By Lloyd Jones
John Murray £12.99, 240 pages
FT bookshop price: £10.39
The power of great literature is at the heart of this affecting tale. Matilda, a young child on the isolated Pacific island of Bougainville in 1991, is coming to terms with a creeping civil war when the only remaining white man, Mr Watts (or Pop Eye), comes into her life.
Her tiny village school had been closed before the enigmatic figure of Pop Eye steps up to the challenge of educating the children, accompanied only by the mysterious “Mr Dickens”.
What follows is a brilliantly nuanced examination of the power of imagination, literature and reinvention as the themes of Dickens’s Great Expectations are woven into the story of Matilda’s loss of innocence. Mister Pip is a powerful and humane novel from one of New Zealand’s top writers.