Lloyd Jones is one of New Zealand's best known contemporary writers. He has published essays and children's books but his best known works include the novels The Book of Fame, winner of numerous literary awards, Biografi, a New York Times Notable Book, Choo Woo, Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance, Paint Your Wife, Hand Me Down World and the phenomenally successful Mister Pip, winner of the 2007 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the Montana Medal for Fiction and the Kiriyama Writers' Prize. Mister Pip was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007. He lives in the Wairarapa.
This eighth offering by New Zealander Jones (e.g., The Book of Fame) follows the early years of teenage protagonist Matilda on a remote island off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Matilda's father takes a job with an Australian mining company, leaving Matilda and her mother behind on the island. Meanwhile, the village's lone white occupant appoints himself local schoolmaster, with his first lesson being a yearlong recitation of Dickens's Great Expectations, whose themes of estrangement and personal metamorphosis mirror Matilda's story. When rebellion ferments on the island, the central authorities impose a naval blockade, cutting off the inhabitants from the outside world. As government soldiers move against villages sympathetic to the rebels, Matilda must choose between remaining on the island or striking out for Australia in search of her father. Despite surprising plot twists and delightfully eccentric personalities, there are moments when Jones's characters speak with the author's voice rather than their own. In the end, however, this book addresses ideas of place and homesickness with conviction, making it a worthwhile read. Recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/07.]-Chris Pusateri, Jefferson Cty. P.L., Lakewood, CO Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
A promising though ultimately overwrought portrayal of the small rebellions and crises of disillusionment that constitute a young narrator's coming-of-age unfolds against an ominous backdrop of war in Jones's latest. When the conflict between the natives and the invading "redskin" soldiers erupts on an unnamed tropical island in the early 1990s, 13-year-old Matilda Laimo and her mother, Dolores, are unified with the rest of their village in their efforts for survival. Amid the chaos, Mr. Watts, the only white local (he is married to a native), offers to fill in as the children's schoolteacher and teaches from Dickens's Great Expectations. The precocious Matilda, who forms a strong attachment to the novel's hero, Pip, uses the teachings as escapism, which rankles Dolores, who considers her daughter's fixation blasphemous. With a mixture of thrill and unease, Matilda discovers independent thought, and Jones captures the intricate, emotionally loaded evolution of the mother-daughter relationship. Jones (The Book of Fame; Biografi) presents a carefully laid groundwork in the tense interactions between Matilda, Dolores and Mr. Watts, but the extreme violence toward the end of the novel doesn't quite work. Jones's prose is faultless, however, and the story is innovative enough to overcome the misplayed tragedy. (July) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.