Book Five: Mr Pip, Lloyd Jones

mr-pipPeople who like books and reading like to read books about books and reading. And as you would assume that novelists are included in that bunch of  ‘people’ there are a lot of novels out there with books, reading, libraries and authors as their theme. Mr Pip is a novel about how one novel in particular was an integral part of a girl’s life and the affect it had on her life.

The novel in question is Great Expectations. This was probably the main reason I wanted to read Lloyd Jones’ award-winning novel. I love Dickens and as a result I tend to want to read novels that claim to be about him or one of his novels (look out for Wanting and Hard Times later on in the year). Why do I love Charles Dickens? His works give me great pleasure, and for me, that is one of the best compliments I can give a book. Yes they are long and ye old-e world-e and he loved a bit of over-drama and poor, forlorn females but I love them I tell you. But back to Mr Pip.

Set in PNG in  the 1990s during  the troubles between mine, rebels, Port Moresby, Francis Ona etc. (if you can’t tell, my understanding of this time in PNG is extremely limited) the lone white man left on the island teaches school by reading Great Expectations to his charges. This man – Mr Watts – is a mystery in himself, and the combination of this and the wondrous spell of ‘Mr Dickens’ entrances the narrator, Matilda, and her fellow pupils.

Throughout the story we learn of the effect Great Expectation‘s protagonist, Pip, has on our own protagonist. We also learn of the simple life she and her fellow villagers are living and the very real fear they live with being the pawns in a battle between the  government’s ‘redskins’ and the rebels. In a way it is an easy-to-read non-taxing kind of narrative. A simple story in a way. But it is powerful and though I won’t give it away the climax is all the more affecting because of the ease in which you have read up to it.

I think that is the success of this novel. It appears like a small, easy read but it is actually quite layered. Because you follow most of it through the eyes of a young girl who knows nothing but this small village, I found myself often falling into step with her innocence and merely enjoying her enjoyment in Mr Dickens and Pip. I knew what dangers she and her village were in, I knew there was vast poverty and sorrow, I knew that we couldn’t ignore the rebels, soldiers and coups and I knew that there had to be more to Mr Watts, but tended to join Matilda at her level of understanding of life until we were both forced to face reality.

I can’t say I adored Mr Pip the way I adore Oliver Twist, David Copperfield or Great Expectations, but I can see why it has come in to so much praise. It’s definitely worth a read – if anything because it speaks to us book people of something we can utterly relate to: the power a book (books) has to change, enhance, support and shape our lives.

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5 thoughts on “Book Five: Mr Pip, Lloyd Jones

  1. As a fellow Dickens enthusiast, this book sounds really interesting. I just read Great Expectations, and it is probably my favorite Dickens novel. I just posted about the ending to GE and the different variations to the last line in the text. Considering your knowledge of Dickens I would love to hear what your opinion is on the subject.

    • Ah! You reveal me as the un-academic reader that I am! I find the last line quite ambiguous and have never felt confident in what Dickens intended us to understand what Pip was saying. Were Pip and Estella to be together, or only as friends and together ‘in spirit and mind’ I know he changed it at one time but I think the meaning was still unclear. And the word ‘shadow’ is such a negative word, I think. So I think that throws extra confusion into the mix (I realise he is playing on the previous mentions of light and mists etc). I have always just concluded that Pip was content with the arrangement, though not certain what that arrangement was!

  2. Pingback: Book 29: Hard Times by Charles Dickens « Pile o' Books

  3. I read Pip first and was compelled me to read Great Expectations, which was my first Dickens. I loved it and I now consider it an all time favourite. Brilliant in every way a novel should be.

    • Welcome to Dickens! It is a great book, isn’t it? There is a lot in Great Expectations which stays with me – images and characters. David Copperfield and Tale of Two Cities are other favourites Ic an recommend!

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