I've seen this book on a few lists and I picked it up recently from the library for my husband and had it on my to-read list. When I started it yesterday, I read the first page and immediately remembered it (I read it a few years back), but in order to adequately review re-read it.
I think the profound thought here is the similarities between Pip and Mathilda...we are supposed to understand that all humans have the same desires and characteristics and not be all that astounded that this black girl in the 1990s on an island near Australia can identify with a white orphan boy from mid 1800s London. Certainly, that is an interesting point and one that Jones belabors to death in the book. He can't just leave it there, though. He must bring out that Mr. Watts also identifies with Pip (and in a sense becomes Pip through his 6 part story and then brutal death). And, in the story that Matilda's mum tells about the devil woman who tries to convince the kids to steal from the church he also presents a parallel between mum and Pip.
"When our ancestors saw the first white they thought they were looking at ghosts or maybe some people who had just fallen into bad luck." and "A man who genuinely thought Great Expectations to be the greatest novel by the greatest English writer in the nineteenth century? Or a man left with only a morsel who will claim in the best meal of his life?" Jones loves to talk about perspective in the novel. Everything is a function of how you see it and so rather then see the whites as privileged, the first islanders to see whites identified them as somehow lacking.
I was annoyed with the useless destruction out of pride and revenge. I understood why the redmen burned the villagers' possessions and even why mum did not admit to having the book. However, I did not understand why she did not find an alternative hiding place (from which the book could be found) before the redmen came back. It was completely unnecessary and wasteful for her to allow all of the villagers' huts to be destroyed by the second trip. I also was surprised at the burning of the Watts's possessions. It was interesting that the villagers chose to burn (rather than loot) after the attack from the redmen, but seemed to be a high price to pay for their pride and revenge. After having all of their possessions lost, I would expect that stealing the Watts's stuff would have been better (and more likely). Similarly, after the redmen killed Watts and Mum, I did not understand the useless killing and burial of the pigs. Ultimately, it did not matter because the flooding occurred that night (seemed awfully convenient for that to happen the same night), but still a huge waste to rid the village of their pigs out of mourning.
"You cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will 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." I loved this description of what it is to lose oneself in a good story. Unfortunately, it did not (for me) apply to this novel.
"That was the one thing I had to get used to after I was reunited with my dad. The television. He hooted at it. He pointed at it. He got cross with it. He and the television laughed with one another as I tried to sleep in the next room. I did not say anything, because I understood that the television and my dad were close friends." As someone who very rarely watches TV, I can completely emphathise with this feeling. Whenever I stay with family that watches TV, I am amazed at the time and energy spent worshiping this brightly-lit box.
Overall it was okay; I was not amazed, but it was interesting and worth reading.