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Reading Challenge (Guest) Reviews: Pacific Islands and Italian Towns

We've had two of our favourite people send us reviews for the 2019 Reading Challenge! They have used this challenge to read a few books they've had their eye on (which, unfortunately, aren't in our collection), which just goes to show how useful a little challenge can be.

Bethany Keats tackled a book that could have fit into several categories for last year's challenge. We don't have the specific novel she reviewed, but you can find the book in both print and audio formats in the Townsville and Cairns City Libraries. We do have several other novels written by Lloyd Jones, if you are interested in seeing work by this author. Theresa Petray gave us a book of short stories (good job! We love short stories), which can also be borrowed from the local libraries.

Bethany Keats read Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

As a book set in another country, with a film released in 2013 that helped put the Autonomous Region of Bougainville on the tourism map, Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones fits as a Geography and Tourism book.

Set during the Bougainville Civil War, Mister Pip is told from the perspective of teenage Matilda, who is introduced to Pip from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations by her teacher Mr Watts, the only white man in the village. Matilda develops a deep connection with Pip, and she uses this to help navigate her life as the war unfolds around her.

It’s an enjoyable read, moves at a comfortable pace, and having once been a bookish teenage girl myself, I found Matilda to be a believable character. It has some dark parts, but that's to be expected with a civil war backdrop. My only reservation is that the author is not of Bougainvillean origin, and in an ideal world I'd be reading something by a Bougainvillean author.

In Australia, we typically don't know enough about our neighbours in the Pacific, and the setting of Mister Pip is a significant time in our regional history that too many people my age don't know about. Bougainville is scheduled to have a vote on independence from Papua New Guinea this year, therefore it's a good time to start getting acquainted - even if you start with a work of fiction.

Fiction, an author I haven't read before. Check local libraries.


Theresa Petray read The Fireflies of Autumn, and other tales of San Ginese, by Moreno Giovannoni.

Most of the book is told as stories of a small town in Italy, with the familiarity, kind of raucous and sometimes pointless story telling (the stories are the point). The last section changes tone quite dramatically, and that tonal shift really made the book sing. The final section drives home how wistful those stories are and what it means to have a home that you’ve never really lived in:

“She staunched the bleeding of memories with her stories but bequeathed him a deep, slow-burning homesickness that brought an ache into his bones that never eased and the source of which he did not comprehend until he was old.”

Doing both fun, light storytelling and deeply beautiful reflection well, Giovannoni captures something of the experience of migration. Plus, the book has a beautiful map – and who doesn’t love a book with a map?


Fiction. Check local libraries.

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