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The Bone People [Paperback]

Keri Hulme
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 17.47 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book by Hulme, Keri

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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had originally read this as a library book. Liked it so much I had to buy it. My favorite author is Tim Winton and Keri Hulme's work is now just behind him. Woe, that she has not written any more.

The story is one of aboriginal peoples and their relationship with their invaders and how they have altered the tribal world. The style is fluid but intense and the story is compelling - a boy washes up as the only survivor of a boat wreck on the western shore of New Zealand's South Island. He does not speak. The story is about how that silence produces emotions and actions in those who would care for him.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual, sad, and perfectly lovely Dec 14 2011
By Jessica Fleagane - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My first "real" boyfriend's mother (who loved to read, as I did) recommended this book to me as one of her favorites, when I was 16.

That was 20 years ago.

This book is an enduring legacy of my relationship with an amazing, talented and smart woman, who has since passed away. And I was recently surprised, while browsing at a book store, to see one lonely copy, with this gorgeous new cover, faced OUT.

This is not a book that anyone talks about now; most have never even heard of it. But it's simply...stunning. Complex, deeply sad, lonely, wind-swept and often desolate. But it's also fiercely lovely.

It remains one of the most memorable books I have ever read, even 20 years later. I re-read it every 5 years or so. If you love good, honest storytelling, with amazing character development and absolutely no pretense or artifice, then you need to buy this book...and then pass it on to someone you know will appreciate it.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Zealand aborigines in brilliant focus Feb. 9 2013
By KnitWit - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I chose to read this novel because it received international awards when published in 1984, because it rated a 4.06 in goodreads.com--a very high score--and because I'd never read a work of fiction about New Zealand's aboriginal people. The story is narrated in first person by a woman who appears white but has some aboriginal blood, an artist who deeply associates with native traditions, and we first meet her living alone in a tower she designed and built herself with friends in a spiral form sacred to aborigines: the chambered nautilus so fascinating for all of us, and so often repeated throughout nature.

She lives alone; something in her has broken, and she finds herself unable to paint or draw at all. She's been disconnected from her family as a deliberate point of will for some time, but the point has proven a psychic hara-kiri from which she suffers daily.

One day she sees a boy in her window, a window higher than any boy should be. Gradually she comes to know him, even though she fairly despises children. This boy cannot talk. His complexion is fair and his hair, white blond, falls below his shoulders. He appears to be about seven years old physically but has the bearing or spirit, the indescribable something, of an old man.

Eventually, she meets the man this boy knows as father, a full aborigine--so he can't be the boy's natural father. Like many disaffected peoples who suffer diaspora and discrimination, the man is struggling in life, financially and spiritually. He yearns for ancient traditions even while deliberately estranging himself from them. He drinks too much beer. But the artist and the man share a connection through the boy. Over time, they begin to act essentially as a family, although the artist is clear from the beginning they can never have a sexual relationship. She doesn't need or want sex.

Catastrophe forces her to face visceral horrors that break them up in every conceivable way.

Then reality and science begin to interweave with an alternate, mystic reality. The future and the past begin to coalesce, rising separately then intermingling, like smoke from different, nearby fires. Life progresses from one home to another as the characters and their story grow, leaving one home for the next, and the one after that, as the entire tale begins to form the familiar construct of a chambered nautilus, in which the animal inside accretes section by section as it grows and expands.

I loved this story first for its tough, sophisticated, and modern intellectual assessments. I loved it for its grittiness. Then I hated its grittiness but was intrigued by the shift into mysticism. Finally, I was inspired.

Where the spoken language is aboriginal, please be sure to refer to the glossary at the back of the book for the translation. I didn't realize there was a page-by-page translation until quite late, and I found it worthwhile to go back and read again with better understanding. Perhaps for this reason there is no Kindle version of the book.

This novel is for folks who understand that all who wander are not lost. It is for seasoned readers eager to leap into a willing suspension of disbelief. For well-reasoned people capable of feeling their souls expand when they give up the need to decipher.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of a kind read. Dec 12 2011
By Randa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I would highly recommend this book to people who love unusual books. The writing style is purely original, the story line is intriguing and mysterious. This book truly plays with every emotion.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story but confusing to read Feb. 11 2013
By Kathy Davie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A sad story about a dysfunctional group of people in New Zealand.

It won a Booker Prize and a Pegasus Prize for Literature. I can understand this, although why obtuse and confused always seems to accompany such winners continually raises questions in my mind.

My Take
There are two things I loved about this story: the incorporation of Maori culture and the general idea of the storyline. I hated the cruel side of Joe. That everyone just kept brushing it under the rug, although I had a hard time believing that it was Joe until Hulme hit me over the head with it! I definitely disliked half of Hulme's style.

I know. How can a person dislike part of another's style? I can't think of any other way to describe it. For a seven-year-old, Simon's thought speech is amazingly adult which made it very confusing to know who was speaking/thinking. When I read a story, I want to understand the characters, their reasons for how they ended where they do/did and why they act as they do. Instead, in The Bone People, I felt as though I were underwater with the currents tumbling me every which way through the waves, never allowing me to gain a sense of up. And it's why I could not give it a "5".

It takes forever before we get to learn what makes even a tiny part of Simon tick. And it is very much a child's perspective on how to create a traditional family. And makes me cry even more for this child. Hulme does pull you in, make you care for these three people. Pretty amazing when you consider how deep the negatives go on all three! Then there's that one particular resolution at the end. And it ends with the discovery. That's it. We never learn any more about their background, who Simon's people are, where they came from.

This was a village of people with all the closeness that implies, and yet it was also a series of distant relationships. For all its depth, Hulme skimmed the surface, providing just enough detail to pull me into her story and want to know more about its characters. And until the end, I was not interested in reading any more of this story. Now. Now, I want more.

I don't understand why that side story got tacked on for Joe at the end. I kept thinking that maybe it was his grandfather or great-grand, but I later suspected he wasn't. But, then again...and I still wouldn't understand why Hulme tucked it in as it didn't seem to have any purpose other than to provide more information about Maori culture.

It's a terrifying story in some ways. Again, my rant about parents needing to be licensed. And yet, as the system learns, there's more to any story.

The Story
It's a break-in at her tower that brings Kerewin into Simon and Joe's lives. An encounter she can decide if it's good or bad...but mostly both.

It may be enough to bring all three of them to life.

The Characters
Kerewin Holmes has won the lottery and lost her family. No, I have no idea in what order this occurred. She's also lost her ability to paint. And I have no idea why. She does have the most amazing house she built, though and a very back-to-the-earth self-subsisting lifestyle. A very lonely one.

Simon is who he is on the outside; Clare is his name on the inside; and, Haimona/Himi is Joe's pet name for him. This is a complex little boy who is hurting in so many ways. A boy who is loved deeply and brutally beaten at the same time.

Joe Gillayley of the Ngati Kahungunu has taken on the care of a toddler whose caregivers were lost in a shipwreck. He recently lost his wife and young son, and Simon is now his new family. But one whom he views in a wide-ranging swing of emotions. It'll just break your heart...

Marama and Wherahiko (Joe's uncle) Tainui. Their kids include Luce with whom, it seems, Joe had a short affair; Ben is the oldest and works the farm; Piri works for Ben on the farm (I think Polly Ackers is Piri's live-in girlfriend). Piri is separated from his wife Lynn who took most of the kids; Timote is still with his dad.

Price is the barman at the Duke in the village. Dr. Elizabeth Lachlan is the only medico Simon allows near. Binny Daniels is the village pederast, who influences the penultimate end. But why it leads to the tower's destruction...I dunno. There is just so much that I don't know...

Tiaki Mira, the kaumatua, is the old man at the end, waiting for the broken man, the digger, and the stranger. Dr. Sinclair Fayden is the only one who understands what Simon wants. And, strangely enough, needs.

The Cover
The cover is gorgeous. All black and white with a Maori graphic. I interpret the central character as having an opinion about Joe.

I think the title refers to events at the end of the book and Maori myths about The Bone People.
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful read Jan. 31 2014
By P. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
this book was very detailed and the characters were well developed although it was sad. helped to understand the maori/european relationship. read after a trip to new zealand and it was helpful to be familiar with the country. incredible author.
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