Books

Mister Pip

Mister Pip is a book by Lloyd Jones.

Lloyd Jones

The Booker finalist and beloved novel that has taken the world by storm is now a major motion picture starring Hugh Laurie.

Thirteen-year-old Matilda lives on a copper-rich tropical island that has been shattered by war, from which the teachers have fled along with everyone else. Only one white man chooses to stay behind, the eccentric Mr. Watts, object of much curiosity and scorn. He sweeps out the ruined schoolhouse and steps in to teach the children when there is no one else, and his only lessons consist of reading from his battered copy of Great Expectations, a book by his friend Mr. Dickens. First the children, and the entire village, are riveted by the adventures of a young orphan named Pip, their imaginations aflame with dreams of Dickens's London and the larger world. But in a ravaged place where even children are forced to live by their wits and daily survival is the only objective, imagination — it turns out — is a dangerous thing. (From Vintage Canada)

Lloyd Jones is a New Zealand author and journalist. His books include The Book of Fame, winner of numerous literary awards, Biografi, a New York Times Notable Book, Here at the End of the World We Learn to DancePaint Your Wife and The Cage.

From the book

Every one called him Pop Eye. Even in those days, when I was a skinny thirteen-year-old, I thought he probably knew about his nickname but didn't care. His eyes were too interested in what lay up ahead to notice us barefoot kids.

He looked like someone who had seen or known great suffering and hadn't been able to forget it. His large eyes in his large head stuck out further than anyone else's--like they wanted to leave the surface of his face. They made you think of someone who can't get out of the house quickly enough.

Pop Eye wore the same white linen suit every day. His trousers snagged on his bony knees in the sloppy heat. Some days he wore a clown's nose. His nose was already big. He didn't need that red lightbulb. But for reasons we couldn't think of he wore the red nose on certain days--which may have meant something to him. We never saw him smile. And on those days he wore the clown's nose you found yourself looking away because you never saw such sadness.

He pulled a piece of rope attached to a trolley on which Mrs. Pop Eye stood. She looked like an ice queen. Nearly every woman on our island had crinkled hair, but Grace had straightened hers. She wore it piled up, and in the absence of a crown her hair did the trick. She looked so proud, as if she had no idea of her own bare feet. You saw her huge bum and worried about the toilet seat. You thought of her mother and birth and that stuff.

At two-thirty in the afternoon the parrots sat in the shade of the trees and looked down at a human shadow one-third longer than any seen before. There were only the two of them, Mr. and Mrs. Pop Eye, yet it felt like a procession.


From Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones ©2007. Published by Vintage Canada.

Interviews with Lloyd Jones

The New Zealand writer discusses his novel Mister Pip. 51:40

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