Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones

Basic plot

Matilda is a 13 year old girl who lives in a remote island ravaged by war. Her only constants are an overbearing mother and an eccentric self-appointed teacher, Mr Watts, who introduces her to Pip. By reading aloud from Charles Dicken's classic novel Great Expectations, this strange white man, sparks a change in the community of which he is an outcast. As her life becomes more uncertain and perilous, Matilda takes comfort in a world so different from her own but draws strength and parallels from this great literary masterpiece. Souls are awakened, imaginations ignited but horror also looms in the future.

What I liked about the book

The idea that a book can be life-changing is so very real. The fact that it is not one of those purely motivational or self-help books is another plus. Once in a while a story is written that transcends generations and cultural boundaries. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, touted to be the greatest novel by the greatest English writer of the nineteenth century, was the perfect book to serve as a basis for this one. Needless to say, that reading this book was made very much more enjoyable due to the fact that I had read Great Expectations during my own childhood but it is not a prerequisite. Like Matilda, I knew Pip (the main character from Great Expectations) when I was in my early teens. Back then, it was just as mind-boggling to me to imagine his world, given the fact that Dicken's in its original text is very heavy reading for a child, so I could relate well to Matilda's questions and queries about him. Jones was very clever in weaving the book into his own, letting it play an important role, shaping his characters but at the same time allowing them to breathe and have a life of their own. The story of Matilda's life unfolded well, and the reader is privy to the cultural vastness of this tiny island and its inhabitants. The war also unfolded and I was always filled with a niggling sense of foreboding, until the unspeakable happened, and even though I was expecting it, the impact left me reeling in shock. A great storyteller indeed.

What I disliked about this book

There is little to dislike about this book and I do agree with the critics in claiming that this is a modern classic, which I think should be read in class to our adolescents (maybe after introducing them to an abridged version of Great Expectations). I do wish that the ending was a little more substantial, but as is, I still think it is a good ending. 

A quote I liked from the book

I do not know what you are supposed to do with memories like these. It feels wrong to want to forget. Perhaps this is why we write these things down, so we can move on. 

Rating: 4/5

This book actually belongs to Lydia  who has been kind enough to lend me this book as part of her book swap project. Siti has also posted a book swap list on her blog. I am delighted that there are book lovers out there who, like me, want to share our passion for reading with others.



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