review page logo
Lloyd Jones
What made you want to write Mister Pip?
My stories grow out of certain preoccupations. I start exploring them and after a while story begins to grow and knit some sort narrative. The preoccupations feeding into Mister Pip have much to do with post-colonial culture in the Pacific. Perhaps my working title ‘Inventing the Pacific’ provides the best clue.
Mister Pip deals with a place and events that are not well-documented outside the Pacific Rim. Did you consider adding explanatory notes to the book?
No. A novel shouldn’t really require ‘explanatory notes.’ Mister Pip isn’t an attempt to explain the conflict or the secessionist movement. That’s a book to be written by someone else. However, I like to think that the world occupied by Mister Pip is complete.
Do you consider Mister Pip to be a political book?
Yes, I do, but probably in ways less obvious than a spat between an island and a colonizing power . Matters of faith are waged…between a secular position on the imagination and certain suspended beliefs demanded by religion. Dolores, you may recall, is puzzled as to why Mr Watts is willing to believe in a made up character such as Pip but not the devil. There are other political concerns to do with the assumed primacy of written language over the oral tradition.
Why are the Papuan government forces referred to as 'redskins'?
The skin colour of people from Bougainville is very black. By contrast, the Papuans’ skin colour has a red quality. People from PNG are routinely referred to as Redskins by the Bougainvilleans.
Was Mr Watts planning to take Matilda on the boat without Dolores?
I don’t know. I ‘the author’ was only privy to what Matilda knew and her own instincts on the matter. Mr Watts’ intention is deliberately with-held.
The character of Mr Watts is intriguing and complex and, seeing him through Matilda's eyes, he is in many ways a heroic figure. Yet, at the end of the book, we get a very different perspective of him from his ex-wife. Why did you choose to alter the reader's perception in that way?
June Watts thinks of her husband as a ‘weak man.’ In Matilda’s eyes he is ‘a heroic figure.’ It is possible for both to be right, and why not? Look at Dolores. We may question her behaviour early in the book, but then look at her heroic response later on when she defies the Redskins’ officer. There are times when she is deceitful and manipulative, and other times when she is morally steadfast and heroic, even magnificent. Perhaps this is simply what it is to be a human being.
Mr Watt's "survival weapon was story" yet, ultimately, it was not enough to save him. How far are we to believe in the restorative power of literature?
Well story is hardly a match for a bullet or a machete. Yet, clearly story had saved Mr Watts up to a point. He says as much when he tells Matilda that the example of Pip gave him the courage to think he could change his own life. Furthermore, by sharing his enthusiasm for Great Expectations, he’d shown a class of children how to access another world. That’s not a bad tool to have up your sleeve when your own world is diminished or shattered. If we are lucky as readers, then for a period of time, we forget ourselves, our own life, and step into another’s with eyes wide open, brain ticking in an alien world that becomes increasingly familiar, weirdly and fabulously even more so than the one we inhabit when we wake up to begin the day. How magical is that? A made up world eclipsing the one in which we actually live and with real needs such as satisfying thirst and hunger or other frustrations. A world in which we ghost in and out of.
Home is an important aspect in Great Expectations and in Mr Pip. Is the concept of home significant to you as a "non-indigenous" New Zealander.
But I am indigenous. I am of the place I was born. There is no other place to call home. In New Zealand, this is considered to be a controversial point of view, but I am sticking by it.
Lloyd Jones

Recommend this site to a friend

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter