Mister Pip (2008 fiction winner)
by Lloyd Jones
Text Publishing, Australia; Knopf Canada; Penguin Books, New Zealand; John Murray, UK; The Dial Press, USA
Lloyd Jones' Mister Pip is a profound meditation on the imagination, storytelling, and the rooms that literature opens up within our souls. Living on the Pacific island of Bougainville amidst the ruins of an ongoing, devastating war, young Matilda discovers a universe in Dickens' Great Expectations, as told to the village children by the mysterious outsider, Mr. Watts. Beautifully written and masterfully told, Mister Pip charts the ground where life and literature meet and flourish, and where they must ultimately divide.
You cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames.
After the trouble starts and the soldiers arrive on Matilda's tropical island, only one white person stays behind. Mr Watts wears a red nose and pulls his wife around on a trolley. The kids call him Pop Eye. But there is no one else to teach them their lessons. Mr Watts begins to read aloud to the class from his battered copy of Great Expectations, a book by his friend Mr Dickens.
Soon Dickens' hero Pip starts to come alive for Matilda. She writes his name in the sand and decorates it with shells. Pip becomes as real to her as her own mother, and the greatest friendship of her life has begun.
But Matilda is not the only one who believes in Pip. And, on an island at war, the power of the imagination can be a dangerously provocative thing.
Mister Pip won the 2007 Commonwealth Writers' Prize and was shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize. (Source: textpublishing.com.au)
Lloyd Jones was born in New Zealand in 1955. He is the author of nine previous novels and collections of stories, which include the award-winning The Book of Fame, Biografi, a New York Times Notable Book, Choo Woo, Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance and Paint Your Wife. Lloyd Jones lives in Wellington, New Zealand.
"Roll the drums. Flourish the trumpets. Release the pigeons. Yes, the fanfare accompanying Lloyd Jones' new novel is well-deserved…It reads like the effortless soar and dip of a grand piece of music, thrilling singular voices, the darker, moving chorus, the blend of the light and shade, the thread of grief urgent in every beat and the occasional faint, lingering note of hope…Jones is matchless…Read this novel and Mr Watts, and perhaps Matilda, will migrate instantly into your heart.” — The Age
"In this dazzling story-within-a-story, Jones has created a microcosm of post-colonial literature, hybridising the narratives of black and white races to create a new and resonant fable. On an island split by war, it is a story that unites."— Guardian UK
"Although written by a 50-year-old white male New Zealander in the voice of a teenage Papuan girl, Mister Pip is thoroughly believable and compelling...as a snapshot into the horrors of Bougainville and how white culture has affected the lives of indigenous peoples in every imaginable way while turning its face away from the consequences, Mister Pip is convincing; it is easy to forget this is a novel, and not a personal memoir of a real and horrifying story." — The Globe & Mail
"The fablelike simplicity of Matilda’s telling belies the complexity of the novel, which takes several subtle and unexpected turns." — The New Yorker
"Matilda is in the tradition of Holden Caulfield and Huck Finn, conjuring up an adult world before she can fully understand it; and Mister Pip is a poignant and impressive work which can take its place alongside the classic novels of adolescence." — Times Literary Supplement
Watch an interview with Jones on You Tube.
Read a review of Mister Pip in WaterBridge Review.