Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

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Author Lloyd Jones obviously enjoys Charles Dickens and the novel Great Expectations in particular. But his novel Mister Pip (published 2006) even more celebrates the power of the written word and story in our everyday life. Matilda is a teenager on a small forgotten Pacific island that is ravaged by Civil War. Pop Eye (aka Mr. Watts), the last white man on the island, steps in to teach the school and does so by reading the children Great Expectations every day. As the children on the island immerse themselves in the foreign world of Victorian London, they find that Pip’s story in a distant and unknown world helps them cope with the horrors of their daily life.

The situations the islanders face are horrific: one should be aware that the book contains brutality and rape in it, albeit tactfully written about (if such subjects are actually able to be carefully approached, I think he did so). Yet Pip’s coming-of-age story was a comfort to the children in the school, and when life got too hard for these children who had nothing, they could mentally escape to Victorian London and ponder Pip’s plight. The Mister Pip of the title could refer to their teacher (Mr. Watts) or Matilda and the other children. He was their “everyman.”

If the novel has a fault, it is that it ends rather abruptly. I was not satisfied with the last fifty pages of Matilda’s story, as Lloyd Jones parallels her story to Pip’s. But as I mentioned, the majority of the book focused on the power of the story, and I loved that. If you likewise appreciate the power of story in helping one find peace, you may enjoy Mister Pip. You should read Great Expectations first, however, as Mister Pip is full of Dickens’s plot details.

I enjoyed Mister Pip for the most part, but I won’t be returning to it. No, when I next feel the craving, I want to be taken away to Victorian London in the pages of Dickens’s masterpiece: Great Expectations. Just like Matilda, I loved it.

Reviewed on September 22, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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