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Last Updated: Monday, 28 May 2007, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Award for Dickens-inspired novel
The cover of Lloyd Jones's book Mister Pip
The winner was announced at the Calabash Festival in Jamaica
A novel about a teacher on a war-torn Pacific island has earned the Commonwealth Writers Prize for New Zealand author Lloyd Jones.

Mister Pip is set in Papua New Guinea during civil unrest in the 1990s.

It tells of a man who educates a small village by reading them Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, and of a girl who is enchanted by the story.

The award - which recognises writers born in former British colonies - earns Jones 10,000 in prize money.

Mister Pip was described by the chair of the judging panel, the Hon Justice Nicholas Hasluck, as a "mesmerising story" which showed "how books can change lives in utterly surprising ways".

Jones, who lives in Wellington, is the first New Zealand writer to collect the best book prize since Janet Frame for The Carpathians in 1989.

A separate trophy, for the best first book of the year, was presented to Montreal-based Canadian writer DY Bechard.

His work, Vandal Love, described a cursed French-Canadian family and was "an epic tale - poetic and gritty, magical and yet believable - replete with misfits and boxers, giants and runts", Mr Hasluck added.

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