Eccentric Musings (jakaEM)

"I have undergone sharp discipline which has taught me wisdom; and then, I have read more than you would fancy." Emily Brontë


still figuring this place out - Jen W

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Friend of My Youth
Alice Munro
Progress: 115/288 pages
Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood
Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones This book is all about the ending--the inevitable trauma that you sense waiting in the wings from the first appearance of the "redskins" and the disappearance of all the village males into the jungle. This book is not about Charles Dickens, Great Expectations or the strange captivation the book and its teacher hold upon this group of isolated South Pacific-islanders in the midst of a civil war. And strangely, I think Mr. Pip might have been stronger had it leaned a little more heavily on Dickens-style sentimentality, or drawn a closer parallel between the events of GE and those in Mr. Pip.

As it was, the entire power of this novel had to do with the strange, numbed, flat and affectless voice of the narrator as she related the decline of her life around her, paced by the chapters of Great Expectations. As a reader, I was on high alert for the atrocity to come but despite knowing it would, I didn't make the connection between Matilda's voice and the events that would later have such a profound effect on her. At some points, it had a magical realism quality in its disconnection from reality, especially in the odd way Matilda interpreted events; the strange and surreal nuggets of wisdom provided by the parents to Mr. Watts's class and the caricatured grotesques of he and his wife, Grace (surely intended to be Dickensian).

In retrospect, I can now see the artistry in this. I'm just not sure that's enough somehow. Like so many Mann Bookers, I'm left a little puzzled and underwhelmed. Like others before it, Mr. Pip tries for big metaphor, allegory and drama, but falls a little short for me.