Saturday, July 7, 2007

BOOK: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

1985 Booker Prize Winner




The Awards Challenge began July 1, and this was my first read. I hope all the books will be this good. It wasn't an easy read, with characters like Kerewin, Joe, and Simon and their somewhat unorthodox relationship. In addition, the prose was unique and could be difficult, but for some reason, I easily let myself go and floated along on the lyrical, magical words. I quickly understood who was thinking or speaking in the unusual style of Hulme's writing. The Maori words and phrases list at the back also helped, but didn't need to look that often as the meaning was usually clear.
Joe is a widower and foster parent to Simon, a mute child with severe behaviour problems. They suddenly enter Kerewin's life and Tower home which is all the more amazing as she is an artist and hermit, happily miserable in her own world. This unusual threesome quickly bond, but it is a difficult relationship as all three seem used to pushing people away. It is a difficult life to read, with much violence and drinking.
Overall, I really liked the book. The writing especially carried me along, and even when the book became mystical and, to me, vague, I still was able to feel connected to the story. A line I particularly liked was

A hook to his jaw and a hook in his thumb and a kind of hook in my heart, by God

And while I can't say the characters were terribly likeable - there were mean streaks in each of them, I still rooted for the three of them together. There was about much Maori legends and the New Zealand setting was powerful. Hulme does a great job of bringing the reader to her land and her Maori culture. This was a book unlike any other I've read.

Here's the wikipedia link with some great info; I didn't see all the parallels to Christianity when I read the novel, but the information might be spoilerish if you haven't read the book yet.

1 comment:

kookiejar said...

I was thinking about reading this because I just finished a book about New Zealand for the 'Armchair Traveler' challenge and the author of that mentioned Hulme's book. I'm glad you think it would be worth my time.