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.