Bone People (Hulme)

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for The Bone People:

1. Isolation is a the major motif in this work. Consider the way in which each of the three main characters—Keri, Simon, and Joe—are isolated from the outside world. What is the cause of each character's isolation?

2. Consider Keri:

  • What is the symbolic significance of her tower?
  • Why does she distrust people?
  • What are her vampire dreams about?
  • Why can she can no longer paint?

3. Consider Simon:

  • What is the source of his muteness?
  • In what way does is he socially withdrawn and alienated?
  • Is he a sympathetic character? Why or why not?

4. Consider Joe:

  • Why does he beat Simon? How are we to feel about his abuse? Are you sympathetic toward him?
  • What is the significance of his Maori background—how does it affect his self-identity?

 5. How would you describe the relationships of the three main characters...

  • between Keri and Simon
  • between Simon and Joe
  • between Joe and Keri

Why are these people drawn to one another? What do they want from each other?

6.  Art plays an important role in this work.

What is the significance of Keri's art?

  • What does it suggest about her state of mind?
  • What is Joe's response to Keri's claim that she has no "sexual urge or appetite"? What does he mean by when he says its "sublimation"—a "Maori thing in a way"?
  • What does Joe learn about himself in the chapter with the old man?

7. Discuss the horrific scene in which Joe pummels Simon and Simon wounds Joe with the piece of glass. Who bears responsibility for that abuse? What role, for instance, does Keri play? Was it right to remove Simon from Joe's wardship?

8. The antidote to isolation (see question #1) is community and family. In what ways do Keri, Simon, and Joe each find acceptance in community at the end of the novel? How are each healed in the end?

9. What role does Maori mythology play in this story and how does it lead to healing and return to community of the three?

10. What is the significance of the book's title—as it relates to Maori art and culture, as well as to the three main characters, who are, figuratively, stripped to the bone?

11. What does this novel suggest about the New Zealand-based European culture and the indigenous Maori/Pakeha cultures? In what way do they conflict with one another...and in what way might those cultures be united? Is the book hopeful or pessimistic that there could be a potential for common ground?

12. Did you find the poetry and digressions into myth difficult to follow and excessive...or did you see them as an artistic and integral part of the plot? (Critics fall on either side of the question—so this is subjective, in other words, it's based on your opinion.)

13. Is the ending satisfying? What do you see as the future for the three characters—Keri, Simon, and Joe?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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