Mr. Pip, by Loyd Jones. Alfred A. Knopf Canada, publisher. 2007.
This entrancing book comes with a distinguished record – winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for best book, and finalist for the Mann Booker Prize.
At first, we are offered a mysterious white man, married to a madwoman, who becomes the teacher for the children when the teachers are lost to one of those brutal island wars of rebellion in the South Pacific. He is a Mr. Chips if you will – whose only remaining book is Great Expectations. Matilda, a child of the village, soon to become an adult, takes us into her life and the life, and death of the village.
The many layers of this story, the beautiful language, the characters who will remain in memory long after the book has been closed, and the tragic denouement, are lessons in writing the literary novel. This is a book about the transforming power of literature and is itself an example of it.