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The Bone People: A Novel by Keri Hulme
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The Bone People: A Novel (original 1984; edition 1986)

by Keri Hulme

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3,068862,728 (4.11)441
Member:unwashedcat
Title:The Bone People: A Novel
Authors:Keri Hulme
Info:Penguin Books (1986), Edition: 1ST, Paperback, 450 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Rating:*****
Tags:from amazon

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The Bone People by Keri Hulme (1984)

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» See also 441 mentions

English (80)  Dutch (4)  Danish (1)  German (1)  All languages (86)
Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
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. ( )
2 vote bodachliath | Sep 14, 2018 |
Very engaging. The plot is quite simple for such a long book - a demi-god living amongst us, and the affect on a father and son who dare to recognise and engage. However the book is not a word too long. Opens a window on a New Zealand community and the land and sea around them, and windows into the reader's heart and soul. Worth reading slowly for the richness of the writing as well as ideas. I only discovered the list of Maori words and notes near the end of reading the book. I'm glad it is there but if I had known earlier I would have interrupted the flow of the narrative flicking forwards at each phrase instead of going with the flow. ( )
1 vote Ma_Washigeri | May 27, 2018 |
Have to say that after reading this book all I could think was, "there go several hours of my life I'll never get back". What a pile of self indulgent, navel gazing words, forced into a semblance of a story. Since we read this for bookclub years ago it has been the marker of bad to which we hold up all other books.
  LindaWeeks | May 14, 2018 |
To write something about the book based on the people only, I have no words. Understanding the spirituality and symbolism, still, I have no words. There is much to think about, I will think for some time. ( )
  Jolynne | Mar 20, 2018 |
This is a difficult book for me to rate. While there are many aspects of it I like, in addition to stream-of-consciousness style writing that I tend not to like in the first place, the way adults treat children in the story is hard to swallow. I know that the author isn't condoning child abuse, but the line between harmless behavior and abuse for these characters is troubling for me. Severe abuse requiring hospitalization is bad, but allowing children to get drunk is OK? (Not just a sip of dad's beer to see what it tastes like, but out-and-out drunk.) ( )
  Lindoula | Sep 25, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Keri Hulmeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bok, AnnekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes, part Maori, part European, 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 Maori and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge. The Bone People is a work of unfettered wordplay and mesmerizing emotional complexity.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140089225, Paperback)

In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes, part Maori, part European, 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 Maori 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:18 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

This unusual novel, set in New Zealand, concentrates on three people: Kerewin Holmes, a part-Maori painter who has chosen to isolate herself in a tower she built from lottery winnings; Simon, a troubled and mysterious little boy; and Joe Gillayley, the Maori factory worker who is Simon's foster father. Elements of Maori myth and culture are woven into the novel's exploration of the passions and needs that bind these three people together, for good or ill. It's not easy reading, but the story is compelling despite its stylistic eccentricities and great length. The novel is the winner of the Pegasus Prize.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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