The Bone People – Keri Hulme

The Bone People

The Bone People won the Booker prize in 1985. I remember it creating a huge stir in New Zealand at the time, because of the prestige of the prize but also the question of the author’s “right” to write about Maori culture.

This book has always been on my “should read but not really that interested in reading” list. I’m so pleased that I have finally read it. It feels like I have been on a long journey with each of the three central characters.

These three are Kerewin, a reclusive painter who has lost her ability to paint; Simon, a mute 6 year old and Joe, Simon’s adoptive father. Simon turns up at Kerewin’s “tower” her isolated refuge one day and it is here that the healing journey of these alienated and traumatised people begins. It is a combined and an individual journey. A rediscovery of identity.

This is a story that asks for commitment to get through it. There are issues that arise that do not make easy reading.It is long, the pace is slow and it has a stream of consciousness/poetic style which I found hard going. Add to that a lot of Maori language throughout which required repeated flicking to the back of the book to translate.

Despite being a frustration, the gentle pace is also one of the joys. It embodies the spirit of acceptance, of letting things be, of allowing the seasons and the land and the people of the land to do what they need to do to become whole again.

This story is filled with symbolism and is multi-layered. There is so much to think about having finished it and despite being a challenge it was worth it. The latter part of the book was amazing.

I have to admit to struggling with my thoughts for this post. In a nutshell, I found it a difficult, memorable, wonderful read.

Read for the Book Awards 3 challenge.

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10 responses to “The Bone People – Keri Hulme

  1. “The Bone People” has been on my to-be-read list a long, long time. I’m thinking it will stay on my to-be-read list, not actually read. I’m much more picky when it comes to long books than I am for short books.

  2. Great review. You expressed your thoughts beautifully, with the result that I would love to read this book, but would choose the time of reading carefully; to ensure reaching the end!

  3. I agree with you – I struggled to read sections, but in the end I thought it was a fantastic book. I still remember some sections very clearly, even though it has been a while since I read it. I think it is one of those books which would benefit from a re-read, as there is so much symbolism. Great review!

  4. I’m typically not fond of slow-paced stories, but I do like poetic prose. This does sound very interesting, so I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks for the review!

  5. Very interesting review! I think you summed up the challenges you faced in reading it but also your enjoyment of it.

    I bought this a few months ago and have been trying to find the right “time” for it; I think you’ve persuaded me that it is essential to choose the right period to do this justice.

  6. Tony – I think being picky over long books is very wise, considering the investment of time and all the great books demanding to be read!

    Sarah – thank you! And yes I think this book is all about the timing. I hope you enjoy it when you do choose to read it.

    Jackie – thank you! I think there was a lot I probably missed and I have to confess to not absorbing every word in parts – I will pop over and look for your review.

    Anna – thank you! It would be a hard call I think to choose between the poetic prose and the slow pace – they both play a big part.

    Claire – thank you! I can’t wait to see what you think of it when you do read it.

  7. I found the review very insightful.

    I will be discussing the book in class for the next two weeks. I only just borrowed it from the library today. I still have to decide on a title for my essay. The other books on my course (post-colonial women’s writing) have been somewhat disappointing. But am I very hopeful about this one. 🙂

  8. Randy – Thank you. I will be really interested to see what you think. I can imagine readers being a bit split on this one. I’ll pop over and check out your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by 0:)

  9. Pingback: Book Awards 3 Challenge – Completed! « A Book Sanctuary

  10. The Bone poeple, sigh…the best I have ever read. I used parts of the book when my best friend died and I used parts of the book when I got married. Nature, deep soul searching and mysterious. I think I read it twice in english and about 5 times in dutch. I would like to read more of these books, anyone suggestions ?

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