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The Bone People Paperback – 14 Mar 1986

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Paperback, 14 Mar 1986
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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (14 Mar 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330296108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330296106
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 3 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 283,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"This is not just a novel: it's a boggle-the-mind experience."

About the Author

Keri Hulme, a Maori, grew up in Christchurch and Moeraki, New Zealand. She writes, paints, and whitebaits in Okarito, Westland. Hulme has written poems and short stories; The Bone People, originally published by Spiral, a New Zealand feminist collective, is her first novel. She has also written Te Zaihau: The Windeater. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on 14 Nov 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a story about three people, but it is moreover an account of a culture that has been splintered by colonialism. There were a lot of critical arguments circulating at the time of this novel's publication because there was a heavy debate over what the Maori culture should represent itself as and if this female author was doing it properly. The powerful thing about the novel is that while reading it you are hardly aware of the culture representation because at the heart of the story is the conflicts of the central characters. But likewise, when you stand back to look at the novel you see is that the influence of Maori culture is everywhere present in this novel. Instead of trying to interpret these characters as cultural symbols, perhaps they should be conceived as individuals coming to terms with their own identity like anyone else. Kerewin has all the marking of the stereotypical independent artist. She even lives in a tower by the sea, but she is unable to paint. You will find her overpowering ego annoying, but I think you are meant to. Her rapture with herself is one of the things she must learn to overcome throughout the novel. All of the three main characters have a form of artistic expression that is being suppressed through a division in their identity. They must each overcome a barrier before they can truly express themselves and they can only do this together. The interactions between the characters are a masterful portrayal of the way in which close people, especially family members, can avoid some of the most obvious conflicts in their lives when to anyone else they would be quite evident. Toward the end of the novel the characters sink into an almost mythical state of being where their only hope of survival is through a reinvention of their being.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Aug 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a densely woven, idiosyncratic book written from three separate viewpoints. It deals with the nature of relationships, the nature of selfhood and the meaning of family and cultural values. Drawing upon the Maori culture and history it blends narrative and philosophy, twisting and turning, and carrying the reader on a voyage of discovery. Each reading reveals additional levels and complexities of narrative, touching on the meaning of identity and the fusion of past present and future, and provides confirmation that this one of the outstanding works of literature of the decade if not the century.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Oct 2009
Format: Paperback
A wonderfully strange, original, and very compelling novel. It's written in what I consider quite a poetic style - not something I usually enjoy, so for the first few pages I expected not to like it. But this is a book that gets under your skin. It's incredibly readable - unputdownable in the second half. The emotions are raw and powerful, the brutality heartbreaking. Despite it's mythical elements, it never seems whimsical or implausible - there's a firm grounding in reality.

The story centres on three very lonely, damaged people and their efforts to connect meaningfully with each other and the world - with mixed results. One is an embittered reclusive artist, another an orphaned and deeply disturbed mute child, and the third a widowed factory worker who feels that nothing in his life has worked out. I could believe in all of the characters and understand the emotions that drove them - even if their actions were sometimes terrible.

The use of Maori phrases littered throughout the story - another technique (in any language) that I'm not a fan of - actually works well here. I found myself picking up the more common words and most are used in a context that makes it easy to guess without spoiling the flow of the text. There's a translation section at the back, conveniently arranged in page order.

Overall this is a thought provoking book that manages to really say something about the nature of human relationships - love, hate, loneliness - and the need of people to be with other people. It's also very gripping. A story that is both profound and highly readable - not something you come across too often, and definitely one of the worthiest winners of the Booker Prize.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. A. C. Whiteley VINE VOICE on 19 Feb 2004
Format: Paperback
This is no mere book. Rather, it is an experience. An experience which covers virtually the whole gamut of human emotion. It resonates with beautiful poetry and is steeped in the deep spirituality of the Maori people. Their beautiful language (translated in a glossary at the back) peppers the narrative of this achingly poignant story of the (originally) hermit like Kerewin, Joe and his adopted son, Simon. They are drawn to each other, and indeed they have many similarities. All are nursing some deep private hurt from the past and as such each has their own barriers and each can be their own worst enemy. Yet each of them, too is possessed of a deep, fierce love for the others and a strong sense of community.
So much drama is contained in these 450 pages that you may think the plot line would be jumbled and incoherent. This is emphatically not so – the plot line never falters. Through this novel, too, we are made to confront our own judgements and prejudgements about subjects such as child abuse and behavioural difficulties. There is so much humanity in this book – we are forced to see each character as a rounded person with good and bad attributes. Nothing is black and white, Keri Hulme seems to be telling us. No one is wholly a monster nor wholly a saint. This point is really hammered home in the final few chapters, which are some of the most harrowing and yet joyful passages of literature I have ever read.
Never before have I read such a powerful, majestic, spiritual and thoroughly human book. I had to read it in bits, and come back to it again and again; it was such a potent and heady brew. I invite you, no, implore you, to dip into this multifaceted and precious treasure. It will be an experience you will never forget, I guarantee.
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