Monday, July 2, 2007

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

The Bone People
by Keri Hulme

1984 , 445 pp.

Rating: 4

1985 Booker Prize

I didn't think I was going to like this book at first, and I didn't love it, but it definitely kept me reading and I did care about the characters.

Kerewin is an artist who lives in a Tower by the sea. She likes living by herself and even likes the isolation. She is estranged from her family.

Joe is a factory worker with an adopted son who is always getting into trouble. Joe has a bit of a drinking problem and doesn't keep good tabs on his son. The boy ends up at Kerewin's place, and the three end up becoming friends, if not a quasi family unit. Secrets, lies, and violence lie beneath the surface, though, and threaten to tear them all apart.

The story takes place in New Zealand with Joe and Kerewin being part Maori. Some of the myths, culture, and history of the Maori are also part of the book.

This is a different kind of book that is written in almost a "stream of consciousness" style. I thought this was a bit distracting at first, but then I got used to it and even enjoyed it. I also don't like it when authors use the present tense rather than the past tense. This aspect bothered me for about 3/4 of the book, but then I didn't notice it anymore.

For instance (p. 34) "She picks up the curious pendant one last time, to fondle and admire before she goes downstairs," rather than "She picked up the curious pendant one last time and fondled and admired it before she went downstairs." I guess it's a preference issue.

If you've already read this book and would like to talk about it further, we are discussing it right now at BookAwards.


Bookfool said...

I'm not a big fan of present tense, either, but I've found that if the story is captivating enough, I can get to a point that the tense isn't quite so bothersome. This one's already on my wish list. Lots of bone books out there, right now. I wonder why. :)

Trish said...

This book was really hard for me to read because of some of the things that happen, but I found it very compelling at the same time. I grew very attached to all of the characters, even abusive Joe. Read it for a post-colonial grad course, so we had an interesting time discussing the Maori elements. Not a big fan of present tense either. Alice Hoffman did this in "Here on Earth" and it turned me off from trying any of her other stuff. I didn't mind so much for some reason with The Bone People.