This review was written by David McMahon, a member of the Tuesday Evening Book Club.

New Zealand author Jones has written this multi-award winning novel about the passage of a young village girl on Bougainville, from early adolescence during a period of fierce fighting between government and rebel forces over mining rights on the island. Matilda is 13 when we meet her, and most white people, including her teachers, have fled the island. The lone remaining white man takes over the role of teacher, basing it on the story of Dicken's "Great Expectations" (hence the novel's tale).

In beautifully crafted prose, Jones describes how the children and the entire village are at first transported in their imagination by the story of Pip moving up through the 19th century English class system, and are then caught up in the horrors of the events around them, compounded by misunderstandings engendered by the book they are following.

Written in the first person through Matilda's eyes, we witness her growth and eventual escape from a bloody cataclysm, to a Western education and lifestyle in Australia and beyond, paralleling the movement of the fictional Pip.

 

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