As a book set in another country, with a film released in 2013 that helped put the Autonomous Region of Bougainville on the tourism map, Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones fits as a Geography and Tourism book.
Set during the Bougainville Civil War, Mister Pip is told from the perspective of teenage Matilda, who is introduced to Pip from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations by her teacher Mr Watts, the only white man in the village. Matilda develops a deep connection with Pip, and she uses this to help navigate her life as the war unfolds around her.
It’s an enjoyable read, moves at a comfortable pace, and having once been a bookish teenage girl myself, I found Matilda to be a believable character. It has some dark parts, but that’s to be expected with a civil war backdrop. My only reservation is that the author is not of Bougainvillean origin, and in an ideal world I’d be reading something by a Bougainvillean author.
In Australia, we typically don’t know enough about our neighbours in the Pacific, and the setting of Mister Pip is a significant time in our regional history that too many people my age don’t know about. Bougainville is scheduled to have a vote on independence from Papua New Guinea this year, therefore it’s a good time to start getting acquainted – even if you start with a work of fiction.
First published as a JCU Library Reading Challenge book review.
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