Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Bone People

Title: The Bone People
Author: Keri Hulme
Country: New Zealand
Year: 1984
Rating: A-
Pages: 450 pgs.

First sentence: He walks down the street.

The Bone People is a story about an unorthodox trinity between three people. They were nothing more than people, by themselves. Even paired, any pairing, they would have been nothing more than people by themselves. But all together, they have become the heart and muscles and mind of something perilous and new, something strange and growing and great. Together, all together, they are the instruments of change. (p.4) Kerewin Holmes, part Maori and part European, who lives alone in her Tower by the sea; Simon, a confused, turbulent but loving young boy who cannot speak; and Joe Gillayley, his brutal Maori foster parent who loves him, but reverts to brutality because he does not know how to give Simon all that he needs. When their world falls apart, each partakes in their own personal journey towards transformation, redemption and forgiveness.

As she tells the story, Keri Hulme delves into the consciousness of all three characters in a blend of myth, legend, dreams, and a harsh reality. Don't let that first sentence above deceive you. From the very beginning, The Bone People draws you in with its raw emotion and sometimes lyrical, sometimes crude language. There were times I wanted to lay down the book and cry myself to sleep, especially in the last half of the book. Yet at the end, I was left wanting more.Maori culture, while not the focus, influences everything in the novel. The writing is unique and creative, but I do fall into the camp that feels that a little bit of editing would have been useful. Other than that, it was a roller coaster of an experience reading this book.

I have scattered some of my New Zealand photos throughout for the fun of it!
I have watched the river and the sea for a lifetime. I have seen rivers rob soil from the roots of trees until the giants came foundering down. I have watched shores slip and perish, the channels silt and change; what was beach become a swamp and a headland tumble into the sea. An island has eroded in silent pain since my boyhood, and reefs have become islands. Yet the old people used to say, People pass away, but not the land. It remains forever. Maybe that is so. The land changes. The land continues. The sea changes. The sea remains. (p. 336)

I know about me. I am the moon's sister, a tidal child stranded on land. The sea always in my ear, a surf of eternal discontent in my blood. (p.89)


Anonymous said...

Wow - great New Zealand photos, and thanks for the great review!

Dewey said...

This looks fascinating. Gorgeous pictures!

Bookfool said...

Wow, stunning photos!

There sure are a lot of titles with the word "bone" in them. Most make me cringe, but this one sounds very interesting. I have a cousin who works primarily with the Maori (she's a psychiatrist who specializes in drug treatment). She's from Nebraska, but her family has moved to New Zealand permanently. I wish we were close enough that I could feel comfortable visiting, but we grew up quite far apart. My aunt has told us about their visits to New Zealand and it sounded . . . well, just as beautiful as your photos!!

tanabata said...

I've heard of this book several times but never really knew what it was about. Your review makes it sound very interesting.
And your pictures are beautiful! I especially love the one of the dock. It looks so peaceful. I could sit there and contemplate that view all day.

iliana said...

Love the pictures. This is one of those books that I've had on my TBR pile for years. I don't know why I don't just get to it now - it sounds so good.

verbivore said...

I have this book on my TBR for this month so what great luck to find a nice review. Makes me want to dive right in this evening! (sigh) two other books to finish first...

Nyssaneala said...

@heidijane - Thanks! I love taking photos, but our camera is on the outs. I hope to get a new one this fall.

@dewey - Thanks!

@bookfool - For a long time I got this book confused with Lovely Bones. I think 'The Bone People' refers partially to the fact that the Maori are known for their bone and pounamu (jade) carvings. It is often made into pendants that are worn. If I get a chance, I'll post a picture of my bone mere pendant.

@tanabata - It's a hard book to describe! I was surprised that, as a Booker prize winner, it's somewhat hard to get a copy of. It is on Amazon.

@iliana & @verbivore - this book was on my TBR list for a long time too. I wanted to read it while living in Australia, but I never found a copy. Then, over New Year's, I saw it at a used book store in Charlottesville, Virginia and snatched it up immediately. It was worth the wait! (but, it might not be everybody's cup of tea - the writing can be quite crude and very descriptive at times)

Literary Feline said...

Great review and I love the photos. :-) I will definitely be adding this one to my wishlist.

Lotus Reads said...

I'm glad you shared your pictures, they are just out of this world. What an intriguing read this seems to be...I love books that send my emotions on a roller coaster ride!

Bookfool said...

I'd love to see a photo of your bone pendant! And, I have to agree with Nat. The dock is my favorite because it looks so peaceful, although I love all your photos.

Joy said...

Wow! Beautiful pictures! I was going to read this, but held back because of its length. I do not like chunksters and this qualifies in my book. :) However, I really do want to read it, so I have to be in the right frame of mind. Hopefully one day that'll happen.

3M said...

Hi Alisia. If you're still up for it, I'd love to have you lead the discussion at BookAwards. I didn't see your post about it until yesterday due to various circumstances.

If you can't, though, we can all chip in. A lot of us finished it, so it should be an interesting discussion!