Saturday, September 03, 2011

book review: Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

"I had found a new friend. The surprising thing is where I’d found him – not up a tree or sulking in the shade, or splashing around in one of the hill streams, but in a book. No one had told us kids to look there for a friend. Or that you could slip inside the skin of another. Or travel to another place with marshes, and where, to our ears, the bad people spoke like pirates. "

I can still remember the moment when I opened Animal Farm after having been sent home with it by my English teacher. The book took me into a magical world of animals and made me desperate to understand the politics it was a metaphor for. It gave me a love of that book and literature that has never left me.

So the idea of a teacher using Charles Dickens to inspire a class of children thousands of miles away from both London and Victorian England is one that is totally understandable.

The way that the story would stick with one pupil in particular, the narrator of the story, is also something that those of us who have had an inspirational English teacher will relate to.

But this is not just a tale of inspirational literature and also covers the brutality of communities living in the tropical islands of the Pacific. In the tiny school the only white person on the island Mr Watts tells the children about life through reading Great Expectations.

The story inspires Maltida to dream of a world beyond the confines of her difficult relationship with her mother and a life away from the line of shacks that line the beach.

Her dreams might start in her mind but her choices are forced upon her as a tribal war arrives on their beach and rips apart the magic that Mr Watts has spun.

The story shows the power of the imagination and the wonder of literature. It is a homage to Dickens and his abilities to draw readers of all backgrounds into his stories and give them something that they can use to shape their own thoughts.

A good read there were times you couldn't see where it was going but Jones manages to make the character of Watts even more interesting through the eyes of another and the true extent of the inspirational teacher's story doesn't become fully clear until the end.

1 comment:

parrish lantern said...

This sounds interesting despite the Dickens elements