Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones - Another Rambling Non-Review

>> Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I usually do not attempt reviews, mainly because I get hold of the wrong end of the discourse or because I am afraid it may actually lead up to an argument I would pitifully crumble against. But sometimes, one comes across a book one feels very strongly about. Thus, a blog post is born, just to ask people to get acquainted with the book once, not because one wants discussions, but because good books deserve to be read.

All avid Dickensians would immediately recognize the eponymous character, the main protagonist of the " greatest novel by the greatest writer of the nineteenth century", Great Expectations. This book reveres Dickens as a rock against the insane ravages of a modern civil war. Set in remote South Pacific island, it deals with cultural imperialism, uprisings, generation gap, inter racial marriages and religion all against the backdrop of Dickens. An island where the only sign of civilization is the faith in Bibles.

Yet, the book is essentially a simple one. And, thus, equally devastating in its simplicity.

Seen through the eyes of a 14 year old black girl, it begins with an achingly familiar topic of reverence to a teacher who changed lives. But the narration keeps taking sharp diversions, but with smooth accelerations. The teacher, the last remaining white in the island, Mr. Watts, takes to the reading of the book in his classes periodically. And soon, the students start finding parallels with the problems of a white orphan, residing five thousand miles away from their little, forgotten island. Pip becomes more than a character. He becomes a friend, a person they wake up to, whose life they mull over before going to sleep.

Resentment thus takes birth among the parents. What it boils down to is that a white atheist brings hope to black children, who have lost faith in religion, with a person who is fictional, yet closer to them than their ancestors. A man who challenges the existence of the Devil by saying he is a make believe character and yet believes whole heartedly in the trial and tribulations of a boy. But soon, fiction and reality start merging with devastating results.

This book, frankly, taunts the readers. Every pre-conceived notions, every partisan favouritism is challenged before you reach the end, forcing the reader to go back and review every character and find out the subtly hidden flaws and virtues not noticed the first time around. By the end, you even start having second thoughts about Dickens, the foundation of the book.

But what stays back after the shock subsides are the fleeting thoughts and ideas spread innocently around the disarmingly innocuous looking book. Be it the amusing discourse on broken dreams ( apparently, fishes are the best example of broken dreams. The surprised look on their faces when caught best explains it. They can not believe they will never see the sea again), the breathtaking idea of forming a whole world in your mind with the power of your own unique voice, or the shockingly matter-of-fact descriptions of barbarous murders, haunting images and ideas stay behind, long after the memory of the book is dimmed.

Its a tale of survival despite all odds, where people gain strengths from the power of storytelling. An unusual attempt to retell the old adage that "a book can change your life forever". For it can.

16 scaly flippers:

The Ancient Mariner 5:18 am, January 23, 2008  

for a change I get the honour of commenting the first. this is a nice review. although a naive one i must say, but still gets me attracted towards the book. can I suggest you something?

give the name of the author, the name of the book and the name of the publisher as bullet points in the very beginning with a rating. that makes an expectation in a readers mind and becomes easier to follow. I know i am a preacher and a bad one! but as you know me this much i hope you wouldnt mind my preaching! :-)

I will definitely read the book. You are very right, good books deserve to be read!

The Ancient Mariner 5:31 am, January 23, 2008  

by the way i must thank you for your post which reminded me that i need to renew the two books i took from library! now i have to pay 60p(almost 50 Rs) in fine!

:-(

Poojo C. 12:15 pm, January 23, 2008  

I think I will go buy myself the book today. Eco Major or not, you should be writing.

Loved the review (or "non-review" as you like to call it). And finally decided to go find out what "eponymous" meant. :D

Bubbles of FireWhisky 3:51 pm, January 23, 2008  

ive read this book ad try as i might, i nvr found myslf capable f writing a review for it... it ws as u put it "devastating in its simplicity"

loved d non review :)

ArSENik 2:47 am, January 24, 2008  

Interesting topic of the book within the book, much like American Beauty (movie within a movie), which I hear is considered artistically nice in literature. Your last few lines about the fishes were touching, questioning my primarily piscean dietary habits. What's up Ad Libber? Your writing has gotten softer if you take the initial few lines of the last post into account as well :)

ad libber 10:33 pm, January 24, 2008  

@arsenik
Hmm, must be mellowing with old age

@bubbles and poojo
thank you

@ancient mariner
course its naive, that is why its a non review. and i cant write reviews. never have.
and glad to be of service :)

Macadamia The Nut 6:14 am, January 25, 2008  

This is the first review I've read without rolling my eyes. Lol! Good one.

Abhishek... inside out 1:24 pm, January 25, 2008  

Too many big words, I feel dyslexic!
why such a dramatic description?

Doubletake, Doublethink. 5:59 pm, January 25, 2008  

it sounds good. i read great expectations ever so long ago, can't remember a single thing about it. this post made me want to go back to dickens, and then pick this one up.

the book, i mean. not the post.

Noisy Autist 12:07 pm, January 26, 2008  

I'm one of the rare hopeless class who watched the film 'great expectations' before they read the novel :P . so, my judgments never count. but, nice review.

Clezevra 7:41 pm, January 26, 2008  

Yes, it definitely makes me want to read the book. if only i knew which book it was...
oh, and about falling in love with main protagnists, is there a better example of tragic, doomed tales?

Random Rambler 12:32 am, January 27, 2008  

Nice review... I shall go read the book... And then we can argue about it lol :)

onnesha 11:35 pm, January 31, 2008  

you really really write well,you know that?i mean with me,after a while,its not about 'what' you are writing anymore.its more about 'how' you are writing it.very absorbing:)

Zii 8:04 pm, February 04, 2008  

I.have nothing to say about the post. so..
hi..
you juggle handkerchiefs. Quite a star!

ad libber 2:28 am, February 06, 2008  

@zii
very unsuccessfully though

@onnesha
thank you :)

@random rambler
Look forward to it. No verbal violence please though, I am nervous creature.

@clezevra
What context was the last question in?

@noisy autist
ahem, never read Great Expectations :P
The book can be read without having read it.

@doubletake, doublethink
Never read G.E.
me, I am guilty of several literary follies.

@abhishek
It was a dramatic book

@mac
thank you

What's In A Name ? 10:36 pm, April 30, 2009  

Surprising that this did not have my comment for all these days but I intend to make amends(Got redirected from Doubletake's blog. You sure are getting quoted nowadays). Here goes:

This review makes me feel like getting hold of a book, reading it very quickly, and write a "devastating" review. It is so good. Had to pause and ponder on the "disarmingly innocuous" bit. Sounded uncharacteristically pedantic coming from you. But yes, promising. And very well written.
As I say what's the use of gorging on so many books when you can't bring yourself to express in words the innate beauty and individuality of them all and in the process inspire lesser mortals into reading. So, write some more book-reviews.

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