Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mister Pip

The Booker Prizelonglist” of 13 titles ("Booker’s dozen”) was announced recently. There was some harrumphing about the absence of some big names (for Canadians, notably Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero). But I think the list has a number of good reads, and there are great picks from the colonies, including Torontonian Michael Redhill’s Consolation (blogged here in November ’06) and Kiwi Lloyd JonesMister Pip.
Mister Pip is on a roll, already having won the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book and New Zealand's top fiction prize, the Montana Medal. The consensus at online forums at the Booker website seems to be Pip has a good chance of making the short list.

I had a perfect summer reading experience with Mister Pip, so I have fond feelings for it. I read this delightful tale set on a South Pacific island on the peaceful, sun-dappled dock at a lake on Salt Spring Island, BC. In the novel, Miranda, a teenage girl, describes how the eccentric Mr. Watts takes over the teaching of students in the local school after all the other white people leave due to the outbreak of a civil war. Mr. Watts isn’t much of a teacher but he hits his stride when he reads Charles Dickens's Great Expectations to the students. The story of orphan Pip in 19th century London is fascinating and meaningful for Miranda and her classmates. But dark clouds approach and the novel takes several sharp turns from there.
I was reminded a bit of the Life of Pi – the tropical setting, the first person narration, the place of storytelling in our lives. A wonderful and moving story of the power – and dangers – of literature.
Here’s the full Booker longlist:


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