Bone People (Review)


The Bone People
Keri Hulme, 1985
464 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
June 2007

This a powerful, gripping book, with sharply drawn characters who tug at every heartstring. But I need to insert a disclaimer here: it’s not an easy book, and it's not for everyone.

Hulme’s long-windedness, her strange flights of prose or poetry, feel excessive at times. There is also a violent episode which is particularly disturbing though it is critical to the plot.

Thankfully, the characters achieve love and wholeness at the end. It’s what you hope for and what propels you onward to the last page.

The story is driven by a gradual movement toward personal redemption. Three unlikely New Zealanders form a bond of love and friendship—Kerewin Hulme, a lonely, alienated artist; Simon, a white-haired mute boy; and Joe Gillayley, the boy’s adoptive father. Their three lives become entwined as, separately and together, they work their way to self-forgiveness and peace

Hulme received the coveted Booker Prize for this work, though some suggest the publicity regarding her near-heroic search for a publisher may have influenced the judging. True, as some critics say, the book is unwieldy—and, as one reviewer pointed out, crammed with enough symbols and metaphors to make your head spin. Yet those faults are also a source of much of its richness.

Despite its drawbacks, I recommend The Bone People. It's one of the great reads: haunting and often mesmerizing. You'll find yourself unable to shake off its characters, flawed yet lovable, who will stay with you long after you finish this book.

See our Reading Guide for The Bone People.

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