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The Bone People: A Novel Paperback – October 7, 1986

4.2 out of 5 stars 212 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This is quite a first novel. The ending is revealed at its mysterious beginning; exotic line breaks and poetic punctuation put off at first but gradually become the best way to tell the tale; the Maori vocabulary is interwoven with contemporary British, Australian, and American idioms; and the New Zealand sea- and landscape vibrate under fresh perception. Hulme shifts narrative points of view to build a gripping account of violence, love, death, magic, and redemption. A silverhaired, mute, abused orphan, a laborer heavy with sustained loss, and a brilliant intro spective recluse discover, after enormous struggle through injury and illness, what it means to lose and then regain a family. No wonder The Bone People won the Pegasus Prize. Highly recommended. Rhoda Yerburgh, Adult Degree Program, Vermont Coll., Montpelier
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"This book is just amazingly, wondrously great."
—Alice Walker

"An original, overwhelming, near-great work of literature"
The Washinton Post Book World

"Unforgettably rich and pungent"
The New York Times Book Review


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 7, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140089225
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140089226
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (212 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sheri in Reho TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
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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By A Customer on June 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: 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.
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