The Bone People by Keri Hulme


I really enjoyed this unusual book, a Booker Prize winner back in 1984, which was recommended to me for my reading list this year.

It tells the story of Kere, a woman who lives in a tower and has distanced herself from other people, especially her family. But she finds herself drawn out of herself, albeit reluctantly, when a young boy bursts into her life, a mute with a mysterious past, and the child’s adopted father, a man with a past and secrets of his own.

The book is written in an unusual style. It’s a bit dreamlike, and doesn’t stick to the rules of punctuation, but don’t let that put you off, it’s a flowing read, rather than a regimented one. It feels poetic and often introspective, much like it’s characters are. I loved the way that the landscape and lifestyle are evoked, and the three core characters are all different, but loners, outsiders. They’re interesting. Their inability to communicate or even recognise their feelings is quite sad, whilst the oddness of their relationship to each other and the sweetness of that, as well as the violence when words fail, is bittersweet.

Each of them is on a spiralling inner journey, but none of them can quite figure out the way through.

I found the constant drinking and smoking kind of amusing. These are nice but dysfunctional people, and yet heavy drinking, smoking, child abuse are also common aspects of life in many communities. The fact that they let the child drink and smoke, as well as the amount of time he skips school… well, just read it. It’s kind of fascinating.

It’s an unusual and thought provoking book, and although it was often sad, I did really enjoy reading it. I’m glad that it was recommended or I probably wouldn’t have come across it!

Read It If: you’ve ever felt like an outsider and just wanted to be alone, or if you’ve felt like you couldn’t make yourself heard. Touching.

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