Susan’s Book Talk: Mister Pip


I’ve mentioned before that I run my book club. It’s not always easy, especially since Holocaust literature and memoirs are so hot right now (visit my friends Anna and Serena, who are hosting a WWII reading challenge, if this is your sort of thing. Or go right to the challenge’s home page).

One of the neatest things about my book club is that I have a few women who are on our e-mail list simply to keep abreast of what we’re reading. They make suggestions for books from time to time and every now and then, the weather and their lives permitting, they’ll drop in on a meeting. They’re important and vital to the group, even though they aren’t always in attendance.

If you think I’m being diplomatic here, let me tell you this story. It’s a good one.

I ran into one of these e-mail members a few months back. She handed me a small book that she’d bought. She said she didn’t want it back, but she wanted to give it to me because it made her think of me.

Now that I’ve read it, I’m still not sure why.

The book in question is called Mister Pip. It was written by Lloyd Jones, who I’d never heard of before this, but who apparently has a long resume of books and accolades. This, I can understand.

It took me awhile to pick it up, and once I did, it wasn’t immediate love. In fact, I almost gave up on it. I’m glad I didn’t.

This was a touching book. It was also complex, layered, and skillfully written. I loved the character of Matilda and I loved Mr. Watts. I didn’t love Matilda’s mom so much, but I love the way she was constructed: wise, complex, petty, angry, giving — and more.

The story is interesting: we’re on an unnamed island near New Zealand. The island has been shattered by rebels and fighting; most people — including Matilda’s father — have fled. The women and children who remain do their best to live, and they largely succeed. When the island’s only white man is asked to give the children some schooling, in an attempt to give their lives something normal, Mr. Watts opens their eyes to the wonderful world of Dickens.

Maybe my friend thought of me because of the Dickens connection. After all, she views me as a literary person. I doubt she knows that I’ve never actually finished the one Dickens novel I tried to read, back in elementary school…

Like I said, I don’t know. Maybe she was simply smart enough to recognize a true hidden gem of a book.

I’m glad she did. You guys know how I love hidden treasures like this one turned out to be. I’m deliberately not saying a lot more about the plot; it’s best read for yourself.

Want to see some other stuff I’ve read? Head on over to Front Street Reviews and check out my thoughts on Bahama Burnout, the new Mick Sever novel from Don Bruns, and my strong response to Dark Side of the Morgue, the newest Spike Berenger mystery from Raymond Benson.



  1. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)

    March 13, 2009 1:13 pm

    Thanks for the link love. I finally finished my first book for the challenge! LOL

    Sounds like an interesting read….I may have to check it out to see what of you is in it!

    Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)’s last blog post..Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas

  2. Susan

    March 13, 2009 1:14 pm

    If you figure it out, let me know, okay?

    And you’re welcome for the Link Love.

  3. Alice Audrey

    March 13, 2009 2:24 pm

    You tried to read Dickens in elementary school? No wonder you didn’t finish. I tried to read A Tale of Two Cities to my dd, and didn’t make it past the first ten pages. We spent too much time with me explaining to her what it was I had just read.

    Alice Audrey’s last blog post..Suzie’s House 108: Based on the Evidence

  4. Thomma Lyn

    March 13, 2009 8:24 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful book, Susan! I am adding it to my Books-To-Acquire list.

    Thomma Lyn’s last blog post..Frog Eggs

  5. Journeys and Adventures

    March 14, 2009 3:12 am

    Have you read “The Dark Room” by Rachel Seiffert? It’s a unique look at WWII and the Holocaust that generated a lot of discussions for me (and I was the only that had read the book!) Here’s a review I wrote:

    I’m also “collecting” some book reviews and providing free links on my blog. Check out the page for more info; I’d love to see if you (or any other book bloggers) have anything to add!

    Journeys and Adventures’s last blog post..Journeys and Adventures Notes

  6. Davida

    March 14, 2009 3:51 pm

    I wish I had more time to devote to reading. Book clubs are usually so inspirational and positive. The closest I come to it now is reading blogs and making notes of all the books that have good reviews. I promise myself I’ll eventually read the books.


    Davida’s last blog post..Random Tuesday Thoughts.

  7. West of Mars » Blog Archive » BTT/T13: Best of 2009

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