We join Matilda (aged 14) on her South Pacific island home. It’s 1991 and a time of change - war is rumbling, people are taking sides, lives are being lost. But the children of
Despite the ever present threat of violence this novel really tells the story of the power of literature itself. The way a book can make you think about yourself, your life - the way you can draw parallels and note differences. Charles Dickens offers Matilda a way to learn things not passed down from her parents. But the power of books also brings danger - and Great Expectations takes on the status of a holy book, it can support or denounce, save or condemn. It can also raise barriers between a mother and daughter forcing difficult choices.
I am a fan of fiction written from a child’s perspective and Lloyd Jones handles the form with great skill - Matilda is alive and believable, balancing knowledge with naivety.
“The great shame of trees is that they have no conscience. They just go on staring.”
Hand in hand with Matilda we come to understand the magic of imagination - not least in the scene where the islanders pool their collective memories of Mrs Watts, both real and fictional, and thereby bring her to a new kind of life.
As is often the case, I find it hardest to describe those things I like the most, and so it is with Mister Pip. The prose was light and poetic and in keeping with the story and Matilda’s voice and had me catching my breath at times -
“The world is grey at that hour, it moves more slowly. Even the seabirds are content to hold onto their reflections.”
Safe to say, Mister Pip is my favourite Booker read so far. I’m pleased to see it sitting tight on the shortlist and I think its become my choice to win so far.