The Bone People

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Bone People
by Keri Hulme

Set in New Zealand, Kerewin is a reclusive artist living alone in a tower by the sea. One day a young mute boy named Simon shows up at her home and soon insinuates himself into her life. Simon’s stepfather Joe finishes out the odd trio of troubled souls. Together they make a strange family of sorts, but the darker undertones in their relationships soon bubble to the surface.

I’ve never read anything quite like Hulme’s style. It’s a blend of narrative, inner monologue, and poetry. Some parts feel like stream of consciousness, in others we hear what someone is thinking while someone else is talking to them. Usually a style of writing that chaotic would really bother me, but somehow all of the distinct elements work well together and create the tone for the whole novel. 

The odd group of characters that doesn’t quite fit anywhere manages to fit together quite nicely. The subject material is tough; child abuse and alcoholism are two of the main issues dealt with in the story. I felt like there were many unanswered questions in the plot and the final third of the novel felt a bit confusing to me.

BOTTOM LINE: One of the most unique novels I’ve ever read. I’m glad I read it if for no other reason than that. I did love seeing Maori culture through a new lens and getting to know Kerewin and Simon. I wish the end had been easier to follow, but the regardless it was a singular reading experience. 

*There is a glossary of Maori words in the back of the book, but it isn’t alphabetized so I couldn’t ever find what I was looking for as I read the book.


Bybee said...

I'm glad I read it, but not one of my favorites. Good point about the glossary.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Susan - That's how I felt. It was good to read before we visited New Zealand, but it was a strange book.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I read this one for a post-colonial grad course and really loved it despite it being a tough read (both mentally and emotionally). One of the things we talked about at great length in my class was about how the inclusion of foreign terms is at times a way to exclude readers who would normally be the more privileged reader (thus making an "insider" feel like the "outsider" she is reading about). Of course I don't know Hulme's true purpose with the glossary but in addition to the words not being alphabetized, there are many words that aren't included at all.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trish - How fascinating! This is definitely a book I would have loved to discuss with a group. I think using foreign terms as a way to demonstrate the exclusion of the reader, and really the rest of the world, is a great idea. I didn't even make that connection while I was reading it.