is superb and the story is enchanting and devastating at the same time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Reason You Went to Books in the First Place Sept. 21 2009
Go away to an island, a place of myth based on real. A fable story that has a "Little Prince" ability, a Haruki Murakami ability to get your imagination flowing but is also political without being big P political. I.e. Interesting, but still fiction-story-stunning. That magic that was the transporting reason you went to books as a kid. That kind of book. But for grownups.

-Bookworm, Movie Nerd
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5.0 out of 5 stars What a masterpiece Oct. 26 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
What a writer. What a book. What a masterpiece. It didn't linger on any event, but pressed on like water round rocks. Descriptions that were sheer poetry and a story that held me captive from beginning to end. This book is a masterpiece. The two award circles on the cover simply are not enough. And if you like this one, read Out Stealing Horses, by Per Pettersen. Another great book. Both wonderfully written for the reader, the author and the critic in you.
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