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Customer Review

44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lot of potential...., May 23, 2000
This review is from: The Bone People: A Novel (Paperback)
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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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 8, 2009 2:26:35 PM PDT
H. Szymonik says:
I agree whole-heartedly with this review. I was enthralled by the first 2/3 - 3/4 of the book, but felt the author stumbled over how to end the book. It is a powerful book that will always stick with me, both in terms of the power of the beginning and middle, and the frustration with the ending.

Posted on Jul 9, 2011 12:59:47 AM PDT
K.L. Schenck says:
What an excellent review. I agree with you.
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