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Today's quote:

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The power of words, imagination and Charles Dickens


You cannot pretend to read a good book. Your eyes give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames." [From "Mr Pip", page 155]

With his rumpled tropical suit and wide-eyed look of perpetual concern, Hugh Laurie's Mr Pip – the only white man on the island – could be a character out of a Joseph Conrad novel. But it's 1991 and he has been caught in the midst of a civil war in Bougainville, where he's trying to lighten the spirits of the village children with readings from Dickens' "Great Expectations".

This unlikely but beguiling idea was dreamed up by New Zealand novelist Lloyd Jones after he covered the conflict between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville over the closure of Rio Tinto's copper mine in the 1990s. And it gave him a prize-winning novel, which has done more to expose the sufferings that the war inflicted on Bougainville's people than all the reporting done at the time.

It's not often you get a book - and a movie - that sings literature's praises so eloquently. Set it against the background of the conflict in Bougainville where my own career really took off and shaped everything else I did later in life, and you finish up with a brilliantly nuanced examination of the power of words, imagination and Charles Dickens.

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P.S. To watch the full movie, you may have to buy the DVD or look for it on Netflix. To read the book online, click here, then SIGN UP (it's free!), LOG IN and BORROW.