Lloyd Jones‘ book Mr Pip was shortlisted for the Man Booker Awards in 2007. The novel is set on the island of Bougainville during a civil war in a village where many people had left in fear of what may happen to them at the hands of the brutal fighters. It is a story of survival amongst the people who were left behind.
I have a particular place in my heart for this story for many reasons – one is that I love the novel “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens which is the only source Mr Watts has to teach the students at the school abandoned by the other ‘white’ teachers. Mr Watts is an oddball character, dressed in a white linen suit and wearing a clown nose, yet his desire to impart something, anything to these children is so admirable. As he struggles to make ‘education’ relevant to them and reads “Great Expectations” to the class and one student, Matilda’s imagination comes to life, so much so she speaks of Pip as a real person. This has dreadful consequences when the soldiers arrive and demand to meet this Pip. That a book can completely transform a person’s perspective, give hope and allow connection even when it is so far from their own experiences is a beautiful notion. In this book, Jones explores that idea and invites his readers to contemplate it too.
Another reason this novel is close to my heart is that it brings to light a terrible war that took place over nine years from 1988 – 1998. Thousands of people lost their lives and yet very few people know anything about it. Jones’s description of the brutality faced by the villagers is not exaggerated. It was a terrible time for these people. The Guardian produced this photo essay showing the war and the peace and reconciliation that is still going on.
Jason Fernandes blogged about “Mr Pip” in 2014 and gives a detailed summary of the book. New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin’s review in 2007 accuses Lloyd of being preachy but forgives him that due to the way he approaches his subject matter.
“Mr Pip” was made into a movie in 2012 – I must admit I have not seen it.
Below is an interview with Lloyd Jones from his Canadian publishers.
Of all the Booker books, even though this was not a winner, I enjoyed this one the most. I will let you read them and make up your own mind.
Amanda Bond is a New Zealand ex-pat currently working as Teacher Librarian in an international school in Istanbul, Turkey. Her twitter handle is @kiwionthego