Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review: Mister Pip

Mister PipMister Pip by Lloyd Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It begins as an inspiring story about Mr. Watts, the only white man left on a Polynesian island, who begins to teach the village children after civil war erupts and all the educated people leave. His only textbook is "Great Expectations" and daily lessons are taught by members of the community. But things quickly change as the rebels and national army creep closer...

I loved the first half of this book. The breezy island feel of a community coming together to educate the children. Mr. Watts, the unpretentious outsider who tries to be a gentleman through it all. Learning about a part of the world I didn't know existed.

But this is one of the saddest books I've ever read. I was reading it on an airplane and tears were streaming down my face. I had to close the book and try to think of something else. It wasn't a good cry either. I didn't know what to do with myself and was so thankful I didn't have a seatmate!

Mister Pip is narrated by 13-year-old Matilda, which is the book's greatest strength and weakness. Lloyd Jones-as-Matilda's narration is not all that convincing (clumsily going to extremes in an at times awkward plot)- until the last 100 pages or so. Then all pretenses are stripped away and Matilda's recalled childhood begins to fit into the larger scheme of her life. What ultimately saves this section is the very last sentence of the book, as the author primarily takes the "and this is my story and I live with it" approach that leaves me with an unsatisfying resolution (which reminds me of my reaction to the film "Precious"). Maybe this is just a matter of personal preference, though.

Also, if you have not read "Great Expectations," I would strongly suggest doing that first before reading "Mister Pip."

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