Saturday, November 1, 2008

Award Purpose Book , Anyone?

I'm reading this book called Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2007.

It's a book written from the perspective of a black girl on Bougainville, a small tropical island in the South Pacific when a civil war strikes and reaches their village. In the face of uncertainty and strife the lone white man on the island, who was a recluse and an eccentric, reopens school after around three years. He introduces the children to Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.

The children are transported to the Victorian era inhabited by Pip, Joe Gargery, Pip's sister, Magwitch etc etc (I know, I know everyone has read Great Expectations and I needn't go through all the characters). He provides them an escape from their torn lives and helps them in retaining hope. But in the end the protagonist looks back at those times and understands what really happened and what the adults went through)

Quite frankly I really can't say too much about the book because I couldn't figure out if i like it or not. It just seemed like a regular book written only for the purpose of getting an award. In fact it seems to follow a couple of elements that most of these award winning books have. In fact its almost becoming like a recipe. Another book that comes to mind is Vernon 'God' Little that followed a very similar path. Though it was a better book as it was more in your face and did not push the crisis to some distant pacific island.


Take one innocent child, preferably of a minority group
Garnish with a dysfunctional family (Single mother - either perpetual drunk or zealous religist flavour (to taste)
Stir in a father figure who personifies all that is fair and good in this world (better if he's grieving)
Cook all of it in a Kadhai (Wok) of a crisis (school shootout / political turmoil)
Flavour lightly with coming of age story
Garnish with loads of evidently engineered philosophical gibberish (oooh the judges will not like a simple story. They need layers and overlying layers and underlying layers)


The Booker winning/ shortlisted book is ready. Take small bites between sips of red wine.

Now I may be opiniated here but I think the original book following this path was that all time awesome 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. Now THAT was a book written with heart. The innocence of Scout came out brilliantly there, the situation that arose was easy, simple and believable, the family wasn't dysfunctional though. But Atticus Finch was the perfect father figure and one of the most awesome central characters of all times.

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