Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Blogger's Sister Scores

Thank you Cynthia for Mister Pip. Yes, readers, my sister's taste is as depressing as mine when it comes to reading material, however, this lovely novel by Lloyd Jones is filled with such redemptive moments that the tragic events somehow seem tolerable.
On an unnamed island somewhere off the coast of Australia, a community decimated by tribal wars and "redskin" invasions, tries to survive without the presence of the men, who have left their women and children to join the rebel forces. The only male left in the village is the eccentric and distrusted old white man whom the kids have nicknamed "PopEye." His name is Mr. Watts and he will try, through the power of words, to lay an heretofore unfathomable world at the feet of the island children.

At a time in our own history when the power of language is being discussed daily in the news, I'm disheartened to admit that I'm having trouble reaching for the right ones to describe the beauty Lloyd Jones conjurs up in my mind when he describes the rapt faces of these children as they sit in their decrepit one-room schoolhouse, listening to Mr. Watts read to them from his tattered copy of Great Expectations. Imaginations fired, the children come to intimately know Pip, Mr. Jaggers, Miss Havisham and Estella. They also become acquainted with a world of possibilities outside of their proscribed little island. (I actually was moved to download Great Expectations to my mp3 for a long overdue reread of the Dickens classic.)

In an effort to assuage the skepticism from the mothers in the village, who fear losing their children to Pip's world, Mr. Watts very cleverly invites them to join their children in the schoolhouse and share with everyone a piece of their hard-earned life lessons. Of course, as you know, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," and soon rumors spread about the mysterious white man, Mister Pip, who's filled the heads of the native children, our delightful narrator Matilda in particular, with hopes and dreams and "great expectations" which might lead to empowerment.

This powerful little novel would make a great book discussion so I may put it on my short list for next season. It has everything I crave in a novel; love, loss, imagination, trust, faith, and the courage to speak for what we believe in when no one around us will. Timely, isn't it?


Anonymous said...

I just finished Mr. Pip last week! I thought it was just great! And you are right on about it being a great book for discussion!

Martin said...

Good Job! :)