The Bone People – Keri Hulme

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Chosen by Suzy

A New Zealand book which is an unusual love story, depicting a utopian unity between Maori and Western culture

“Kerewin Holmes is a reclusive painter who is trying to pick up the pieces of her life. Joe Gillayley is a widower who maintains a love-hate relationship with his adoptive son and is searching for human companionship. Simon Gillayley is a mute seven-year-old who is loveable but notorious for his sudden outbursts of violence and theft.

“When the three first come together, their lives are blissful; spending their nights drinking and enjoying their friendship. As time goes on, Joe’s violence towards Simon is revealed, prompting Kerewin to become more involved in the Gillayley family. Their lives are shattered one fateful evening when Joe’s aggressive nature takes over.

“The Bone People is a twisting saga of broken families and the path toward individual redemption.”

“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.”

“I felt uncomfortable for most of the time I was reading The Bone People. A lot of the content is grim – chick-lit it ain’t.  A stunning read though. And winning the 1985 Booker Prize is way more significant and exciting than the 1987 Rugby World Cup, okay?!” – Suzy

The Bone People really got under my skin. Although it was disturbing, I felt a strange connection to this book that just wouldn’t leave me.” – Nadine

“The beautiful NZ coastlines, Maori myth and legend and the startling storyline are captivating in The Bone People, and so well done it was as if I was standing on a desolate West Coast beach as I reading. A desperately moving story that captures not only what it means to be Maori but what it means to be Maori in changing times. Its use of faith and fables as a foundation for the modern story gave the story a solidity and strength which I imagine gave this very NZ tale its universal appeal. I also enjoyed hearing about the author and the story behind the story, which made the final result more of a masterpiece in my eyes.” – Rachel

Published 1985
Penguin Books
450 pages

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