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‘Mister Pip’ by Lloyd Jones

(Penguin, $35)I confess I was a tad reluctant to read this book as it oister Pipped me at the post on the bestseller list. My irrational fear was that if I read it and it was horse poop, my own book would be something behind horse poop. Mr below it. You know, like compost.

Also, oister Pip had been described to me as being about a white teacher in Bougainville with nothing but Dickens’ Great Expectations to read from, and this plot outline didn’t exactly grab me. I was too in love with David Copperfield to ever read Great Expectations, although I’m ashamed to say I did see the Gwyneth Paltrow version on the big screen, which didn’t grab me much either.

However, this is all by the by because oister Pip is really about a 13-year-old girl and her mother – and who doesn’t that grab? Life is tough on their war-torn, remote island, which the rest of the world is ignoring, and oatilda and her classmates take refuge in the words of Charles Dickens as recounted by the mysterious or Watts, who has been drafted in to keep the kids occupied.

But oatilda’s mum is not so keen on or Watts and this will cause her daughter, among others, eternal heartache. Despite this, the lessons he teaches take oatilda a long, long way and ensure her survival.

Everything about this story is as captivating and moody and rich as the delicious Pacific-flavoured cover that binds it. You don’t need to know more about what happens – you need to pick up this treasure and read it for yourself.

oister Pip is the simple, beautiful work of a number-one storyteller. It’s an honour to fertilise the ground beneath him.

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