From Publishers Weekly
A promising though ultimately overwrought portrayal of the small rebellions and crises of disillusionment that constitute a young narrator's coming-of-age unfolds against an ominous backdrop of war in Jones's latest. When the conflict between the natives and the invading redskin soldiers erupts on an unnamed tropical island in the early 1990s, 13-year-old Matilda Laimo and her mother, Dolores, are unified with the rest of their village in their efforts for survival. Amid the chaos, Mr. Watts, the only white local (he is married to a native), offers to fill in as the children's schoolteacher and teaches from Dickens's Great Expectations
. The precocious Matilda, who forms a strong attachment to the novel's hero, Pip, uses the teachings as escapism, which rankles Dolores, who considers her daughter's fixation blasphemous. With a mixture of thrill and unease, Matilda discovers independent thought, and Jones captures the intricate, emotionally loaded evolution of the mother-daughter relationship. Jones (The Book of Fame
) presents a carefully laid groundwork in the tense interactions between Matilda, Dolores and Mr. Watts, but the extreme violence toward the end of the novel doesn't quite work. Jones's prose is faultless, however, and the story is innovative enough to overcome the misplayed tragedy. (July)
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Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Overall Prize for Best Book and short-listed for the Booker Prize, Mister Pip
delighted critics with its beautiful prose, compelling characters, and humane exploration of literature's power. They especially lauded Matilda, who learns to identify with Pip and, in the process, heals the rift with her mother. Not every scene is heartrending, however: this story is framed by rape, murder, and civil war. Some reviewers noted a few whiffs of paternalism from the author, some awkward dialogue, too much foreshadowing, and an odd ending. But in its exploration of how literature can bring joy amid great suffering, Mister Pip
is a heartwarming and worthwhile coming-of-age novel.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.