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87 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three broken souls come together to tell an amazing story.
This book left an indelible imprint on my heart and soul. Let me say up front that, while this is one of the most creative, unique and wonderful stories I've ever read, I would not recommend it to everyone. Here's why:

1. Not only is the theme of child abuse and neglect woven throughout the story, but there are a few episodes of abuse that are described in...
Published on November 13, 2005 by Sheri in Reho

versus
41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lot of potential....
I gave this book three stars because I would give the first two-thirds five stars and the last third one star. Since I'm not sure how all this totals up (math being my worst subject), I'm just going to rate it at three, which seems fair enough.
The writing is fascinating, first of all: pure stream-of-consciousness with some added leaps of imagination. At first I...
Published on May 23, 2000 by Ilana Teitelbaum


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87 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three broken souls come together to tell an amazing story., November 13, 2005
By 
This book left an indelible imprint on my heart and soul. Let me say up front that, while this is one of the most creative, unique and wonderful stories I've ever read, I would not recommend it to everyone. Here's why:

1. Not only is the theme of child abuse and neglect woven throughout the story, but there are a few episodes of abuse that are described in quite intense detail. These episodes can be horrific and will likely be too much for some people, especially those who are parents of small children.

2. The writing format/style of this book is unlike anything I've ever seen. While I found it wildly unique and therefore loved it from a creative standpoint, it made the story difficult to get into and stay connected with at times.

3. The entire book is about three people--all of which can be quite unlikeable at times. I usually find it difficult to stay with a book when I don't like the characters but, though these three people all annoyed me at times, I came to love some piece of all of them (some more than others).

4. The author weaves native Maori words and phrases into the text. This isn't a bad thing, unless you are annoyed by frequently having to stop and go to the back of the book to look up words so you'll understand the context of how they're used. It took me forever to figure out that the "dictionary" was even there, so I was completely lost for the first third or so of the book and was highly annoyed that these Maori words were being used and not defined. D'oh!

All that said, this is an AMAZING journey of three broken souls who form an unusual friendship and, along the way, manage to find their way to healing. I'm at the age where not a lot of books stay with me for very long. But I read this book maybe 4-6 months ago and the feeling it left me with is nearly as fresh today as it was then. Take a leap of faith. Read this book. I'm betting that it will touch you deeply.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Man is an Island, June 5, 2001
The Bone People is as perfect as a book can be. Although the author's stream-of-consciousnenss style may take a little getting used to for readers of more conventional books, it is as smooth as silk and never jarring. Hulme's manipulation of the third person subjective is masterful and we really come to know each of the three protagonists and feel their deep and continuous pain. Although the subject matter portrayed in The Bone People is dark and often horrendous, the writing itself is lyrical, a testament to Hulme's power as a poet. But make no mistake, The Bone People is a narrative, a superb one, and not a prose poem.
For me, The Bone People is a meditation about the destructive effects of closing oneself to others, of retreating and withdrawing so far into oneself that one is no longer capable of real communication and communion with others.
Each of the three protagonists, because of excessive pain, pain that goes beyond any words, has built and retreated into what he or she hopes will be a protective shell but finds instead a nightmare world, one that leads each to the very brink of death.
I have heard some people say they believe the ending to be trite or "tacked on." I found the ending absolutely perfect, and given each character's "trial by fire," I don't know how Hulme could have written the ending any differently and still maintained the integrity of her book.
I am sure there are many Maori legends, myths and references in The Bone People that I missed as I know little about this fascinating culture. But do not let a lack of Maori knowledge stop you from reading this superb book. It is, above all else, a wonderfully insightful character study that is rich, complex and filled with love and pain beyond measure.
I enjoy reading almost any book I choose to delve into, but few have left me with a feeling of awe. The Bone People is one that did. I am sure I will remember it for a long, long time to come. Indeed, I may never forget it. In short, I simply cannot praise it highly enough.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lot of potential...., May 23, 2000
I gave this book three stars because I would give the first two-thirds five stars and the last third one star. Since I'm not sure how all this totals up (math being my worst subject), I'm just going to rate it at three, which seems fair enough.
The writing is fascinating, first of all: pure stream-of-consciousness with some added leaps of imagination. At first I wasn't sure about it, but following Hulme's advice in her introduction I persisted, and it was indeed like kina roe--it grew on me. Sometimes it is surreal, dreamlike; at other times earthy, even brutal. This jarring contrast is one of the qualities that makes the rhythm and flow of the writing so distinctive.
Then there are the characters: Kerewin, Joe, and Simon a.k.a. Clare a.k.a. Haimona are some of the most memorable I've ever read about. The ropes of twisted and tormented emotions which eventually bind them are conveyed with an insight into love as a thing which is multi-dimensional past reasoning. Their inner voices and heart's desires are portrayed with poignant subtlety, running together with the silent music of Hulme's prose.
The book is disturbing in its way, and often cruel, while at other times gently lyrical. Yet the two do not contradict: Hulme is portraying life's ugliest possibilities along with the most beautiful and uplifting. Together with the style of writing, this odd juxtaposition somehow works, and works well.
So what was my problem? To me, at least, the last third of the book had no connection to the rest. At a certain point events are suddenly rushed in a manner which is too contrived to be believable; it then goes a step further by suddenly introducing the reader to Maori mysticism and placing it as the central element of the work. Now, I don't mind Maori mysticism as long as the author doesn't introduce it all of a sudden at the end as a plot device. That this was all somehow a plot of the divine powers-that-be did no justice to the very human characters and emotions which had hitherto been the driving force of the story. The kamatua, his stories and his dreams seemed like the author was taking a very unrealistic easy way out rather than introducing more depth. The kamatua himself is no more than a plot device, rather than a full-fleshed character; his death meant less than nothing to me, and the discovery of the idol even less than that. It's as if all the vital threads which held the story together were suddenly snapped, to be replaced by a foreign element which had nothing to do with matters at hand. The three characters I had come to care about so much were left hanging--and ultimately, they petered out.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an original, thoughtful read--with the stipulation that the ending is disappointing. The book should be read for the experience, regardless of its destination.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maori Mysticism, November 3, 2000
By A Customer
The Bone People is a wonderful, life-changing book that is rich in character, vivid in detail and encompasses almost the entire range of human emotions. The plot revolves around three lost souls: Kerewin, an artist who can no longer create; Simon, a mute boy who washed up on a deserted beach; and Joe, Simon's almost-stepfather.
At its heart, The Bone People is a romance but it is also a story that takes a look at the dark and serious side of life as well, especially child abuse. No one should be put off by its sometimes depressing subject matter, though. The Bone People is a book that, surprisingly and wonderfully, always manages to celebrate life in all of its complexity. In fact, much of it is lyrically beautiful despite the darkness of some of its themes.
The Bone People is extraordinarily well-written (enough so to garner Hulme a Booker Prize). This is a book with a style and voice all its own, something highly unusual in a first novel. But, unlike some recent novels, The Bone People is never a case of style-over-substance; Hulme weaves her magic with both her engrossing story and her unique, almost stream-of-consciousness style. There are a lot of shifts in time and perspective in this novel but they are always smooth and perfectly placed. Nothing about The Bone People seems jarring or out-of-place. Hulme's prose is almost musical: andante, adagio, allegro, and we find ourselves reading to the cadence she sets.
The Bone People has an extraordinary and wonderful sense of place. Part of this is inherent in the New Zealand setting and the Maori words that decorate the text. The beach scenes are especially well-written and we can really smell the sea and feel the warmth of the sand between our toes.
A few things about The Bone People might seem disjointed at first. The prologue, for example, only makes sense after you finish the book and then reread it. But, to Hulme's credit, it is entitled, "The End At The Beginning," so this should come as no surprise.
The ending, which gives some readers a little trouble, might be more easily understood if we only realize that Hulme is dealing with her characters on an individual basis at this point in the book. Once we realize that, any sense of a deus ex machina ending disappears and all makes perfect sense. It is mystical, yes, but it is a mysticism inherent in the book's story and so it belongs there, rather than being inserted.
The Bone People is a lyrical and beautiful book that takes a sensitive look at some of life's most serious problems. I wish there were more books out there that measured up to the standard it set.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brutal and beautiful, July 26, 2006
Keri Hulme's The Bone People is a harrowing book, and it gripped me more than anything I've read in ages--it kept me up until 3 a.m. for the past two nights, and I can't remember the last time that happened. Now that I am no longer in thrall to the book, however, I find it hard to say how good it actually is. It is tremendously emotionally involving, but I would have liked it to be more tightly constructed. There were too many questions that went unanswered, too many bits of foreshadowing that went nowhere. But the book is like a vast rich stew of so many elements: the secrets and mysteries of three broken people, Maori magic and mythology, the New Zealand landscape, isolation and connection, personal history and ethnic history, family and home and identity and sexuality and culture clash and the unknowable past... The concoction seethes; individual elements float to the surface and then sink; perhaps it's only natural in a book like this for questions to go unanswered, for plot elements to be suggested and then disappear. And the book is certainly vivid--vivid enough that I was swept right by the flaws almost without noticing them while I was reading.

It's difficult to be analytical about a book as intense as this one. There were lines that made me gasp, and once I even cried out. The entire book is just suffused with brutality; Hulme is not afraid to take her readers into the darkest depths of her characters. In a scene that is surely one of the most horrifying that I have ever read, she shows us how people, even people that we know to be well-intentioned and good, are capable of unthinkable violence. And it just gets worse in the aftermath, worse and worse until it feels like nothing will be right ever again. Hulme does bring things around into a sort of rightness at the end, but I'm not sure I believe in it. There's a great deal of Maori mysticism called into play at the end to do the work of making things right, but I don't think that's why I can't believe in the ending. And it's not that I don't believe the characters could be transformed; the experiences that they've been through would be enough to transform anyone. Perhaps it's just that it's too neat, too easy. Perhaps I'm not convinced that all of the characters are deserving of redemption. I don't know. Would I have preferred it if Hulme had allowed her story to continue in brutality, down to the bitterest of bitter ends? I don't know.

And that's the sort of book that The Bone People is; it leaves you with questions that will stay with you long after you've finished the book. Hulme's style is unconventional and can be off-putting, and her subject matter is not for the faint of heart, but in the end the book is a powerful depiction of the ways that human beings make families, and the ways in which those families are not always what we expect a family to be.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Identity isn�t Skin Deep, January 30, 2001
By 
Eric Anderson (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a story about three people, but it is moreover an account of a culture that has been splintered by colonialism. There were a lot of critical arguments circulating at the time of this novel's publication because there was a heavy debate over what the Maori culture should represent itself as and if this female author was doing it properly. The powerful thing about the novel is that while reading it you are hardly aware of the culture representation because at the heart of the story is the conflicts of the central characters. But likewise, when you stand back to look at the novel you see is that the influence of Maori culture is everywhere present in this novel. Instead of trying to interpret these characters as cultural symbols, perhaps they should be conceived as individuals coming to terms with their own identity like anyone else. Kerewin has all the marking of the stereotypical independent artist. She even lives in a tower by the sea, but she is unable to paint. You will find her overpowering ego annoying, but I think you are meant to. Her rapture with herself is one of the things she must learn to overcome throughout the novel. All of the three main characters have a form of artistic expression that is being suppressed through a division in their identity. They must each overcome a barrier before they can truly express themselves and they can only do this together. The interactions between the characters are a masterful portrayal of the way in which close people, especially family members, can avoid some of the most obvious conflicts in their lives when to anyone else they would be quite evident. Toward the end of the novel the characters sink into an almost mythical state of being where their only hope of survival is through a reinvention of their being. This is a sharp departure from the straightforward story up until this point. But it is gradually introduced through a growing emphasis on the internal processes of the characters by narrating their thoughts.
I found it disappointing that this novel wasn't properly edited before publication. For some reason the author views this as something to boast about, but I found that a rewording of some phrases and maybe slight cuts for some of the superfluously long scenes would have added to the immense pleasure of reading this astounding novel. Still, as you can tell, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of it.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserving of 10 Stars, April 4, 2007
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This was one of the best books I've ever read, and I've read a lot. Of the books I love, my relationship to those books are intellectual. My experience with The Bone People was purely emotional. From the first page I was hooked and I never looked back. This is a gut-wrenching read and not for everyone. It is not an easy read. It is a book that will never leave you, with characters you will never forget. This is one of the most unique books I have ever read. It is a book that requires a careful read. It is a timeless story. It is a love story, but not at all in the traditional sense. It is a story of three very damamaged people (one is a child) who come together and with all people that love each other, they have the power to heal each other, and destroy each other and over the course of this novel they do all this and more. It's a story of redemption and second chances. It's a harrowing yet fascinating look at the Maori culture. If you're considering reading this book - do so. If you can't get into it right off the bat, stick with it. This book is like no other. It won the Booker back in the 80s. Very highly recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful must read!, April 14, 2002
By 
Ms Diva "cycworker" (Nanaimo, B.C. Canada) - See all my reviews
The Bone People is, quite simply, the most powerful, moving, stunning book I have ever read. The characters are well drawn. I wanted to hate Joe, but he was in so much pain that I couldn't, really. I never excused what he did - and Hulme did not ask the reader to do that. She challenges the reader to look at our society as a whole; to see what we do to people and how we as communities play a role in creating some of the violent, terrible situations that result in children being abused.
I know that some people found that the mysticism in the latter section of the novel took away from the book. I disagree. I found that it fit in well with the story and helped flesh out some of the messages the author was trying to get across. Some of the imagery in this novel is absolutely breathtaking. I have never been so utterly moved and transfixed by a novel as I have by this one. It challenged my perceptions and it made me a different person when I was finished it.
The book is quite long, and it can be slow in a few spots. I found that I had to read it twice. I admit I did hate Joe the first time I read the novel; I really only began to understand him the second time I read the book. This is a complex, multi-layered work that speaks to a wide range of issues: child abuse, spirituality, community, and culture.
I highly recommend this novel to everyone. You may not like it or agree with it, but you will be impacted by it. It still haunts me today.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keri Hulme and I on my personal desert island..., July 24, 2000
I read The Bone People for the first time 5 or 6 years ago, and have reread it many times since. I cannot adequately express how quickly the book sets to work on you, the immediate way in which the writing style changes your understanding of how a book can be written. I have deeply read countless--I mean that--books, and rarely have I had the intense experience I had with The Bone People. I couldn't shake it off for a long time; I'm not entirely sure I'll ever shake it off. There is utter magic in this book, a kind of spooky singularity born of Keri Hulme's publishing silence outside of it (at least in America), as well as my feeling that if I were to write a book of this caliber and intensity, I would be eaten up and maybe unable to write anything of quality ever again. I bring people to this book like I'm calling for converts. I knew after I had first read it that it would be the book I would want with me anywhere and everywhere, my proverbial desert island choice, despite the fact that I've never really been much good at such decisions, or even seen the value of them. In the same spirit, I've never been very much inclined to do a review for amazon, either. Any words outside of the actual book itself can seem, worst-case scenario, superfluous. But I want to draw attention to this book in spite of that, because of its very real ability to alter the stuff of your spirit and the stuff of your brain. Blessings, Keri Hulme. You show us how it can be done.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual, sad, and perfectly lovely, December 14, 2011
This review is from: The Bone People: A Novel (Penguin Ink) (The Penguin Ink Series) (Paperback)
My first "real" boyfriend's mother (who loved to read, as I did) recommended this book to me as one of her favorites, when I was 16.

That was 20 years ago.

This book is an enduring legacy of my relationship with an amazing, talented and smart woman, who has since passed away. And I was recently surprised, while browsing at a book store, to see one lonely copy, with this gorgeous new cover, faced OUT.

This is not a book that anyone talks about now; most have never even heard of it. But it's simply...stunning. Complex, deeply sad, lonely, wind-swept and often desolate. But it's also fiercely lovely.

It remains one of the most memorable books I have ever read, even 20 years later. I re-read it every 5 years or so. If you love good, honest storytelling, with amazing character development and absolutely no pretense or artifice, then you need to buy this book...and then pass it on to someone you know will appreciate it.
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The Bone People: A Novel (Penguin Ink) (The Penguin Ink Series)
The Bone People: A Novel (Penguin Ink) (The Penguin Ink Series) by Keri Hulme (Paperback - June 29, 2010)
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