review: Mister Pip

Mister. Pip

author: Lloyd Jones

Bantam Dell, 2006

main character: Matlida Laimo

It’s that first moment that captures you and pulls you in and well, sets your expectations. A good author knows why we remember

My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip (Great Expectations).

And so it was also when I read

Everyone called him Pop Eye. Even in those days, when I was a skinny thirteen-years-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.

I felt the promise of a wonderful story and, in so not wanting to be disappointed I almost put the book down. The expectations had taken wings and were set for flight! In choosing to continue, I was not disappointed.

This book wraps around the classical work, Great Expectations. It is filled with characters such as Pop Eye (aka Mr. Watts), Mrs. Watts, Delores, and Pip’s remix, Matilda. The classical characters and lessons are lifted and transported to an island setting where amid the horrors of post colonial war and racism, we learn of the force of words and the power of the mind. It is amazing how well Jones is able to be Matilda, the young black girl who tells this story. Her voice is true and clear and even as messages are fed to us, the author’s voice never once bleeds through. He obviously values the power of the story too much for such carelessness.

A classic is good story that transcends race, culture setting or time. A true classic has a story that is decorated with characters and places to enhance its meaning. Matlida gets this as Popeye becomes her teacher and uses stories to teach. He uses parent’s stories of faith and memories and he uses Great Expectations. He is a white man who lives in community with Blacks, but apart from them. He becomes an amazing part of them.

In this coming of age story, Matilda develops from a voice in a story to a storyteller. She grows in our minds from a shoeless child to a smart girl to a wise, educated young woman. This is her story.

I can tell you that if you read this book with great expectations that you will not be disappointed!

THEMES: transcendence, coming of age, race, violence, voice