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Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

Good Housekeeping's view...

February 2010 Good Housekeeping selection.

On My Bookshelf by Tamsin Greig...

Matilda, a young girl in Papua New Guinea during the civil war in the 1990s is taught in a semi-destroyed school by the only white man on the island. Popeye, as the children have named him, is old and stooped, and his only term of reference for teaching is a copy of Great Expectations. Told from Matilda’s perspective, the prose is engagingly simple and affecting as she learns to love Dickens’ Victorian England, and the book provides not only an escape for her, but brings its own danger crashing into their lives. Her relationship with her mother is a pendulum swing of bitter misunderstanding and fierce sacrificial love that literally took my breath away.

The Lovereading view...

Reviewed on Richard & Judy on Wednesday 27 February 2008.

Set on a small South Pacific island with war looming a teacher brings Dickens to life for a group of children who should be enjoying their paradise surroundings instead of contemplating the impending war moving towards them.

If you like Lloyd Jones you might also like to read books by J.M. Coetzee, Chris Cleave and Anne Enright.

What is Good Housekeeping


Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

Bougainville. 1991. A small village on a lush tropical island in the South Pacific. Eighty-six days have passed since Matilda’s last day of school as, quietly, war is encroaching from the other end of the island.

When the villagers’ safe, predictable lives come to a halt, Bougainville’s children are surprised to find the island’s only white man, a recluse, re-opening the school. Pop Eye, aka Mr Watts, explains he will introduce the children to “Mr Dickens”. Matilda and the others think a foreigner is coming to the island and prepare a list of much needed items. They are shocked to discover their acquaintance with Mr Dickens will be through Mr Watts’ inspiring reading of Great Expectations. But on an island at war, the power of fiction has dangerous consequences. Imagination and beliefs are challenged by guns, as a battle for cultural supremacy commences.

Civil war did indeed break out in Bougainville in the 1980s and a 10-year-long blockade was imposed. Lloyd Jones was sent to write about this under-reported war, fearing a Lord of the Flies scenario. His fear was consequently proven correct.

As he says, “An island removed from the world turns into its own over-heated creation. Imagine a world stripped of everything – any material item, any hope. Suddenly the imagination goes up in value and becomes a tool for survival. If you come into the world with nothing, the something is what sits between your ears.” Mister Pip is about the birthright of orphan and immigrant to reinvent their worlds, an unforgettable tale of survival by story; a dazzling piece of writing that lives long in the mind after the last page is finished.


'Genuinely affecting... A book with worthwhile thoughts to impart' - The New York Times

About the Author

Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He travelled to Papua New Guinea at the outset of the blockade and visited the island twice ten years later; once, to visit the New Zealand Peacekeeping mission, the second time to stay with Sam Kauona, the military leader of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st November 2007


Lloyd Jones

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John Murray Publishers Ltd an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division




Literary Fiction
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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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