Friday, October 27, 2006

Mister Pip. Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones

In a small village Bougainville during the civil of the early 1990s, Matilda’s thirteen-year old routine life is disrupted as her school is forced to close. The remaining white man on the island, Mr. Watts, agrees to teach classes at the school. His classes consist of reading Dickens’ Great Expectations from start to finish. Matilda is cast under the spell of the story and her constant enthusiasm for the character Pip raises the ire of her devout Christian mother who becomes concerned at Matilda’s fascination with fiction.

After finishing the novel I read Nicholas Reed’s review in The Listener and I pretty much agree with his verdict. The success of the novel lies in its overcoming of what on first glance look like insurmountable obstacles; it seems unbelievable that the character of Pip would be so appealing to Matilda, or that we we, as readers, would accept Watts as as a great white cultural hero bringing Dickens to Bougainville. The novel works as a parable of the power of literature to exceed cultural or historical constraints by its appeal to readers’ imaginations and by the escape it offers from daily reality. You can’t keep a good story or a good literary character down. The novel’s canny enough to complicate the mechanics of storytelling. In telling Great Expectations Watts transforms the story much in the same way that the Christian gospels are transformed in different tellings and different readings. Jones never lets these reflections on storytelling, truth and morality (as a code or way of living one’s life) get in the way of his dramatic story and one of the real pleasures of the book is the steady pacing—this is a marvelously orchestrated novel and definitely one of my favourite books of the year.

Image from Bookclub NZ.

And here's a bit of fun: Wired's six word science fiction stories.
Hey, perhaps The Listener could one! (6-words).

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