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Keri Hulme (1947–2021)

Author of The Bone People

13+ Works 3,990 Members 113 Reviews 11 Favorited

About the Author

Keri Hulme had been writing for several years, little known outside New Zealand feminist and Maori literary circles. Then, during the mid-1980s, she gained international attention for her novel The Bone People. In 1984 she received the Mobil Pegasus Award for Maori Writers and the New Zealand Book show more of the Year Award for fiction, and, in the following year, the distinguished Booker-McConnel Prize, Britain's highest literary honor. Hulme, who was born in Christchurch, is of Maori descent on her mother's side; her father was an Englishman from Lancashire. Studying for a law degree but not completing it, she worked at various jobs before settling down to write full time. The Bone People (1984) remains Hulme's major work. Almost impossible to describe in a coherent way, the novel is a sprawling and puzzling story about a relationship between a strange child, a powerful woman named Kerewin who reluctantly takes him in, and the child's father, who treats him brutally. According to the critic Margery Fee, the implausible yet metaphoric and sophisticated structure of the text sets out "to rework the old stories that govern the way New Zealanders---both Maori (indigenous New Zealanders) and Pakeha (New Zealanders of European origin)---think about their country." Hulme has also published two books of short stories about Maori life, Lost Possessions (1985) and Te Kaihau: The Windeater (1986); the short fiction, too, incorporates the intentionally chaotic and often bombastic style that dominates The Bone People. She has written two volumes of free verse as well, The Silences Between (Moeraki Conversations) (1982) and Strands (1992). Hulme has received extensive attention from international critics who see her, as Margery Fee says, in the forefront of the "postcolonial discursive formation evolving worldwide"---that is, writers who have set out to reinvent the history of imperialism. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
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The Bone People is a challenging book to read due to it's eclectic writing style. It breaks a lot of conventions and utilizes a variety of ways to let us see into the characters—though it's not always quite clear which character, or what is really happening, and certainly not why. The book probably needs re-reading a few times to truly be appreciated/analyzed.

At the core of it, however, is the strange relationship between a hermit painter who lives in her self-built tower, a very clever though mute child, and the child's foster father who can be very affectionate, but also very violent. The book has a few parts that are a bit tedious, but also quite a lot that are moving, shocking and suspenseful. It's certainly unlike anything I've ever read before.… (more)
adastra | 111 other reviews | Jan 15, 2024 |
Well. I loved it. I hated it. I had to take some time away for a bit. 100% glad i did it in a book club.
mslibrarynerd | 111 other reviews | Jan 13, 2024 |
Kerewin and Joe are an unlikely couple. They come together because of a mysterious mute boy of four or five named Simon. Confessional: I was not sure I was supposed to like Kerewin. She likes to drink herself into a stupor and, as a self-exiled recluse, she has the time and inclination to take to the bottle often. She also spends her time making art, having won her independent wealth from a lottery ticket. She is estranged from her family, considers herself unlovable, and doesn't like companionship so when she comes across mute Simon, she cannot explain why she takes him in. Second confessional: I wasn't sure I was supposed to like Joe. Hard working and rugged, Joe has been a self-imposed foster father to Simon. When provoked he likes to beat the tar out of someone, but he gives just as many kisses as he does kicks. His passions are confused. Third confessional: I wasn't sure I was supposed to like Simon. He's a devilish imp. He has a way of stealing things and acting out when he doesn't get his way. He can be just as violent as Kerewin and Joe in action and emotion. Yet...Kerewin, Joe, and Simon somehow belong together and I found myself rooting for them.
The Bone People is like a slow moving train. At first you are not sure if you are on the right ride, but once it gets going it's a runaway success. I couldn't put it down after the first hundred pages. Maybe it took me that long to get used to Hulme's style?
You know a book is going to be good when it is endorsed by Alice Walker.
… (more)
SeriousGrace | 111 other reviews | Oct 11, 2023 |
This is a magnificent book. Beautiful written, almost poëtic. Kerewin, Joe and Simon ar forever in my heart. This is a book worth of rereading to gain more understanding each time you read it. Wow.
weaver-of-dreams | 111 other reviews | Aug 1, 2023 |



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