This is a great reading group book. I am amazed that I knew nothing of this war that took place in 1991 in Bougainville. This book made me look it up.
Here we have book is a true indictment of war and the inhumanity that comes from it. It is almost a book within a book as we follow Mathilda and her school being taught by the only white person left on the Island. They are taught unconventionally and rather surreally through Great Expectation by Dickens. I think it certainly helps if you have read that book as it makes much more sense of what is happening.
A recurring theme in this book is about prejudice, and this is expertly handled by Lloyd as the novel progresses.
It is also a novel about empowerment. When the mothers come to class to give their lectures on, gutting fish, the colour blue or mat weaving you can see the strength of story telling and a shared experience. Mr Watts through his telling of Great Expectations empowers them all, including himself and inspires Matilda to academic heights and ultimately knowledge of who she truly is. A very simple but powerful little book.