Thursday, July 12, 2007
Bougainville and Mister Pip
I read a strange but compelling novel this week - 'Mister Pip' by Lloyd Jones, a New Zealand writer. Our book club meets once a month and this is the book I chose for ten of us to read for our next meet at the GPAC Cafe. The story is set in the 1990s in Bougainville during the blockage by Papua New Guinea with the 'redskins' fighting the 'rambos' rebels after the trouble with the mine. The point of view is a thirteen year old Melanesian girl named Matilda, and the narrative is told in quirky but often matter-of-fact manner, even though later in the book there is dreadful violence.
When I started reading it I was puzzled by the focus on Charles Dickin's 'Great Expectations' but there are certainly resonances between the real life of villagers and a fictional boy in England a couple of centuries ago. An odd white man, nick-named Pop-eye, becomes the village teacher and he has only one book, 'Great Expectations'. As Helen Garner remarks, the book is 'as compelling as a fairytale-beautiful, shocking and profound'.