Date Completed: September 23, 2007
Publication Year: 2007
Received from Random House.
Reason for Reading: Short-listed for the 2007 Booker Prize.
After the trouble starts and the soldiers arrive on Matilda’s island, only one white person stays behind. Mr. Watts, whom the kids call Pop Eye, wears a red nose and pulls his wife around on a trolley, and he steps in to teach the children when there is no one else. His only lessons consist of reading from his battered copy of Great Expectations, a book by his friend Mr. Dickens.When this book was first put on the long-list for the Bookers, I was not sure if it was going to be something that I want to read, but I really like Great Expectations, so I thought I should see what I thought about this book. I am so glad that I did. There were a few moments during the book that I was not really sure about, but they all came together into one of the best books that I have read this year. I have only read one other Booker book, On Chesil Beach, so I am not in any place to judge this in the grand scheme of things, but if this book won I think it would deserve it.
For Matilda, Dickens’s hero Pip becomes as real to her as her own mother, and the greatest friendship of her life has begun. Soon Mr. Watts’s book begins to inflame the children’s imaginations with dreams about Dickens’s London and the larger world. But how will they answer when the soldiers demand to know: where is this man named Pip?
Set against the stunning beauty of Bougainville in the South Pacific during the civil war in the early 1990s, Lloyd Jones’s breathtaking novel shows what magic a child’s imagination makes possible even in the face of terrible violence and what power stories have to fuel the imagination.
Set on a South Pacific Island, civil war comes to play with a blockade that keeps the people on the island isolated from the outside world. For many people, this is how life is anyways, they do not go anywhere. With the blockade, the teachers have left the island, so the children are left with no schooling. There is one white man left on the island, he met an islander when she was in Australia and ended up coming to the island with her after she goes through some difficult periods in her life. He becomes the island teacher. Life is hard for these children, but when they are in the classroom with their teacher he transports them to Victorian England through the pages of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. These children are transformed, they are so captured by the novel that they think of Pip as a friend that they know.
Set during a war, there is a lot more than just a class reading a novel going on, and I think that Lloyd James does a wonderful job combining several themes. Told by an islander named Matilda, she captures an isolated world through the eyes of a young black girl that. until she is older, has never stepped off an island. Race issues are also at play during this novel.
This book was really good!