Booker Challenge – Book 4!

Title   : The Bone People
Author  :  Keri Hulme
Year Won: 1984
Read for: January 2011
Rating  : 7/10
Quick Summary:
Set in New Zealand, this is a book of two distinct sections. 
The first introduces us to the artist Kerewin, the troubled, and mute 8 year old Simon, and his widower adoptive and alcoholic father, Joe (ahem…not to label or anything…). They are all, to a certain aspect, outsiders – whether by choice, race or situation – yet become a micro-community for a time, learning about one another, and how to live together, despite vastly differing opinions, personalities and personal histories. Kerewin has chosen to remove herself from the ‘outside world’, until the young Simon invades, and they develop a strange and unexpected harmony. As they bond, Joe becomes involved, by necessity at first, then through a deep longing to connect on a deeper level with people.
Unfortunately, as damaged people, their interactions are often demonstrated by violence, rage and pain.
This results in each separating, with their unique journeys, heartbreaks and experiences comprising the second section of the book.
Like it/Love it/Loath it? 
– All of the above actually.
– The book is structured in a not-as-unusual-now-as-it-must-have-been-then mixture of song, poem and prose. Yes, initially, it was a bit odd, and I did struggle to pull out pertinant pieces here and there, but it’s sort of like those 3D puzzles that were all the rage ten years ago – a change of perspective, and you’re in business! The Maori aspect – history, culture, preconceptions that affect each of the protagonists differently, were fascinating to me, one so unfamiliar with anything other than the Rugby chant…thingy. 
– While the lyrical prose flowed swiftly and smoothly in some sections, in others it felt discordant with the story – almost as though the author thought ‘haven’t had any poetry/etherial bits for a while’, and promptely stuck some in. So, where this device (and it is a device. It might be linked with a particular culture, or art movement, or country, but it is a device.) worked, it was a thing of beauty and joy. Where it fell flat, I was left tearing my hair out screaming at the interruption to a poignant and heartbreaking story.
– This is *such* a sad story. When all the dialogue and fancy descripters are pulled away, this is the tale of three very unhappy and lonely people. Each has been alienated from family, friendship and love in some form or another. The emotions, or rather, the lack of expected emotions is portrayed so beautifully by the author that at times, when I encountered a sweet or gentle moment in the book, I felt very tempted to abandon ship! Let them have a moment of happiness, rather than the ineviatble misery that seemed to come with each page turn!
– One of the aspects that I really loved about this story was the redemptive nature of the characters in relation to one another. Sure, they each individually do terrible things (ok, more adults than child here, though the trait does seem to be shared between the three), but they impact positively on one another. (It’s difficult to think of an example without spoiling the entire ending!) Joe is the most obvious example. Although his approach to raising children is not ideal (by any stretch of the imagination), he does love Simon, and it is through him that Kerewin reaches one of her high points in the story. 
I would heartily recommend this book…to some people. It’s a bit heavy duty, and I found myself very ignorant about their way of life, leading to quite a bit of info-searching on the Internet. So, unless I knew the person was that sort of reader, I’d be a bit hesitant. Nevertheless, I enjoyed. 
Though I promptly found myself something soft and squishy to read afterwards!
Found myself listening to a lot of folksy music to this, preferably without lyrics. Some I’d recommend in general would be:
  • Oh Brother, Where are thou soundtrack
  • The UnThanks – any album
  • Imogen Heap – as above!



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