Great Expectations by Charles Dickens was one of my favourite books when I was in university. Admittedly, it wasn’t a book I would have read were it not on a course list. But, in this case, thank goodness for first year English!
When I first got wind of Mister Pip before our fall sales conference, I felt a strange mixture of intrigue and suspicion. Who, pray tell, was this Lloyd Jones who dared to riff on Dickens? So, I sat down with a pot of coffee and quietly devoured this amazing book in one sunny afternoon. I simply could not put it down.
Set on a remote island in the South Pacific which has been beset by civil war and chaos for several years, Mister Pip follows young Matilda as she discovers literature and uses Dickens’ book as a means of escaping the troubles so close at hand.
One day, Mr. Watts, the only white man left in their black community, decides it’s time the children receive an education. So, for part of each day, he entertains a classroom with readings from Great Expectations, one of the few books left in the village. The children soon become enthralled with the idea of Victorian-era England and with the main character, Pip. Pip begins to take on his own life as he entertains, engages and challenges Matilda even in her darkest, most fearful moments.
Mister Pip will haunt and beguile you with that pitch-perfect mixture of heartbreak and hope I’ve found in so many of my favourite books: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lovely Bones and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time all leap to mind. Above all, it’s a story about that place deep inside of yourself that no one can ever touch, no matter how hard they might try.