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The Bone People

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  14,935 Ratings  ·  1,271 Reviews
Integrating both Maori myth and New Zealand reality, The Bone People became the most successful novel in New Zealand publishing history when it appeared in 1984. Set on the South Island beaches of New Zealand, a harsh environment, the novel chronicles the complicated relationships between three emotional outcasts of mixed European and Maori heritage. Kerewin Holmes is a pa ...more
450 pages
Published (first published February 1984)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jude
Sep 06, 2007 Jude rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is inetersted in unusual works of fiction
I have read this book 11 times. It's not because of my faulty memory (although I do have one), it is because this is my favorite fiction book of all time. The shape is unusual for a novel - it is not told in one voice or from one point of view. At times there is an omniscient narrator and at others it is told in the first person. It is the story of the journeys of three people back to the landscape of family. Sometimes free verse, sometimes standard prose, always poetic. Keri Hulme plays with th ...more
Whitaker
This novel is a shining jewel, one with a huge flaw in its centre.

diamond with a flaw

It is still, however, an impressive and beautiful work, and a hugely ambitious one: an attempt to create a story that marries the disparate identities—Maori and European—that make up present day New Zealand. There is a realism-based story of friendship, self-destruction, and child abuse, and there is a symbolism-filled story of healing, catharsis, and the necessary fusing of Maori and European civilisations. Each is well-told but
...more
Aubrey
4.5/5

A rare mix of characters and languages and emotions indeed. Gripping. Kerewin is one of my all-time favorite characters; she's everything I am and so much more. The talent and the energy and the drive. Simply beautiful. I can't forgive Joe though. I can't. (view spoiler)
...more
Meredith
Aug 19, 2007 Meredith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I cannot put my finger on why I love this book. I didn't really think it all that special when I read it, but it has stayed in my mind so vividly when many a lesser book has dissipated from my memory. I think the authors descriptions are understated while being vivid. I read the book years ago and I can still remember clearly descriptions of meals cooked, of the matter-of-fact efficiency the main character displayed in her solitude. All of the characters are overtly flawed, and the author doesn' ...more
Isis
Mar 03, 2009 Isis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
I out myself as a philistine, I guess, with my dislike of this painfully literary book, which I read only because I was in New Zealand and thought I ought to read a famous NZ author. Once I got past the aggressively defensive introduction (Idiosyncratic Author is idiosyncratic! I can dizzily swap first-person POV and use my own grammar and make up my own words because I am Artistic!) and the Mary-Sueish tinge of the central character being named after the author (*headdesk*), I found this book.. ...more
Lee
Jul 25, 2007 Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I recommended this book to my book club several years ago, the only other woman who had read it glared at me and said "if we pick this book, I am going to be REALLY mad at you" and so I withdrew the suggestion. This winner of the Man Booker prize is painful to read. It forces the reader to consider the complexity of human nature and behavior -- how thin the line can be between love and abuse. It is set in New Zealand and is about three wounded and likeable characters - a man, a woman, and a ...more
 Carol ♛ Type, Oh Queen! ♛
I read this book not long after it's release. I remembered it having a slow start and then building up to a shattering climax.

The scenes that had an impact for me still do. This book does a wonderful job of exploring a complex relationship that was both loving & violent. (view spoiler) Some of the prose was quite beautiful & I didn't mind the liberties Hulme took with descriptive words.

Ther
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this as part of my self-declared New Zealand November in 2015. It checks of a few boxes for me - Oceania 2015, a Man Booker Prize winner (I'd like to read them all eventually) from 1985, female author, etc. Keri Hulme is also part Maori, which made this a deeper cultural read about the country.

From the publisher's description, I was expecting a pretty straight-forward novel:
"In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Homes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her ar
...more
Adam
Feb 05, 2013 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Bone People had been on my to-read shelf for almost a year, so I decided that it was a good first read of 2013. I wanted to like it; indeed, for the first hundred pages or so, I did. The language is unconventional but richly textured and evocative (and exotic to this American boy). This was enough that I didn't notice some major flaws until I was too far in to quit reading. Once I noticed them, however, they were impossible to un-notice.

My first problem with the book is that one slowly reali
...more
Amanda
3.5 rounded up. I first read this book in the early 90's and I didn't remember that much of the story but I remember living it. This time it was on track to be a 5 star read until I got to the last part and then it just went off the rails for me. Sometimes I really enjoy rereads and sometimes I think they are a terrible idea.
Tania
Aug 19, 2011 Tania rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Bone People is, quite simply, the most powerful, moving, stunning book I have ever read. The characters are well drawn. I wanted to hate Joe, but he was in so much pain that I couldn't, really. I never excused what he did - and Hulme did not ask the reader to do that. She challenges the reader to look at our society as a whole; to see what we do to people and how we as communities play a role in creating some of the violent, terrible situations that result in children being abused.

I know th
...more
Tai
Feb 09, 2015 Tai rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This was a very difficult read for me. There are a few reasons for this but chiefly it is because this story is devastating.

We have a bizarre world and narrative to wade through, limericks and soliloquies, mysticism, maori history (and language) all combined with insanity. Three main characters who are out of their minds. Put this all together and a fresh, quirky story could be delivered but that's not what happened here. All of this was injected into the very real and horrifying reality of chi
...more
Thomas Warf
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenny
This was my second time of reading The Bone People. I remember loving it the first time around, but I also remember thinking that it was flawed in many little ways (the very beginning, the sketchy end, the way the story's strands seem to escape Keri Hulme in the last third) yet whenever I've stumbled upon it on GR I kept being surprised at my 4*rating, since there's many five* reads that I remember much less and that had less of an emotional impact on me. I think this time I've surrendered to my ...more
Michael
It was a gloomy and stormy night, a mute 7 year old boy, Simon shows at the hermit Kerewin’s tower. The next morning his adoptive father, Joe came to pick him up. Because Simon couldn’t explain his motives, Kerewin has to rely on Joe to tell their curious story. A storm earlier that year sees Simon wash up on a beach with no memory or clue of his identity. Joe and his now deceased wife took the troubled boy in, but the traumatised boy is just too hard to cope with.

The Maori people use bones as t
...more
Charmayne
Read this for Intro English my freshman year and recently re-read it.
The book centers around three main characters, but their relationship with one another is best left up to the reader to determine as the story unfolds.
Hulme is a self-identified bicultural writer, which makes The Bone People a bicultural text, incorporating both Maori and Pakeha influences within the New Zealand setting. According to my professor: "One of Hulme's high school teachers, responding to her writing, told her her wr
...more
Dillwynia Peter
3.5 stars
I wanted to like this one much more than I ultimately did. It oozes with the mystic and aura that is New Zealand; there are some really lovely poetic passages and most of the characters are well thought out and executed. Maybe it is that note – most of the characters; maybe it was the occasional intrusive Maori word or statement that didn’t feature in the glossary and couldn’t be gleaned from the other statements around it?

I shall deal with the negative, so I can end with the positive.
...more
Laura
Nov 16, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sheet and apricocks what the berloody hell was that?!

This is one of the weirdest, most evocatively written and engaging books I’ve read in a very long time. The inventiveness of the language is just staggering. For the first third or so I was completely hooked and thought I’d discovered another all-time favourite, but it missed out on a five-star rating from me because the pace slowed in the middle third and then the final third was frankly just mad.

The book is about Kerewin Holmes (the author i
...more
L
Jul 17, 2010 L rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a strange style Hulme has used to present her story. It took me probably 15 or 20 pages to figure out how to read this book. But once it opened for me--wow! By page 34, I love both Kerewin (artist (estranged from her art), exile (from her family), dislikes people, especially children) and Simon (the child, naturally, speechless, which is less expected).

By the half-way point Hulme has moved away from the sunny view of "cranky loner woman falls in love with strange child and all is happy." N
...more
Lucy
Jul 26, 2007 Lucy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006
i loved this book so much! i don't know why it's taken me so long to write this post, since i've been wanting to rave about the book since i finished it. i was a bit dubious when i read the introductory note about it having non-standard grammar etc, but it was so good! i think i even liked it enough to kick cryptonomicon off my literary speed dating list, except that i don't think it would create the right impression... the language is beautiful and the characters are wonderfully real and comple ...more
Janice
I have a feeling this book is going to haunt me for a very long time. Given that, I should bump my rating up a little higher. Except...

... the writing style was very different from anything I've read before. I did get the hang of it eventually except that I was confused by the Mauri language (in spite of the dictionary at the back) and the symbolism.

The themes of alcoholism and child abuse were disturbing. The characters weren't all that likeable, and yet, in some strange way, I grew to like the
...more
Cherie
Aug 24, 2016 Cherie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't hate it. Therefore, the two stars.
I do wish I understood it.

I am sure that this story was written about three people and a culture I do not understand.
It was an interesting experiment in a writing style all the author's own.
It was just too vague and cryptic for me to appreciate.

Bbrown
Mar 20, 2014 Bbrown rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
You know those books that you finish thinking that it was alright, but as time goes on and your mind mulls it over you begin to like it more and more? The Bone People is the opposite kind of book, to the extent that coming back to write this review I was surprised to find I had given it two stars instead of one.

Where to begin with this terrible attempt at a novel? Well, the opening of poems and snippets of disjointed text without context served as a confusing start to the book, and even once you
...more
Deborah Pickstone
One of my all-time favourites. A quirky book, very New Zealand - they produce some....unusual books and films here. The national psyche here is...bleaker - and darker - than would perhaps appear to the observer. At least, that is true if you look at the creative output with my (jaded?) eye!

If you would like to see what I mean, watch 'The Piano', 'Once Were Warriors' and 'Whale Rider' - which last is not so much dark as steeped in 'otherness'. This novel speaks so clearly to me of the New Zealand
...more
Bruce
May 09, 2015 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This creatively written novel by Keri Hulme, the winner of the 1985 Booker Prize, focuses on three protagonists in present day New Zealand: the Maori man Joe Gillayley, widowed only a year before, tormented, loving, impulsive, often on the edge of violence; his foster son Simon, European, mute, orphaned, an antisocial outcast who often triggers Joe’s rage; and Kerewin Holmes (note the similarity with the author’s own name, no coincidence, one supposes), part Maori, estranged from her family, a l ...more
Michael
Feb 05, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Siria
Hulme's work is difficult—both because of her prose style and because of her subject matter. I admired the first quite a lot, but found it difficult to reconcile myself with many aspects of the latter, particularly as the book wore on. The first part of the book was so resolutely realistic that I found the later quasi-magical realistic elements to be a little jarring. I also found myself... well, almost repulsed by the ending. Hulme, I think, wants the reader to have found enough sympathy for Jo ...more
Lynn
Mar 22, 2015 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was profoundly emotional for me. A Trinity of characters with constantly shifting POVs, magical realism, unfamiliar language (Maori but with a helpful glossary), and tons of literary symbolism made it a challenge as well. So rich and charged that it's definitely worth rereading.
Lilisa
A very different book than i’ve ever read, it’s difficult to describe so I’ll let the book summary do its work to fill in the blanks. Kerewin is a woman who, for whatever reason, has chosen to be alone, apart from her family living in seclusion in a house along the New Zealand coast. Enter Simon, a young precocious boy who doesn’t speak, who she discovers has had the audacity to break into her house. He's a smart but troubled child, having been washed up on a boat mysteriously one day. Joe, a lo ...more
Jane
I’ve just finished reading The Bone People. I chose it because I am travelling to New Zealand in a few weeks and I find it enriching to read books by authors of the country I am going to. When I researched NZ books, this one was mentioned as a classic NZ book. When I saw that it was Booker Prize winner, I was prepared for a challenging read with complex emotions and relationships. And so it is. A very powerful story, and written beautifully and creatively – I enjoyed the use of words and imagery ...more
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Keri Hulme (born 9 March 1947) is a New Zealand writer. Her only novel, The Bone People, won the Booker Prize in 1985.

Hulme was born in Christchurch, in New Zealand's South Island. The daughter of a carpenter and a credit manager, she was the eldest of six children. Her parents were of English, Scottish, and Māori (Kai Tahu) descent. "Our family comes from diverse people: Kai Tahu, Kāti Mamoe (Sou
...more
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“You want to know about anybody? See what books they read, and how they've been read...” 2584 likes
“A family can be the bane of one's existence. A family can also be most of the meaning of one's existence. I don't know whether my family is bane or meaning, but they have surely gone away and left a large hole in my heart.” 49 likes
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