Monday, 22 September 2008

Beginnings and Endings

It's been too long since I posted on here and I thought I would start with an ending. Meaning that I have just finished reading Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.
The setting for this book, is a small island village somewhere in the Pacific Ocean and I think it may be not too far from Australia.

The main character is a young girl called Matilda, I would imagine that she is about 10,11 or 12. I don't remember her actual age being mentioned. There is some kind of civil war going on on this island and some of the local youths have joined one of the factions.

Somehow or other in the midst of all of this chaos the place ends up without a school although the school house is still standing and there, in a way it all begins. and Mister Watts, who is the only remaining white man on the island, takes it upon himself to adopt the role of teacher to the kids.
In this schoolhouse, remains one book only and it turns out to be, a copy of Great Expectations who's central character (for those not in the know) is Mister Pip, and hence the title.
Watts begins to read them a chapter each day,and of course Mathilda, who is from a one parent family, begins to identify with this young boy from Victorian England.

Through this strategy he begins to take these children 'out of themselves' and their rather traumatic surroundings via the magic of literature and they begin to imagine other worlds and times and it has a magical quality for them and for you as a reader of Mister Pip, the book.

As well as bringing the children his knowledge and enthusiasm and stories from his own life, the teacher Mister Watts invites their parents to come into the classroom and share their knowledge with the children. So they come in and talk about all sorts of things to them. Much of this is village life related and specific to their own culture and I liked the way you get the feel of how the islanders speak to one another. Their vernacular I suppose you would say.
You get to understand Mathildas mother and find out more about Mister Watts and lots of other things which all knit into the story.

I had heard this book on Radio 4, when it was book of the week about a year ago or so. I was a little concerned that I would remember too much of it. But as with watching films on TV - I found that I had forgotten it mostly. I suppose all I remembered was that someone was a teacher and had read a Charles Dickens book, to the kids on the island and it had had quite an effect on them.

Anyway - it really is a lovely book which is engaging and thoughtful but very readable and not too over descriptive which I find annoying sometimes in certain books. It's the story I want.

1 comment:

  1. That seems to be a great read and such a lovely cover, one more on my list. Thanks for the tip.


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