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Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

In books read on August 26, 2007

This is an absolute gem. Thanks to the Booker Prize committee for bringing my attention to it. Of the five longlisted books I've read so far it's the one I'd hand the prize over to.

The story is set on a South Pacific island in 1990, in the midst of some kind of war/uprising/conflict thing. The only white man left on the island takes over the village school and starts reading Charles Dickens classic Great Expectations to the children.

The whole story revolves around Great Expectations and its hero, Pip, one way or another. I knew this before I started reading and expected to either (a) be bored to death because I did Great Expectations for GCSE English Lit and didn't get on with it at all at the time or (b) get annoyed by needing to know the story of another book to understand this one. As it happens neither expectation was correct. Everything you need to know about Great Expectations is included in this book as the narrator, Matilda, discovers the book herself. And I wasn't bored to death because it's not Dickens. Besides I'd probably like Dickens myself now if I tried as I've put a couple of decades between myself and my GCSEs.

I also wondered (c) How on earth do you keep the Great Expectations thread going through the entire book? The answer is that it's very well tied in from the beginning through to the end of the story and beyond. I really don't want to give away the details - this really felt like a timeless classic to me - just don't give it to bored schoolchildren to read!

Purchased on 12th August 2007.

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