This is a book about people that live on a tropical island. The island is engaged in a civil war so all the men and the teachers have left the island. Mr Watts is a white man who has chosen to stay on the island. Mr. Watts is considered eccentric by everyone that encounters him. He walks about hauling his wife in a cart and wearing a red clown nose. One day he announces he will take over educating the children. He begins his teaching by reading to the children every day and the book he uses is Great Expectations by Dickens.
The children have very unpleasant lives and spend each day with the sounds of guns in the distance. They love learning about this Pip character. Mr. Pip, as Mr. Watts is now called, has a unique teaching style. Besides reading from the island’s only book he has the older ladies come in and tell the children stories about what they have learned in life. It is a way for the ladies to get to know Mr Watts/Pip as some of the islanders are very suspicious of him.
War soon comes much closer than just the sound of gunfire and soon soldiers are swarming the area and killing villagers . The soldiers believe there is a conspiracy afoot on the island led by Mr. Pip. The villagers cannot convince the soldiers that he is just a fictional character from a book since they cannot provide the soldiers with the book. It had been stolen from the schoolhouse and inadvertently destroyed. Daily survival in this place is the objective.This does not sound enticing and when I picked up the book to read I thought I am not going to read this. However, it was a great read and I used it for a book discussion and it was enjoyed by all and provoked good discussion.