Mister Pip (2006) is a novel by Lloyd Jones, a Wellington-based New Zealand author and brother of Sir Robert “Bob” Jones. It is named after a character in, and shaped by the plot of, Charles Dickens‘s novel Great Expectations. Lloyd Jones wrote 11 versions of the novel (according to a talk he gave at Whitireia Community Polytechnic in 2006), originally setting it on an unnamed Pacific island. The novel was ultimately set against the very real backdrop of the civil war on Bougainville Island during the 1990s (see History of Bougainville).
‘It is 1991 on Bougainville, a small tropical island in the South Pacific. Eighty-six days have passed since Matilda’s last day of school. The soldiers are choking the island into submission; the rebels have taken all the medical supplies; the teachers took the last boat out. The villagers are waiting, for the soldiers or the rebels whoever gets there first. Suddenly, the island’s only white man, a strange recluse, re-opens the school. Pop Eye, aka Mr Watts, offers the children a story they can imagine beyond the blockade. But on an island at war, fiction has the power to bring destruction as well as escape.’