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The powerful, visionary, Booker Award–winning novel about the complicated relationships between three outcasts of mixed European and Maori heritage. “This book is just amazingly, wondrously great.” —Alice Walker In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes: part Maori, part European, asexual and aromantic, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from The powerful, visionary, Booker Award–winning novel about the complicated relationships between three outcasts of mixed European and Maori heritage. “This book is just amazingly, wondrously great.” —Alice Walker In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes: part Maori, part European, asexual and aromantic, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor—a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon’s feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality. Out of this unorthodox trinity Keri Hulme has created what is at once a mystery, a love story, and an ambitious exploration of the zone where indigenous and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge. Winner of both a Booker Prize and Pegasus Prize for Literature, The Bone People is a work of unfettered wordplay and mesmerizing emotional complexity.


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The powerful, visionary, Booker Award–winning novel about the complicated relationships between three outcasts of mixed European and Maori heritage. “This book is just amazingly, wondrously great.” —Alice Walker In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes: part Maori, part European, asexual and aromantic, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from The powerful, visionary, Booker Award–winning novel about the complicated relationships between three outcasts of mixed European and Maori heritage. “This book is just amazingly, wondrously great.” —Alice Walker In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes: part Maori, part European, asexual and aromantic, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor—a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon’s feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality. Out of this unorthodox trinity Keri Hulme has created what is at once a mystery, a love story, and an ambitious exploration of the zone where indigenous and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge. Winner of both a Booker Prize and Pegasus Prize for Literature, The Bone People is a work of unfettered wordplay and mesmerizing emotional complexity.

30 review for The Bone People

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jude

    I have read this book 11 times. It's not because of my faulty memory (although I do have one), it is because this is my favorite fiction book of all time. The shape is unusual for a novel - it is not told in one voice or from one point of view. At times there is an omniscient narrator and at others it is told in the first person. It is the story of the journeys of three people back to the landscape of family. Sometimes free verse, sometimes standard prose, always poetic. Keri Hulme plays with th I have read this book 11 times. It's not because of my faulty memory (although I do have one), it is because this is my favorite fiction book of all time. The shape is unusual for a novel - it is not told in one voice or from one point of view. At times there is an omniscient narrator and at others it is told in the first person. It is the story of the journeys of three people back to the landscape of family. Sometimes free verse, sometimes standard prose, always poetic. Keri Hulme plays with the shape and feel of words themselves, giving the book a sensory quality not usually found just by reading. I do not want to give too much away because I feel that discovering this book is sort of like going on an amazing drive through beautiful country - just around the next bend there will be something wonderful, but each person will be struck by different things. For those who don't speak Maori ( myself included), she keeps a handy glossary at the end of the book for the phrases that are thrown in occasionally.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    An original, personal and visceral novel, which for me is the kind of book that justifies the existence of the Booker Prize. The surface story is about the interactions between three difficult and damaged people, but there is a lot more to it than that - plenty of Maori culture, mythology and language (fortunately most of the latter is translated in the glossary) and a mixture of first and third person narrative voices including quite a lot of poetry. That may sound difficult, but the core story An original, personal and visceral novel, which for me is the kind of book that justifies the existence of the Booker Prize. The surface story is about the interactions between three difficult and damaged people, but there is a lot more to it than that - plenty of Maori culture, mythology and language (fortunately most of the latter is translated in the glossary) and a mixture of first and third person narrative voices including quite a lot of poetry. That may sound difficult, but the core story is quite gripping , though I must admit that I didn't try to follow everything. Hulme's introduction says that it started as a short story, but the finished novel is much more than that. At the centre of the story is Kerewin Holmes, whose character must be at least slightly autobiographical. She is an artist of mixed European and Maori heritage, estranged from her family, who leads a self-sufficient and independent life in a tower she has built for herself on the New Zealand coast. Her life is disturbed when she finds a mute boy with an injured foot in her tower. The boy is Simon (or Haimona), who turns out to be a survivor of a shipwreck in which his parents are believed to have died. The third character is Joe, who found Simon and adopted him with his now dead wife. Both Joe and Kerewin are heavy drinkers. The story concerns their interactions, conflicts and culture clashes. The story touches on some difficult themes, particularly Joe's relationship with Simon, which mixes extreme physical violence with a love that Simon needs more than anything else. Kerewin is asexual and dislikes physical contact, she is also fiercely independent. Part of the story involves the mystery of Simon's background - for example it is known that he already bore the scars of physical abuse before his adoption. I won't say too much more about the plot - I'm not sure I entirely believed the happy ending but it occupies such a small part of the book that it almost feels like an afterthought. So a very interesting book, a little flawed but probably very memorable. I don't know why it took me so long to get round to reading it, but I would certainly recommend it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Whitaker

    This novel is a shining jewel, one with a huge flaw in its centre. It is still, however, an impressive and beautiful work, and a hugely ambitious one: an attempt to create a story that marries the disparate identities—Maori and European—that make up present day New Zealand. There is a realism-based story of friendship, self-destruction, and child abuse, and there is a symbolism-filled story of healing, catharsis, and the necessary fusing of Maori and European civilisations. Each is well-told bu This novel is a shining jewel, one with a huge flaw in its centre. It is still, however, an impressive and beautiful work, and a hugely ambitious one: an attempt to create a story that marries the disparate identities—Maori and European—that make up present day New Zealand. There is a realism-based story of friendship, self-destruction, and child abuse, and there is a symbolism-filled story of healing, catharsis, and the necessary fusing of Maori and European civilisations. Each is well-told but they don’t fit together. This is a problem because they are the same story. Hulme’s writing sparkles and plays fantastic tricks of light and manages to—mostly—obscure that flaw, but can’t make it go away. The three main characters are Joe, Kerewin, and Simon/Haimona. They are respectively Maori, Maori-European, and European. All are estranged from their families and cultures, and deeply damaged. In each other, they find comfort and solace, but also hurt and pain. As I noted, a key story element in the novel is child abuse. It’s horrific and at the same time is a necessary trigger for the eventual catharsis that occurs. When asked whether Simon/Haimona is a Christ figure, Keri Hulme, in an interview, replied that she doesn’t like categorising him like that because it might cast an approbatory light on the child abuse that occurs. She went on to say that she wanted to write about child abuse because it is a problem in New Zealand that is not acknowledged. I can understand this desire. We can’t, however, get away from the symbolic, religious elements of the story because they seem just too carefully thought out and constructed. We have a trinity; we have a child that is “sacrificed” to a greater end; we have a father figure called Joseph; we have a mother figure who is a virgin; we even have a powerful image of the three in one: It is impossible to not see religious symbolism in this. To cap it all, the strength of the narrative derives its power from that symbolism. These elements are not forced. They carry weight in terms of who the characters are and in terms of their narrative arc. But the story of these individuals has a powerful current that runs counter to the symbolism of the narrative arc. It is difficult on the one hand to decry the abuse and at the same time to approve the catharsis that follows, but this is what the work demands. That Hulme even manages to fuse this contradiction into a whole is testimony to the strength of her writing. But it is not enough. The tension is just too great, and so, we see in it a crack, a cleavage that is not healed. Was this intentional: a symbol on a meta-fictional level of the cleavage between Maori and European civilisation in New Zealand? If so, that would be too clever by half. I would prefer actually that Hulme wanted to tell this story, and tried and failed to resolve its inherent contradictory forces. Somehow the passion behind that creative impulse moves me more than the idea of a cold crafting of a deliberately flawed work. [An interesting discussion the book may be read at The Guardian Books Blog]

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    4.5 stars This was twelve years in the writing and was rejected by many publishers. It defies easy description and is very much set in the interface between Maori and western culture. There is complexity in the structure and a dose of magic realism at the end. The character of Kerewin Holmes is a remarkable creation who jumps out of the page. The novel revolves around three characters. Kerewin Holmes is a solitary woman living in a tower, a painter who does not paint and who is estranged from her 4.5 stars This was twelve years in the writing and was rejected by many publishers. It defies easy description and is very much set in the interface between Maori and western culture. There is complexity in the structure and a dose of magic realism at the end. The character of Kerewin Holmes is a remarkable creation who jumps out of the page. The novel revolves around three characters. Kerewin Holmes is a solitary woman living in a tower, a painter who does not paint and who is estranged from her family. Joe is the adoptive father of Simon, a boy washed up on the beach, who isn’t able to speak and who has considerable behavioural problems and no sense of personal property. Joe has relatively recently lost his wife and child and he is now bringing up Simon alone. In this he is struggling and he is physically abusive and violent towards Simon. Hulme is a great storyteller and her descriptions are vivid; ''watching the blood sky swell and grow, dyeing the rainclouds ominously, making the far edge of the sea blistered and scarlet'' There is a musicality and rhythm to it all; Hulme switches perspectives between her characters and mixes poetry with prose, also mixing English with indigenous Maori language. There are lots of themes. All of the main characters are isolated. A sense of home and family life is often seen as something to be strived for as Simon thinks; “He had endured it all. Whatever they did to him, and however long it was going to take, he could endure it. Provided that at the end he could go home. ……if he can’t go home, he might as well not be. They might as well not be, because they only make sense together. We have to be together. If we are not, we are nothing. We are broken.” Hulme has said that interwoven threads is one of her favourite images in the novel. Hulme has taken two elements of postcolonial literature, language and magic realism and uses them to good effect. One issue that cannot be avoided is the violence by Joe towards Simon. When Hulme writes the violence she strips back the language and makes it very stark. Hulme herself is very clear about why she did this; to address an issue in New Zealand. Hulme has stated that violence towards children was a “pervasive social problem in New Zealand, among Maoris and Pakeha . . . and she had written the bone people in part to draw attention to it” Hulme gives the reader nowhere to go with this; Joe by being violent loses his Maori language and sides with the Pakeha, the western colonizers. His attempt to destroy Simon seems linked to the destruction of Maori culture. His redemption is linked to his rediscovery of his roots and culture. I only found this partially convincing; male violence is male violence, wherever it is found. I must admit that I did struggle with some aspects of the ending, but the writing and language is captivating.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Trudie

    * 1.5 * ( Warning : spoilers, trigger warnings and unpopular opinion time ) C.K Stead is a fairly divisive figure in NZ literature and has been roundly rebuffed for his criticisms of both The Bone People and The Luminaries After reading The Bone People for myself I went searching for his much maligned letter to the London Review of Books (1985) entitled "Maoriness" which can be found here https://www.lrb.co.uk/v07/n21/letters In amongst some perhaps unfortunately worded statements, I finally found a * 1.5 * ( Warning : spoilers, trigger warnings and unpopular opinion time ) C.K Stead is a fairly divisive figure in NZ literature and has been roundly rebuffed for his criticisms of both The Bone People and The Luminaries After reading The Bone People for myself I went searching for his much maligned letter to the London Review of Books (1985) entitled "Maoriness" which can be found here https://www.lrb.co.uk/v07/n21/letters In amongst some perhaps unfortunately worded statements, I finally found a set of arguments about Hulme's novel that happen to dovetail almost exactly with my own reading of it. The letter is in no way entirely disparaging of the book and neither am I but this final paragraph stood out :- I’m glad The Bone People has been written and published. But when I stand back from it and reflect there is, in addition to the sense of its power, a bitter aftertaste, something black and negative deeply ingrained in its imaginative fabric, which no amount of revision or editing could have eliminated. I suspect it has its location in the central subject-matter, and that this is something it shares with Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, a work which also presents extreme violence against a child, yet demands sympathy and understanding for the man who commits it. In principle, such charity is admirable. In fact, the line between charity and imaginative complicity is very fine indeed. A bitter after taste is precisely what I am left with here despite the books obvious power and lingering hold over me. Some of this writing is the best I have encountered in NZ literature, the sense of place, particularly for the South Island is unparalleled and Hulme takes a delight in word-play and poetry that initially made me think this was going to be a 5-star read. Also as Stead states :- Simon is a major fictional character, the most complete, convincing and fascinating of the three, and all the more remarkable in that his personality has to be conveyed to us without spoken language I would go further and say that Kerewin is just as fascinating. A singular personality the more so because she is so obviously a fantastical version of Keri Hulme herself. This makes things all the more problematic for me because despite the love she demonstrated for this Goblin, sun child as she calls Simon/Himi she fails him over and over again. Lets take a look at how dated and tone deaf some of the this central subject matter is. I will let Joe and Kerewin do the talking here : (view spoiler)[ At the moment he'd rather cut his throat than hurt his son, but he knows from broken past resolutions, that come the morning if the child is sulky or rude or baulks at doing what he is told, he'll welt him with a cold and righteous intent (Joe) well what the hell do I do now ? o I know what I am supposed to do, ring up child welfare and report the bloody mess he is in. "Excuse me, i know a small child who's getting bashed it looks like he been bashed with a whip (but i hope to god not )" I had suspicions when he was here with his face battered But he never said it was Joe, and Joe didn't admit it was him I've seen him slapped Hell everyone slaps kids ( Kerewin, internal monologue) for the first time it comes to her that she is aiding and abetting the concealment of a criminal offence ( and yet at no stage does she show any personal regret at not doing anything sooner ) We just decided that if Himi ever needs a hiding again, Joe will wait till I agree to it, soo she shrugs comfortable in her power ... that should prevent Himi getting damaged again (wrong ) You could argue that this is not the author condoning violence but rather shining a light upon it and yet there is this all too pervasive, anti-establishment rhetoric here that argues that a child no matter what occurs is best with his foster father even if that person hits you so hard you are now deaf. The pity of it all is that they are wrong .... you've given him a solid base of love to grow from, for all the hardship you've put him through. You have been mother and father and home to him. And probably tomorrow they will read you a smug little homily, castigating you for ill-treatment and neglect. And the'll congratulate themselves quite publically for rescuing the poor urchin from this callous ogre, this nightmare of a parent..... At least you worried enough about his wrong doing to try to correct it ( Kerewin ) The Church, doctors, psychiatrists, meddling family members, North Islanders, the middle classes and child protective services all come in for snide asides in this book, which I think says more about the authors own views on the "establishment" than any real commentary on the problem of child abuse in this country. I said I hope your father knocks you sillier than you are now you stupid little bastard . ( Kerewin ) as said to a 7 year-old Simon over the phone and essentially giving permission for the beating that ensues, doubly horrific after her promises to protect him. I know I exacerbated his reckless wounding of himself, but now I am not allowed to give him even shelter (Joe demonstrating a lack of comprehension that his actions towards the child he loves left him deaf and brain damaged and his entire body covered in scar tissue ...) wonder if he is up and about or playing the discreet vegetable still ( Kerewin) What is this tone, levity ? I literally blanched and put the book down here ). Sure, it is possible to read The Bone People in ways that are less literal and you can equally put forth quotes that highlight other less distasteful aspects as well as the beautiful writing but that can't disguise the deeply disturbing undertone that pervaded the entire book. In the end, I decided this was 550 pages of Keri Hulme expounding on Keri Hulme and the poor bedevilled Simon a mere plot device to make some statement about spiritual awakening and the power of love to overcome personal failings. (hide spoiler)] ( The rating given reflects my distaste for the handling of the subject matter not as a reflection for the quality of the writing which is mostly exceptional and of course this is all a personal opinion and I do not hold any grudge towards readers who found this an entirely different and more worthy experience )

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    The Bone People had been on my to-read shelf for almost a year, so I decided that it was a good first read of 2013. I wanted to like it; indeed, for the first hundred pages or so, I did. The language is unconventional but richly textured and evocative (and exotic to this American boy). This was enough that I didn't notice some major flaws until I was too far in to quit reading. Once I noticed them, however, they were impossible to un-notice. My first problem with the book is that one slowly reali The Bone People had been on my to-read shelf for almost a year, so I decided that it was a good first read of 2013. I wanted to like it; indeed, for the first hundred pages or so, I did. The language is unconventional but richly textured and evocative (and exotic to this American boy). This was enough that I didn't notice some major flaws until I was too far in to quit reading. Once I noticed them, however, they were impossible to un-notice. My first problem with the book is that one slowly realizes that Kerewin is a bothersome character. Since she is arguably the most important character, this is an issue. If you've familiar with the mysterious, sometimes scary realm of fan fiction, you'll know the term Mary Sue. Kerewin has got the Mary Sues something bad. The similarity of her name to the author's is only the first clue. She's also fabulously wealthy, talented in art, music, and language, a survivalist, and oh--she can kill a man with her bare hands. In conversation and in monologue, she sounds exactly like someone with all of these traits would sound: that is, she sounds ridiculous. About three quarters of the way though the book, I was wincing every time she opened her mouth. (view spoiler)[ Then there's the child abuse thing. I understand that their relationship is supposed to represent the cultural conflict, but Joe beats the crap out of Simon. Kerewin doesn't like it but doesn't really do much about it. They both let the kid smoke and drink, for cryin' out loud. Joe’s presented in a disturbingly sympathetic light, and we're supposed to be okay with it all at the end, because he finds an ancient god and is redeemed. Yep, that’s right. Actually, everyone finds an ancient god, and all of their troubles vanish. Kerewin’s cancer disappears, and she is reunited with her family. The ending of this book is just chock full of deus ex machina. The last fifty pages creak under the weight of it. Everything is mended between Joe and Simon. They all move in together, and it’s swell. I could overlook the other flaws of the book if it wasn't for this. The characters don't earn their own redemption or suffer because of their own mistakes. The gods fix everything. Maybe it’s a grand metaphor for cultural healing or the power of tradition, but it just doesn’t work. (hide spoiler)] I'm not exactly sorry that I read The Bone People, but I don't think I recommend it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    4.5/5 A rare mix of characters and languages and emotions indeed. Gripping. Kerewin is one of my all-time favorite characters; she's everything I am and so much more. The talent and the energy and the drive. Simply beautiful. I can't forgive Joe though. I can't. (view spoiler)[I don't see any justification for his violence. Is this how males get? Is this how their logic works? It has no place in society, whatever their excuses and reasoning and past horrific experiences may be. What he did to Sim 4.5/5 A rare mix of characters and languages and emotions indeed. Gripping. Kerewin is one of my all-time favorite characters; she's everything I am and so much more. The talent and the energy and the drive. Simply beautiful. I can't forgive Joe though. I can't. (view spoiler)[I don't see any justification for his violence. Is this how males get? Is this how their logic works? It has no place in society, whatever their excuses and reasoning and past horrific experiences may be. What he did to Simon was unforgivable, and the way the book kept pushing them together was unbearable. No one should go through that much torture and horde the blame for themselves. (hide spoiler)] Moving on though. The story builds and builds and then the ending. Hardly satisfying(view spoiler)[, especially given all the hinting and foreshadowing. It was all too easy, really. A happy family reunion, after all that? Unlikely (hide spoiler)] . The flow of words was nice, I have to admit. The Maori language has a certain running quality that makes the sprinkling through tolerable, almost pleasant, despite the lack of understanding. So, higher than a four, but not a five. I don't agree with all of it. But I can't deny its unique beauty.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hanneke

    So, okay, Ms. Hulme, I already felt rather suffocated by your novel throughout the book, but you really tried to strangle me with your final chapters. I was going to rate the novel 3 stars. However, after those last chapters, I will now grant it a mere one star plus another one for the rather picturesque writing throughout the book. Let me explain. I rather liked the sing-song quality of the narrative and in particular the inserted little snippets of poetry, contemplations and lamentations. What So, okay, Ms. Hulme, I already felt rather suffocated by your novel throughout the book, but you really tried to strangle me with your final chapters. I was going to rate the novel 3 stars. However, after those last chapters, I will now grant it a mere one star plus another one for the rather picturesque writing throughout the book. Let me explain. I rather liked the sing-song quality of the narrative and in particular the inserted little snippets of poetry, contemplations and lamentations. What I truly hated were the two main characters who are just utterly unsympathetic. Hulme’s apparent alter ego, Kerewin, has serious character flaws and feels so elevated from mere humans that she does not want to commit herself in any way, even if a six year old boy, whom she claims to love, is ferociously beaten on several occasions, the last abuse so severe that the boy is within inches of death. She is convinced that the father, her new friend Joe, cares about his adopted son and that should be a sufficient reason to excuse his behaviour and for herself no reason to act in a decisive way. Subsequently, at the end of the book, Hulme seems to insist that her readers accept her idea of the redemption and forgiveness of Joe. It feels to me that she forgets that her readers might feel pretty disgusted by both Kerewin’s and Joe’s earlier pathological behaviour and are not in the mood to forget what transpired before. To help her doubting readers, she introduces sudden magical occurences which result in the elevation of Joe to a moral, even saintly, human being. Sorry, what drivel! Needless to say, I was relieved to finish the book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Isis

    I out myself as a philistine, I guess, with my dislike of this painfully literary book, which I read only because I was in New Zealand and thought I ought to read a famous NZ author. Once I got past the aggressively defensive introduction (Idiosyncratic Author is idiosyncratic! I can dizzily swap first-person POV and use my own grammar and make up my own words because I am Artistic!) and the Mary-Sueish tinge of the central character being named after the author (*headdesk*), I found this book.. I out myself as a philistine, I guess, with my dislike of this painfully literary book, which I read only because I was in New Zealand and thought I ought to read a famous NZ author. Once I got past the aggressively defensive introduction (Idiosyncratic Author is idiosyncratic! I can dizzily swap first-person POV and use my own grammar and make up my own words because I am Artistic!) and the Mary-Sueish tinge of the central character being named after the author (*headdesk*), I found this book...confusing. Parts of it were interesting, parts dull, and hey, surprise woo-woo at the end (which I kind of wish had been introduced sooner, because it was cool, and actually, you know, went some where). I didn't particularly like any of the characters, but I suppose that was part of the point.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    When I recommended this book to my book club several years ago, the only other woman who had read it glared at me and said "if we pick this book, I am going to be REALLY mad at you" and so I withdrew the suggestion. This winner of the Man Booker prize is painful to read. It forces the reader to consider the complexity of human nature and behavior -- how thin the line can be between love and abuse. It is set in New Zealand and is about three wounded and likeable characters - a man, a woman, and a When I recommended this book to my book club several years ago, the only other woman who had read it glared at me and said "if we pick this book, I am going to be REALLY mad at you" and so I withdrew the suggestion. This winner of the Man Booker prize is painful to read. It forces the reader to consider the complexity of human nature and behavior -- how thin the line can be between love and abuse. It is set in New Zealand and is about three wounded and likeable characters - a man, a woman, and a child.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    I cannot put my finger on why I love this book. I didn't really think it all that special when I read it, but it has stayed in my mind so vividly when many a lesser book has dissipated from my memory. I think the authors descriptions are understated while being vivid. I read the book years ago and I can still remember clearly descriptions of meals cooked, of the matter-of-fact efficiency the main character displayed in her solitude. All of the characters are overtly flawed, and the author doesn' I cannot put my finger on why I love this book. I didn't really think it all that special when I read it, but it has stayed in my mind so vividly when many a lesser book has dissipated from my memory. I think the authors descriptions are understated while being vivid. I read the book years ago and I can still remember clearly descriptions of meals cooked, of the matter-of-fact efficiency the main character displayed in her solitude. All of the characters are overtly flawed, and the author doesn't just skip over that to tell a "happily ever after" story about friendship. Maybe I loved this book because it is not a fairytale. The characters you grow to love and empathize with are also the ones that drink to much and beat their children, or the ones who steal from you after you've generously given them money. These are not the heroes we put next to flags or on films, but they still come across the page as lovable. A very provacative novel.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. What a mess of a novel. The initial promise of a 4-star experience was systematically dismantled by the author herself. Interesting setting and carefully crafted imagery are ultimately all for naught. Hulme launches her literary clay pigeons and then recklessly shoots each one out of the sky until all that's left are shards nobody cares about. What follows is a rant so feel free to stop reading here if that kind of review upsets you. Broken, wounded people can, and do, perpetrate terrible harm upo What a mess of a novel. The initial promise of a 4-star experience was systematically dismantled by the author herself. Interesting setting and carefully crafted imagery are ultimately all for naught. Hulme launches her literary clay pigeons and then recklessly shoots each one out of the sky until all that's left are shards nobody cares about. What follows is a rant so feel free to stop reading here if that kind of review upsets you. Broken, wounded people can, and do, perpetrate terrible harm upon themselves and others. It is mighty unpleasant to read about such things but I do so (now and then) to expand my sensibilites; I won't walk away from a book just because it's emotionally challenging. But we all have our limits and this one tested mine repeatedly. Take such a story, stretch it out for 550 pages, romanticize the suffering, and consistently make excuses for the hideous abuse on display, and you have definitely lost me. Add to all this the many uneducated, simple characters using words like "exemplar" and "fanatacism" - and Dr. Sinclair Fayden, World's Least Convincing Pediatrician, who smokes cigars with his seven-year-old patients and colludes with victims of Child Abuse in order to "sneak" them back into the care of their abusers - and it's easy to understand why Hulme "had been rejected by some of the country's major publishers". There are aspects of "The Bone People" that made it interesting and not a complete waste of time. This is a rare international award-winning novel from New Zealand, and that stunning landscape and environment are strongly represented. Maori language and culture permeate throughout. The celebration of coastal living really appealed to me, having been raised by a rugged shore myself. It is always compelling to have outsiders as protagonists and everyone here is beyond mainstream society. And there is a strong presence of ancient spritual voices. So much potential! In terms of characterization, I was most fascinated by Kerewin. There is a lot going on there. Her abundant flaws - including some very unattractive traits - are believable and well-delineated. Given that she's clearly autobiographical might explain her particular strength. In any event, she's well done. Simon followed next as often interesting but he is also a bit of an avatar and not fully developed. Joe, however, was quite poor in many respects and the least persuasive protagonist. In fact almost every minor character (many of whom appear indirectly and for only a few pages) seemed more credible. Hulme's attempts at giving Joe depth did not work for me. The information she provides the reader - by way of explaining the motivations behind his erratic, destructive behaviors - is weak and unconvincing. We are asked to believe that he is intelligent, perceptive, charming, and willing to do just about anything in order to bring love back into his life. Why, then, the Jekyll and Hyde transformations which are brought on by the smallest of insults? Why the careful depictions of shame and remorse followed by his casual returns to obscene violence against a vulnerable child? Why his inability to understand Simon when their behaviors are so similar? When Joe takes center stage after page 400, it became much harder to stay interested in the proceedings. I was ultimately undone by this supposed epiphany following his release from prison: "I know I exacerbated his reckless wounding of himself, but now I am not allowed to give him even shelter..." This is the extent of his understanding following a criminal conviction for extreme, chronic child abuse? Aue. He aha tou mate? E whakama ana au ki a koe! I realize that we all have contradictory natures, but this is the very antithesis of intelligent, perceptive, and charming. It was all a bridge too far and a road too long. "The Bone People" is obviously not New Zealand's best effort in fiction and I look forward to better experiences ahead. 1.5 stars rounded up

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vonia

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Bone People (1983) Author: Keri Hulme Read: 12/4/20 Rating: 3.5/5 stars The Good: Taking place on the South Island in New Zealand, scattered through the text is an abundance of information for readers on the Maori culture and lifestyle, as well as life in a fishing village. Highly descriptive narrative invites readers on a dark but evocative adventure to Oceania. Hulme's writing is raw and deeply sensual, often with a visceral quality. Frequent use of the Maori language (although not too muc The Bone People (1983) Author: Keri Hulme Read: 12/4/20 Rating: 3.5/5 stars The Good: Taking place on the South Island in New Zealand, scattered through the text is an abundance of information for readers on the Maori culture and lifestyle, as well as life in a fishing village. Highly descriptive narrative invites readers on a dark but evocative adventure to Oceania. Hulme's writing is raw and deeply sensual, often with a visceral quality. Frequent use of the Maori language (although not too much that it inhibits understanding) further adds to the immersive, transporting power of the novel, making readers feel like they are witnessing authentic interactions. Psychologically complex in its themes and ideas; astute examination of such "phenomena" as violence as a form of love, the nuanced repercussions of trauma, psychological struggles pertaining to belonging, identity, and loneliness. Controversial topics are opened for much thought long after three last pages, particularly on morality. How much is too much when it comes to discipline. Questions of culpability- say, as occurred in this (thankfully) fictional story, you were consulted beforehand and "let" a father abuse a child? Does whatever happened thereafter fall under your responsibility? Are words only words? One of the few books- particularly fiction books- that Has a touch of magical realism (for fans of the genre) as well as references to spirituality and the occult, such as medicinal potions and tarot reading. The Bad: Experimental techniques, as noted below, can be discombobulating and make the story difficult to fully understand. A good portion of the poetry is beautifully written. However, there is also much that may have been intended as "art", but honestly reads as incomprehensible, pretentious gibberish. Religious connection here comes off as forced and intrusive; doesn't even make it's argument clear. Father (figure) named Joseph, Trinity of three main characters, sacrifices, renewal, religious awakenings, virgin mother- a mother figure who is a virgin. The entire final section which mentions Christianity frequently, yet still makes little to no sense except broad allusions to ancestors, Maori culture, various religions. There is undoubtedly much lost in translation, but too much seems deliberately alienating- not only drenched in Maori vernacular, but also occult and even witchcraft, venturing into such beliefs as cannibalism. While this may be fascinating, more fascinating would be fascinating material conveyed in a comprehendible manner. An uncomfortable read for most, with graphic scenes, violence, and some darker forays into the human psyche. Takes a questionable moral stance on a few issues, primarily alcoholism (in general and by a young boy), smoking (mostly cigars, also by a kid), and child abuse. At best it condones, at worst it endorses. Here is the worst of it: "... it all shows you cared deeply. In a negative way, so does the fact that you beat him. At least, you worried enough about what you considered was his wrongdoing to try and correct it." (page 235) So causing near lethal pain and suffering is true love? The "Experimental": The text has a disconnected quality, namely due to the intermittent Maori phrases. Although most can be guessed at through the context, it can feel jarring. Hulme includes a glossary at the back of the book, selecting some words and phrases either at random or those she deemed most important and listed by page number. But this resulted in more intrusion than aid. Some suggestions that would have been far more effective: 1) have a general glossary in alphabetical order, 2) to have actually defined every word written in Maori rather than selectively 3) used reference symbols like in footnotes to prevent unproductive flipping to the back. As it is written, readers will unfortunately likely find themselves flipping to the back frequently, only to be frustrated most times upon discovery that Hulme did not deem a word or phrase worthy of the glossary. It seems like she may have purposely been selective with her glossary entries, in order to alienate the reader a little bit not not too much. The novel is told from three character perspectives. Frequently, Hulme will segue into internal monologue, clearly marked by an indented paragraph. What is not so clear is exactly whose thoughts they are and when she deems it necessary to indent, as other internal thoughts are written with regular formatting. With characters also referring to themselves in third person, it is often difficult to discern whose point of view is indeed being taken. Dreams play a significant part, sometimes interspersed between narrative of what is taking place in reality. Can be confusing to tell which is which. Several instances where Hulme writes poetry or something that certainly wouldn't quite be considered prose. Fragmentary, vague words and passages. Mysticism, folklore, myths and legends plays as a backdrop throughout the narrative, and takes center stage in the third and final part of the novel- in which a spiritual trek and awakening takes place involving Maori ancestors and gods. By far the most gibberish- sounding portion of the book. #TheGoodTheBadThe_Review #adoption #alcoholism #artistlife #asexuality #barasmainsetting #BookerPrize #bothoneandfivestars #beach #bloodyviolent #cannibalism #castle #childabuse #childPOV #Christianity #crime #deathofspouse #dreams #dubiousparentage #fatherson #folklore #fuckedupchildhood #ghost #island #kleptomania #loneliness #magicalrealism #multiplepointsofview #musicperformance #mute #mystery #nature #NewZealand #occult #onaboat #orphan #parenting #PegasusPrize #poetry #religion #streamofconsciousness #storywithinastory #suicide #uniquechaptertitles #weather

  14. 5 out of 5

    Vivian

    The ocean was the only song in the book that I enjoyed. That said, it was a fascinating insight, but, like a door you never wished you opened. Hulme is a gifted wordsmith, rich, evocative language that paints a harsh and salt-stained landscape, which really gives a sense of New Zealand's vast wild spaces, also the staggering alcoholism, racial tensions and blithe brutality. . From a strictly objective point of view the story is stunning. Truly. Unfortunately, it is drawn out. Reading about people The ocean was the only song in the book that I enjoyed. That said, it was a fascinating insight, but, like a door you never wished you opened. Hulme is a gifted wordsmith, rich, evocative language that paints a harsh and salt-stained landscape, which really gives a sense of New Zealand's vast wild spaces, also the staggering alcoholism, racial tensions and blithe brutality. . From a strictly objective point of view the story is stunning. Truly. Unfortunately, it is drawn out. Reading about people getting blinding drunk, being stupid, belligerent and abusive-- and then sick, nine of out ten days is not riveting. Reading about a kid being brutally beaten regularly, not a couple slaps or strops of a belt, but broken bones and scars that will never go away physically or emotionally, is depressing. Reading about other people thinking something should be done, and doing nothing, well... that's F#@king infuriating. I have to give some leeway for the fact that this was published in the eighties. While corporal punishment used to be commonplace, thrashing your kids was not. It was never acceptable. There is a mysticism and magical realism employed within the story that blend well with the native Maori beliefs. There is an intense amount of Maori language used, so the index in the back is not a perhaps I'll use it supplemental because unless you understand basic phrases, titles, and terms of endearment then you'll miss significant context. I read this in paperback form so I can not speak to whether or not ebooks have clickable references, but it would be invaluable. Finally, my knowledge of NZ politics and racial issues is nil or near as nil as to be completely useless. Nonetheless, it is obvious within the story how characters are judged on how "Maori" they are from physical looks, to language skills, and beliefs. This is interesting, but it also makes the brutality of Simon, an extraordinarily "white" character disturbing. I haven't read any critiques about this, but it would be interesting to discuss with someone who had greater understanding of the issues. So, the theme really didn't appeal to me. The storytelling itself is beautifully worded if repetitive and drawn-out. The ending, well here's where it fell apart. Unrealistic and vague, as if more palatable closure was needed then either was laid out throughout the story or frankly, deserved by the characters. As much as I love the ocean, I don't want to visit here, again. Betelgeuse, Achenar. Orion. Aquila. Centre the Cross and you have a steady compass. But there's no compass for my disoriented soul, only ever-beckoning ghostlights. In the one sure direction, to the one sure end.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I read this as part of my self-declared New Zealand November in 2015. It checks of a few boxes for me - Oceania 2015, a Man Booker Prize winner (I'd like to read them all eventually) from 1985, female author, etc. Keri Hulme is also part Maori, which made this a deeper cultural read about the country. From the publisher's description, I was expecting a pretty straight-forward novel: "In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Homes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her I read this as part of my self-declared New Zealand November in 2015. It checks of a few boxes for me - Oceania 2015, a Man Booker Prize winner (I'd like to read them all eventually) from 1985, female author, etc. Keri Hulme is also part Maori, which made this a deeper cultural read about the country. From the publisher's description, I was expecting a pretty straight-forward novel: "In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Homes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her art, woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor – a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon’s feral charms, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality." Instead I discovered a book mixing poetry inside of prose, stream of consciousness inside of third-person narrative, rotating points of view inside three unusual minds, and a setting with fantastical elements, sometimes from Maori mythology, sometimes Keriwen's or Simon's own ideas. It was simultaneously easy and complex to read and is unlike anything else I can think of that I've read. It's funny because the only books I can think of that are similar are recent New Zealand reads. I don't think it is a unique experience to New Zealanders where the outsides don't match the insides, but so far that has been a far more prominent theme in New Zealand literature than in any other place of origin. The insides that are unexpected range from artistry to mental illness, abuse to psychopathy. The world is seen both as it is and in an elevated sense, through the lens of myth or a different mind. Why in New Zealand, I wonder? Is the mystical connection to the land just that more recent here of all places? Don't listen to the people who poo-poo this book. It doesn't feel like an Oxford or MFA educated writer musing about their contemporary experience because that isn't who the author is.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

    I read this book not long after it's release. I remembered it having a slow start and then building up to a shattering climax. The scenes that had an impact for me still do. This book does a wonderful job of exploring a complex relationship that was both loving & violent. (view spoiler)[ I wish I could say Joe's prison sentence was unrealistically short. But I can't. (hide spoiler)] Some of the prose was quite beautiful & I didn't mind the liberties Hulme took with descriptive words. There are al I read this book not long after it's release. I remembered it having a slow start and then building up to a shattering climax. The scenes that had an impact for me still do. This book does a wonderful job of exploring a complex relationship that was both loving & violent. (view spoiler)[ I wish I could say Joe's prison sentence was unrealistically short. But I can't. (hide spoiler)] Some of the prose was quite beautiful & I didn't mind the liberties Hulme took with descriptive words. There are also a few flaws. Kerewin is at least partially autobiographical (the similar names are a little clue!) and I could just feel Hulme's smug approval of Kerewin's actions. Personally I found her insufferable at the start, although she did improve in the middle of the book & I liked the character's honesty about her part in the outcome for Simon. I had forgotten the ending. Was a bit Mills & Boon for me. Thought Hulme wimped out a bit there. Not a masterpiece (Mistresspiece?) but a very fine book & an important part of New Zealand's literary landscape.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    I am a not overly enthusiastic about this book. Although some parts were beautifully written and engaging, in the end it failed to convince me. The book deals with difficult issues, i,e. inter-familial violence, child abuse and alcoholism. Hulme paints a vivid, realistic picture and the characters (even the abusive stepfather) are not 'black and white'. But the 'hollywood-ending', where all is hopeful and the abusive father is reformed, didn't ring true to me. Still, for readers interested in Ma I am a not overly enthusiastic about this book. Although some parts were beautifully written and engaging, in the end it failed to convince me. The book deals with difficult issues, i,e. inter-familial violence, child abuse and alcoholism. Hulme paints a vivid, realistic picture and the characters (even the abusive stepfather) are not 'black and white'. But the 'hollywood-ending', where all is hopeful and the abusive father is reformed, didn't ring true to me. Still, for readers interested in Maori culture the book might be worthwile.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    The Bone People is, quite simply, the most powerful, moving, stunning book I have ever read. The characters are well drawn. I wanted to hate Joe, but he was in so much pain that I couldn't, really. I never excused what he did - and Hulme did not ask the reader to do that. She challenges the reader to look at our society as a whole; to see what we do to people and how we as communities play a role in creating some of the violent, terrible situations that result in children being abused. I know th The Bone People is, quite simply, the most powerful, moving, stunning book I have ever read. The characters are well drawn. I wanted to hate Joe, but he was in so much pain that I couldn't, really. I never excused what he did - and Hulme did not ask the reader to do that. She challenges the reader to look at our society as a whole; to see what we do to people and how we as communities play a role in creating some of the violent, terrible situations that result in children being abused. I know that some people found that the mysticism in the latter section of the novel took away from the book. I disagree. I found that it fit in well with the story and helped flesh out some of the messages the author was trying to get across. Some of the imagery in this novel is absolutely breathtaking. I have never been so utterly moved and transfixed by a novel as I have by this one. It challenged my perceptions and it made me a different person when I was finished it. The book is quite long, and it can be slow in a few spots. I found that I had to read it twice. I admit I did hate Joe the first time I read the novel; I really only began to understand him the second time I read the book. This is a complex, multi-layered work that speaks to a wide range of issues: child abuse, spirituality, community, and culture. I highly recommend this novel to everyone. You may not like it or agree with it, but you will be impacted by it. It still haunts me today.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    3.5 rounded up. I first read this book in the early 90's and I didn't remember that much of the story but I remember living it. This time it was on track to be a 5 star read until I got to the last part and then it just went off the rails for me. Sometimes I really enjoy rereads and sometimes I think they are a terrible idea. 3.5 rounded up. I first read this book in the early 90's and I didn't remember that much of the story but I remember living it. This time it was on track to be a 5 star read until I got to the last part and then it just went off the rails for me. Sometimes I really enjoy rereads and sometimes I think they are a terrible idea.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    It was a gloomy and stormy night, a mute 7 year old boy, Simon shows at the hermit Kerewin’s tower. The next morning his adoptive father, Joe came to pick him up. Because Simon couldn’t explain his motives, Kerewin has to rely on Joe to tell their curious story. A storm earlier that year sees Simon wash up on a beach with no memory or clue of his identity. Joe and his now deceased wife took the troubled boy in, but the traumatised boy is just too hard to cope with. The Maori people use bones as t It was a gloomy and stormy night, a mute 7 year old boy, Simon shows at the hermit Kerewin’s tower. The next morning his adoptive father, Joe came to pick him up. Because Simon couldn’t explain his motives, Kerewin has to rely on Joe to tell their curious story. A storm earlier that year sees Simon wash up on a beach with no memory or clue of his identity. Joe and his now deceased wife took the troubled boy in, but the traumatised boy is just too hard to cope with. The Maori people use bones as tools and for art; they believe the notion of a person’s core is found within their skeleton. The bones are a common theme throughout the novel; each character is emotionally stripped to the bone. It is then we truly see what type of person these characters are. This novel is full of violence and twisted emotions, making this a tense and draining book to read. Something I really liked about this novel was Keri Hulme’s use of silence as tool that drives the plot. Simon is unable to speak, but we find out this is more of a psychological rather than a physical restriction, as he can sing. I think he is afraid to say the wrong thing, a defensive strategy. He uses notes as a primary form of communication, this way there are no expressions of his emotion and he can protect himself. The book goes a little further, Simon is also silent about the pain, when he is beaten he doesn’t make a sound. Kerewin also uses silence in a similar way, she built her tower to hide away and be a recluse; no one can hurt her if she is in solitude. She is always an artist suffering from a creative silence; not being able to let her creative side flow through her art. You can read this book and find many examples of silences within it; very effective and I spent a lot of time trying to work out the meaning behind it. Each character has been damaged that their defensive mechanisms make it hard to open up to others. Yet the three main characters spend the entire novel trying to work out what love is and how to find it. They are all isolated themselves from the world; Kerewin in her tower, Simon with his inability to steak and Joe with his grief. There is just so many themes you could look at in The Bone People, the idea of a utopian society uniting Maori and Western culture, Post-colonial discourse, cultural illness, violence as a way to communicate and you can just go on and on. This is not the easiest book to read, it is confronting and tense. The Bone People left me with mixed emotions; on one hand the writing was wonderful and left me thinking about so many issues but on the other hand the violence just left me with a sick feeling. I often try to leave my emotional opinion of the subject matter out of analysing a book but I just can’t help it with this one. In the end, I think the book has something important to say and worth reading. This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tai

    This was a very difficult read for me. There are a few reasons for this but chiefly it is because this story is devastating. We have a bizarre world and narrative to wade through, limericks and soliloquies, mysticism, maori history (and language) all combined with insanity. Three main characters who are out of their minds. Put this all together and a fresh, quirky story could be delivered but that's not what happened here. All of this was injected into the very real and horrifying reality of chi This was a very difficult read for me. There are a few reasons for this but chiefly it is because this story is devastating. We have a bizarre world and narrative to wade through, limericks and soliloquies, mysticism, maori history (and language) all combined with insanity. Three main characters who are out of their minds. Put this all together and a fresh, quirky story could be delivered but that's not what happened here. All of this was injected into the very real and horrifying reality of child abuse. Between all the weird sidebars and references to new zealand flora and fauna there are two people who fall into the gray middle area that life truly is. Joe, in particular, is likable. He's the life of the party, he's emotional, funny, caring and of course there were times when I found myself longing for the obvious love story. And that jolts me. He beats his son. Physically this boy is broken, emotionally he is caught up in the abusive cycle, instigating his own beatings to get to the make up happy again part. For entertainment, when I sit with a book I've realized there has come to be an expectation of clear boundaries, protagonists and antagonists, the crisis and the resolution. Rarely in life are there actually people who can be defined as evil or good as they are in books and cinema. But it is relaxing to the mind to get to know a character and file them away in the nice or naughty folders. In real life, child abusers are people not archetypes. And in The Bone People, a horrifyingly real situation plays out and all the reader can do is sit there, aghast and depressed. At times the garble/poem-speak would cloud out the events and I would have to go back and make sure I was understanding correctly.... it certainly made the story-telling unique but in some ways it disrespected the story that needed to be clearly told for Simon/Haimona/Claire. I did not like the story arc and I did not like the ending. I went back and forth, rapidly turning pages to putting the book down for days (read:weeks) because it was just too damn much, too frustrating, too painful and, frankly, too long. I did not like diluted moral of the story either. I mean, when I arrived at the last page I felt boggled. Am I supposed to feel happy? Relieved? Am I to think we have a reformed man here, changed by the grace of a gemstone, who is not going to beat his child anymore and will live happily ever after with his not-so-depressed anymore miraculous cancer survivor girlfriend? I'm going to save the rest of my thoughts for book club discussion and hopefully put more order to them in the process.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Sheet and apricocks what the berloody hell was that?! This is one of the weirdest, most evocatively written and engaging books I’ve read in a very long time. The inventiveness of the language is just staggering. For the first third or so I was completely hooked and thought I’d discovered another all-time favourite, but it missed out on a five-star rating from me because the pace slowed in the middle third and then the final third was frankly just mad. The book is about Kerewin Holmes (the author i Sheet and apricocks what the berloody hell was that?! This is one of the weirdest, most evocatively written and engaging books I’ve read in a very long time. The inventiveness of the language is just staggering. For the first third or so I was completely hooked and thought I’d discovered another all-time favourite, but it missed out on a five-star rating from me because the pace slowed in the middle third and then the final third was frankly just mad. The book is about Kerewin Holmes (the author is called Keri Hulme, geddit?), a reclusive and wealthy eccentric living in a remote tower on a beach in New Zealand. Kerewin is a phenomenally bright alcoholic, estranged from her family and suffering from crippling artistic block. She wants to paint but just can’t. Into Kerewin’s life wanders Simon P. Gillayley, a scrawny mute boy who infuriates and fascinates her in equal measure. When Simon’s adoptive Maori father Joe arrives to take him back, a special kind of dysfunctional unit forms and Kerewin is drawn in. Kerewin is one of my favourite female protagonists I’ve ever read. She is complex, intelligent and strong in all kinds of ways. The fascinating thing about Kerewin is that she is written in a way that is completely devoid of the male gaze (yes, the author was female, but I find that even female writers tend to write with a male gaze, probably without even noticing). The bizarre way that she thought and spoke drew me in rather than alienating me. In a word, she was unique; I also got the strong impression that she was based on the author in more than just name. But I felt like this was a book of three distinct parts. The beginning was brilliant, fast-paced and intriguing; the middle was a HUGE lull in which nothing really happened; and the end was just truly weird (and left me a bit 'WTF'?!). There’s an awful lot going on in The Bone People, but in a good way. It would be an interesting one to discuss as a group, even though it certainly wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I’ll definitely be recommending it to people though.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Wyndy

    One of the most original, difficult, and compelling books I’ve read in a long, long time. I don’t really know how to explain this novel or the spell it cast on me, so I’ll throw out some random tidbits: An artist and loner named Kerewin Holmes, estranged from her family and resistant to human touch, lives alone in a remote tower near the Tasman sea. A mute young boy washes up on a New Zealand beach, barely alive after surviving a boat wreck that assumedly kills his parents, with no clues to his One of the most original, difficult, and compelling books I’ve read in a long, long time. I don’t really know how to explain this novel or the spell it cast on me, so I’ll throw out some random tidbits: An artist and loner named Kerewin Holmes, estranged from her family and resistant to human touch, lives alone in a remote tower near the Tasman sea. A mute young boy washes up on a New Zealand beach, barely alive after surviving a boat wreck that assumedly kills his parents, with no clues to his identity. Joe Gillayley, a local factory worker and happily married man, finds the child, names him Simon, and provides him a home with himself and his wife. These three individual characters - Kerewin, Simon and Joe - become inextricably bound, and this novel is their complex story. There’s mystery and tension, brutality and gentleness, Maori magic and spirits, despair and hope. This was a stunning, though often uncomfortable, read for me, and it’s certainly not for everyone (as you can see from the varying GR reviews). If you decide to read this 1985 Booker and Pegasus Prize winner, my advice is don’t try to make sense of every word - just let some of the unusual free verse and random, alternating narrative wash over you. This one is going on my keepers shelf (at least for now) to join some other favorites I plan to reread.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Warf

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I can't really say that I liked this book. I read it, and didn't get bored or dislike reading it. I did not however learn much from the book or feel a whole lot after reading it. I liked the earlier parts of the book when Kerewin's narration was more dominant. Toward the end, after Joe beat up Simon I stopped liking the book at all. Joe's encounter with the wise man kind of left me scratching my head, and from then on the book went down hill. Kerewin's redemption in the end bothered me because i I can't really say that I liked this book. I read it, and didn't get bored or dislike reading it. I did not however learn much from the book or feel a whole lot after reading it. I liked the earlier parts of the book when Kerewin's narration was more dominant. Toward the end, after Joe beat up Simon I stopped liking the book at all. Joe's encounter with the wise man kind of left me scratching my head, and from then on the book went down hill. Kerewin's redemption in the end bothered me because it seemed like a happy ending to a twisted book. Very little was resolved and very troubling aspects of this book were not key parts of the theme or even remarkable. Most other reviews and summaries of the book make a big deal of the Maori connection. Joe was Maori, Keri part Maori and Simon European. Keri was the connection and that was a symbol throughout the book....

  25. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    I have a feeling this book is going to haunt me for a very long time. Given that, I should bump my rating up a little higher. Except... ... the writing style was very different from anything I've read before. I did get the hang of it eventually except that I was confused by the Mauri language (in spite of the dictionary at the back) and the symbolism. The themes of alcoholism and child abuse were disturbing. The characters weren't all that likeable, and yet, in some strange way, I grew to like the I have a feeling this book is going to haunt me for a very long time. Given that, I should bump my rating up a little higher. Except... ... the writing style was very different from anything I've read before. I did get the hang of it eventually except that I was confused by the Mauri language (in spite of the dictionary at the back) and the symbolism. The themes of alcoholism and child abuse were disturbing. The characters weren't all that likeable, and yet, in some strange way, I grew to like them in all their flaws. I thought the ending was a bit unclear. It wasn't wrapped up with a neat tidy bow, even though it appeared to be. Either the ending was weak, or it was intentionally written that way to keep the reader guessing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Pickstone

    One of my all-time favourites. A quirky book, very New Zealand - they produce some....unusual books and films here. The national psyche here is...bleaker - and darker - than would perhaps appear to the observer. At least, that is true if you look at the creative output with my (jaded?) eye! If you would like to see what I mean, watch 'The Piano', 'Once Were Warriors' and 'Whale Rider' - which last is not so much dark as steeped in 'otherness'. This novel speaks so clearly to me of the New Zealand One of my all-time favourites. A quirky book, very New Zealand - they produce some....unusual books and films here. The national psyche here is...bleaker - and darker - than would perhaps appear to the observer. At least, that is true if you look at the creative output with my (jaded?) eye! If you would like to see what I mean, watch 'The Piano', 'Once Were Warriors' and 'Whale Rider' - which last is not so much dark as steeped in 'otherness'. This novel speaks so clearly to me of the New Zealand psyche that I put it forward as archetypal of this country, this nation.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cherie

    I don't hate it. Therefore, the two stars. I do wish I understood it. I am sure that this story was written about three people and a culture I do not understand. It was an interesting experiment in a writing style all the author's own. It was just too vague and cryptic for me to appreciate. I don't hate it. Therefore, the two stars. I do wish I understood it. I am sure that this story was written about three people and a culture I do not understand. It was an interesting experiment in a writing style all the author's own. It was just too vague and cryptic for me to appreciate.

  28. 5 out of 5

    L

    What a strange style Hulme has used to present her story. It took me probably 15 or 20 pages to figure out how to read this book. But once it opened for me--wow! By page 34, I love both Kerewin (artist (estranged from her art), exile (from her family), dislikes people, especially children) and Simon (the child, naturally, speechless, which is less expected). By the half-way point Hulme has moved away from the sunny view of "cranky loner woman falls in love with strange child and all is happy." N What a strange style Hulme has used to present her story. It took me probably 15 or 20 pages to figure out how to read this book. But once it opened for me--wow! By page 34, I love both Kerewin (artist (estranged from her art), exile (from her family), dislikes people, especially children) and Simon (the child, naturally, speechless, which is less expected). By the half-way point Hulme has moved away from the sunny view of "cranky loner woman falls in love with strange child and all is happy." No, as beautiful as that was, there is much more to the story. The child is abused, big time. Kerewin comes to know who is the abuser, has to figure out what, if anything, to do. Remember, she is not fond of children in the first place, and now she's fallen into this huge responsibility. As more and more is revealed to the reader, she also begins to feel responsible. And then she, the reader, comes to see some of this through the eyes of the abuser, who is actually a human being, in addition to being a monster. It becomes very hard reading. It's hard to read and even harder to put down! And then the monster does the unthinkable. Kerewin surely caries some of the responsibility/guilt, if none of the blame. It's horrible, just horrible. And it's clearly the end of their story. But there are well over 100 pages to go, so where and how? The book takes off in a totally unexpected direction. I'm not sure the rest of the tale and the ending are satisfying or that they are not. It reminds me of one of Rushdie's books, the one that got him in so much trouble; near the end he (by way of a character) decided that, after all, nothing in unforgivable. I remember questioning that then. I question it still.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    i loved this book so much! i don't know why it's taken me so long to write this post, since i've been wanting to rave about the book since i finished it. i was a bit dubious when i read the introductory note about it having non-standard grammar etc, but it was so good! i think i even liked it enough to kick cryptonomicon off my literary speed dating list, except that i don't think it would create the right impression... the language is beautiful and the characters are wonderfully real and comple i loved this book so much! i don't know why it's taken me so long to write this post, since i've been wanting to rave about the book since i finished it. i was a bit dubious when i read the introductory note about it having non-standard grammar etc, but it was so good! i think i even liked it enough to kick cryptonomicon off my literary speed dating list, except that i don't think it would create the right impression... the language is beautiful and the characters are wonderfully real and complex. i was worrying about them even while i wasn't actually reading it. their speech patterns started incorporating themselves into my inner voice as i read, too (i still keep finding myself thinking "e (name)" and "berloody"). phantom mentioned the book in a comment to my post about asexuality as an example of a character who wanted "love and human connections" without being sexual (thanks phantom!). i actually found myself identifying more at times with simon, the kid who doesn't talk (although he was far more expressive with sign language and writing than i ever am), especially in the scene where he realises kerewin has heard him singing and he's terrified of what the consequences might be. the three main characters' inner voices are written so well that i couldn't help feeling for all of them as they worked through the misunderstandings to negotiate their relationships. i'm not sure i could read it again too soon, since it is rather disturbing and heart wrenching, but as alice walker's blurb on the cover says: "this book is just amazingly, wondrously great".

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    This was my second time of reading The Bone People. I remember loving it the first time around, but I also remember thinking that it was flawed in many little ways (the very beginning, the sketchy end, the way the story's strands seem to escape Keri Hulme in the last third) yet whenever I've stumbled upon it on GR I kept being surprised at my 4*rating, since there's many five* reads that I remember much less and that had less of an emotional impact on me. I think this time I've surrendered to my This was my second time of reading The Bone People. I remember loving it the first time around, but I also remember thinking that it was flawed in many little ways (the very beginning, the sketchy end, the way the story's strands seem to escape Keri Hulme in the last third) yet whenever I've stumbled upon it on GR I kept being surprised at my 4*rating, since there's many five* reads that I remember much less and that had less of an emotional impact on me. I think this time I've surrendered to my gut which told me that this book might be like my bookshelf. I love it dearly, self-built as it is, but it isn't really what anyone would call a neatly build shelf. Yet I would sing it's praise (the book's and the shelf's) at every chance that I get. Hulme is a wonderful storyteller and her language - though odd at times - is very powerful. One of the things that most impressed me about this book is the warmth Keri Hulme has for her deeply damaged characters, without ever using the soft-focus-lens on their actions. It left me in an interesting grey area as a reader quite often, being repulsed by / in love with these people in equal measures. I'd recommend it highly to anyone who's interested in literature from and about New Zealand and in following the journey of three emotional shipwrecks (often odd and beautiful, sometimes odd and hard to stomache) in a story that has one foot in New Zealand-Realism and the other deep in Maori-Symbolism.

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