Wow I didn t expect this when I started reading What a well told story.There are opposites throughout idyllic island surrounding Victorian London peaceful island rebels militia Great Expectations no expectations The juxtapositions are harsh and affective Mr Watts, the only white man on the island, takes it upon himself to teach the children during times of war after the school has been closed He uses Great Expectations as a textbook, teaching the children of a world beyond their own, asking them to open their imaginations The parallels similarities between the two worlds are wonderfully interwoven as the story reveals itself.Mr Watts will stay with me What a wonderful character Flawed and yet perfect at the same time. What a nearly perfect book, especially right after reading the original Pip Great Expectations A white NZ man introduces the black children of the tiny island of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea to Great Expectations against a background of civil war with the redskins from the larger island I don t want to give any of the plot away and I recommend that you do not read the jacket cover This is an intensely moving, lyrical book. In A Novel That Is At Once Intense, Beautiful, And Fablelike, Lloyd Jones Weaves A Transcendent Story That Celebrates The Resilience Of The Human Spirit And The Power Of Narrative To Transform Our LivesOn A Copper Rich Tropical Island Shattered By War, Where The Teachers Have Fled With Most Everyone Else, Only One White Man Chooses To Stay Behind The Eccentric Mr Watts, Object Of Much Curiosity And Scorn, Who Sweeps Out The Ruined Schoolhouse And Begins To Read To The Children Each Day From Charles Dickens S Classic Great ExpectationsSo Begins This Rare, Original Story About The Abiding Strength That Imagination, Once Ignited, Can Provide As Artillery Echoes In The Mountains, Thirteen Year Old Matilda And Her Peers Are Riveted By The Adventures Of A Young Orphan Named Pip In A City Called London, A City Whose Contours Soon Become Real Than Their Own Blighted Landscape As Mr Watts Says, A Person Entranced By A Book Simply Forgets To Breathe Soon Come The Rest Of The Villagers, Initially Threatened, Finally Inspired To Share Tales Of Their Own That Bring Alive The Rich Mythology Of Their Past But In A Ravaged Place Where Even Children Are Forced To Live By Their Wits And Daily Survival Is The Only Objective, Imagination Can Be A Dangerous Thing This is a fascinating book ostensibly about an isolated island in the south Pacific and its inhabitants caught in a war over a copper mine The lone white man on the island decides to help the children through the tension by reading from Great Expectations, and various repercussions follow But, the story is so much In fact, I think I ll need to read it again to really understand it Right now, I d say it s about the power of stories and how they shape our lives how they provide context and meaning and explanation in circumstances that can provide none of this This is one to keep on your shelf and go back to The writing is powerful and the characters are hard to shake, even after you ve finished the book. Mister Pip written by Lloyd Jones focuses on the power of imagination and the ability of literature to act as an escape from reality Mr Watt is one of the few remaining white men after the war begins on the island of Bougainville He becomes a teacher for the native children of the island and uses Charles Dicken s Great Expectations to teach the children about the importance of imagination Pip is significant to Jones s novel because he is the main character of Great Expectations that Mr Watts uses to show the children about foreign ideas and morals Mister Pip expresses the conditions of war, tension between people of different races, and the importance of education.Mister Pip emphasizes the relationship between Mr Watts, a white man, and the native islanders of Bougainville, black people There is lots of tenstion between the adult islanders, including Dolores, Matilda s mom, and Mr Watts Meanwhile the children of the island, especially Mr Watts star pupil, Matilda, all get along with and look up to Mr Watts Mr Watts uses Great Expectations to teach the children about a world they do not know He shows them a world they can escape to This is helpful as the island is in a time of war which largely affects the quality of life for the islanders.Living in a place of war largely consumes Jones s plot The war turns friends against each other, such as when an islanders brother returns from the rambo camp and the community is scared the redskins will discover him, which would make them a rebel village Jones 82 The fear of what the redskins are capable of keeps the islanders from offering help to the rebel group This expresses the power of fear to readers and sheds light on a mostly unexperienced topic.Tension between white people and black people in this book provides commentary on not belonging This is seen when Mr Watts comments on being as lonely as the last mammoth Jones 112 Both racial groups feel like they do not belong amongst the other due to emphasis that society puts on the color of their skin This idea is also known in todays society, feeling different or having a sense that one does not belong is common and relatable This intensifies the bond the reader feels to Mister Pip s characters and amplifies the books message of war, equality, and imagination.Lloyd Jone s book also comments on the importance of education This idea is expressed through Mr Pip who gives himself to the children of the island, and encourages the elders of the island to share their knowledge with the young Jones emphasizes the importance of literature through Mr Watts emphasis on the importance of Great Expectations For example, Matilda comments that, No one had ever told us kids to look there in a book for a friend Or that you could slip inside the skin of another Or travel to another place Jones 24.Lloyd Jones uses his novel Mister Pip to bring the experience of living in war to america s door He expresses the effect feeling different can have on a man s behavior, and analyses the way literature can help readers escape the misfortune of their lives. I ve had this book on my shelf for a few years now, and when New Zealand came up as the first country in the Travelling the World challenge, it seemed like fate that I d waited this long to read it Well, the author s a Kiwi but the book is actually set on the small tropical island of Bougainville, near Papua New Guinea, in the 1990s It s the kind of tropical island where communities live in small villages by the beach, amidst the jungle, living off fish and coconuts, chicken and pigs Matilda lives with her mother her father got a job with the mine and, when it closed, moved to Queensland for a new job in Townsville they haven t seen him since, though postcards and occasional gifts still arrive When the small island descends into war between islanders protesting the environmental impact and poor compensation to the landowners by the copper mine, and armed soldiers called redskins by the islanders , Matilda s small community does its best to continue on as always, even though their young men and boys are leaving to fight with the rebels and they have to hide in the bush every time a helicopter comes by.Amongst these deeply black skinned islanders is one white man, nicknamed Pop Eye , who lives in the old missionary house with his possibly crazy wife, Grace Pop Eye or Mr Watts takes it upon himself to teach the village s children in the old abandoned schoolhouse There are no resources for the children, but Mr Watts brings an old copy of Great Expectations, which he reads to the kids The story and the setting is completely foreign to them, but it engages their minds to the fullest and sparks their imaginations Matilda especially thinks of the characters in a personal way, and takes a keen interest in Pip, writing his name in the sand and decorating it with shells.When the soldiers come through and take down the villagers names, the one person unaccounted for is this Pip whose name they found on the beach Ill, malnourished and looking almost insane, the soldiers are determined to find this missing villager, who they believe is a rebel the village is hiding They are unable to believe in Pip being a fictional character, and the book itself is missing Without the book, Mr Watts gives the children a new task to remember the book, and resurrect it.The political and historical backdrop is essentially just that, a backdrop, to the real themes of the novel but it is one of those skilfully depicted, moving and deeply tragic backdrops that provide than context to the main story Set in any other time or place, Matilda s story of awakening imagination and the freedom it brings would have little impact, or much less anyway The juxtaposition of this comparatively frivolous story of the orphan boy and his great expectations against the frightening reality of armed soldiers and rebels terrorising villagers, of the blockade preventing resources from reaching them, of the lack of international interest in what was happening on their island, is powerful, complex and fascinating On a smaller scale, Matilda experiences the conflict between her mother, a god fearing woman, and Mr Watts, an atheist.As we progressed through the book something happened to me At some point I felt myself enter the story I hadn t been assigned a part nothing like that I wasn t identifiable on the page, but I was there I knew that orphaned white kid and that small, fragile place he squeezed into between his awful sister and lovable Joe Gargery, because the same space came to exist between Mr Watts and my mum And I knew I would have to choose between the two pp.46 7 Not only does the novel express the importance of imagination and of having the words to express yourself, but it also shows the timeless quality of great fiction As western students we routinely moan about having to study Shakespeare, never really understanding the relevance because the teacher doesn t get it either it s just on the curriculum But these stories survive and live on in our imaginations for many reasons, not least of all the universality of their stories within a white, Anglo Western European context, mostly Matilda and Mister Pip show that even a black person from a tropical island who can t even picture English marshes or pork pies, can relate to the core themes of a story, the essentials, the characters and their relationships It s a shared human experience, isn t it Take the essential elements of the story and transpose them to an African country, or an Asian one would they necessarily change all that much This is part of what keeps these stories alive at the academic level, I m sure.As a story, it s simply and beautifully told in Matilda s older voice, and while you might think that by looking back and writing this story as a young, well educated woman, she would provide adult insight and context, I loved that she shared her story as the child she was when it happened that is, with her child s understanding There are moments when Matilda will explain things, but you never lose the impression of her as a child and young teenager, experiencing all these things You really come to believe in her and her world, and care deeply for them all.Mr Watts or Mister Pip as he was, in one sense is another strong character, as is Matilda s mother Mr Watts is a curiosity in the village, an oddity, as is his wife Grace who grew up on the island but left to continue her education, returning years later a broken woman in the company of a quiet white man He s a familiar character to us not least because he s identifiable, being white and of our world, but also because he embodies that subtle, sardonic persona that you can find in Dickens and other western works Yet, through Matilda s eyes, we see and feel his strangeness, and our own It s quite wonderfully done.It s a surprisingly quick read, if you have the time to sit down with it and not be distracted, and it s easily accessible to younger readers I would say it s a benefit to have read Great Expectations first, to better understand the details from the story that are talked about between Mr Watts and the children, and also because there are spoilers in this for the older book If you haven t read the Dickens book, this might encourage you I hope so, it s worth reading. Unconvincing narrator, condescending, patronizing, less than successful end Other than that it s an OK story Note to middle aged white guys think twice before writing as 13 year old black island girl. My friend Rose, who also is reading Mister Pip, early on described the book as schmaltzy, and I am inclined to agree Treacly might be another good word And the book often comes across as condescending toward anyone who isn t white, though I m sure Lloyd Jones didn t mean for it to be.If Mister Pip is ever turned into a movie, it s a given that the role of Mr Watts will go to Robin Williams, in his inspiring teacher mode but wearing that fucking clown nose from Patch Adams Without giving too much about Mister Pip away, the only consolation for those of us who dislike Robin Williams would be Mr Watts ultimate fate That actually might make the movie worth seeing.Also, and this is just a pet peeve of mine, but I m getting pretty tired of supposedly inspiring novels that focus on the act of reading and how much literature enhances our lives Look, I know being a dedicated reader is something of a rarity these days, but that doesn t justify the number of books out there that glorify the act of reading Just as we don t need dozens upon dozens of movies about film making nor do we need countless television shows about the production of television shows, we also don t need this many books about reading It comes across as book porn, and it s wearying.OK, rant over Despite all my complaints, Mister Pip is skillfully written, with some nice descriptions of Matilda s island and the people who live on it I just didn t care for the book s theme nor how cloying it often is. This is when two and a half stars would be handy I really couldn t stand this book for a couple of reasons when I first started reading it It has a narrative voice that sounds like an oldish adult trying to sound like a five year old Jones writes in staccato sentences that are occasionally poetic but often tend toward a voice I will refer to as Tragic Deadpan, a voice that was also used to disastrous effect in Octavia Butler s writing It is uniquely unenlightening on the plight of the Papuan masses, though I can now rest assured that I should be glad not to be a member of that immiserated bunch Worst of all, toward the beginning the novel reads like Dead Poets Society type teacher schmaltz Being a teacher does sensitize one to the presumption that a good teacher is a combination of Erasmus, Steve Martin, and Mother Teresa But the ending was really good, in an inconclusive, life sucks, Coetzee kind of way I wasn t expecting it to go in quite the direction that it did I certainly wasn t expecting it to be as horrifyingly violent, especially since a lot of it is YA than Bookeresque It also made me go directly on to my fourth attempt to read Bleak House, no small feat Anyway, read it and let me know what you think And maybe you can explain to me why everyone is saying this book takes place on some anonymous island, when we are told that a the village in question has copper mines nearby, b the place is within boating distance of the Solomons, and c the main character s father worked in Arawa All of which narrow it down to Bougainville Re reading a firm favourite can be salutary, a cure for that breathless over enthusiasm that marked the initial reaction I m not sure if anything can recapture the emotional punch in the solar plexus this book gave me the first time round Appalled outrage at the fact that the civil war in the 1990s on the island of Bougainville which blasts devastation through the narrator s life was barely reported in any Western media shocked horror at the atrocities all based on fact painful, gut wrenching empathy with the main characters that gasp of recognition as the plot unfurls nail biting concern for the fate of Matilda deep tenderness and appreciation for a whole book dedicated to the power of narrative joy at those few funny or uplifting moments satisfaction at a well rounded finish.A second read will usually reveal the stitching, it is rarely the same seamless slide It can be like seeing the winches, pulleys and traps that are necessary to create a stage illusion, either your admiration for the cunning construction is confirmed, or you re left wondering how you ever fell for it.Or can it be a bit of both What carries this novel is that absolutely convincing voice That deceptively simple voice Straightforward, unsentimental, modest, unsophisticated Short, easy sentences in plain English So easy to read that it s easy to overlook the pulleys and ropes The narrator, Matilda, has a wondrous eye for the telling detail how it s only the dogs and chickens that have names that hide from the helicopters with the people in the jungle She reads body language, she sees her mother When she dug in her heels all her heft raced to the surface of her skin It was almost as if there were friction between her skin and the trailing air Hardly the language of a 13 year old, but it slips through, it works, why ever not Maybe it s the grown up Matilda talking there.The plot is beautifully worked What at first seems to risk turning into clich , the transformative power of an inspirational teacher la Mr Chips or Mr Keating is first undermined and then complicated, turning into a Shakespearian tussle with guilt, revenge and redemption One slight caveat it founders a little after the shock of the worst atrocities Matilda has to get out, how that is managed is just a little messy and wet and reminiscent of The Mill on the Floss But that was my only quibble, not enough to really detract from the sum.What I did notice this time was that occasionally it got a bit preachy Some of the Big Themes were flagged up a little too obviously, a bit too clearly signposted It s not going to be one of those where you can discover and it s all there on the surface for you, ready to pick up like a shell from the beach That s fine it is a wondrous thing of beauty with an iridescent, pearly sheen that will sit on your shelf and whisper to you again when you hold it to your ear.