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March 2017

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Book report #33: Keri Hulme, The Bone People

A heartbreaking work of staggering genius, and no, I mean that. It's a book about loss, perserverance, violence, loyalty, self-loathing, towers, art, and shipwrecks.*

Also, food. Lots and lots of food.

And New Zealand.

Oh, just go read it.

I think it gets a little tangled and somehow both a little random and a little pat at the end, but I will forgive it many many flaws for all it does right.

*I read this back in 1992 or so, originally. It's still good.

Comments

I also love the Bone People, and your review gave me that little *ping* New Zealanders get every time someone outside mentions a book or movie or something that references the wee country on the bottom edge of the map.

Like:

*ping* "Oh, yay! They know we're here!"
In fact, I have wanted to come visit since I found out you have fjords....
Oh yes! At both ends of the South Island, even.
I first read The Bone People in 1995. I remember thinking it was stunning, and powerful, and an amazing book. But even though I'm something of a compulsive re-reader, it's one of the books I've never, ever been able to bring myself to re-read. I'd like to someday, when I get over feeling like just *reading* it was a kind of trauma (a good one, but a trauma nonetheless).

anyway, that was all a very long way of saying that I admire your courage in re-reading and I'm glad to know it holds up on the second time through.
Man, yeah.

It is worse when you know what's coming....
You know, my copy of that book wound up staying in Boulder at a friend's house. We stay with her when we visit and I always wind up re-reading it then. Maybe next time, I'll take it back. :)
I'm so with you on this, including the little random and pat parts, and the forgiveness, for sure, for sure.
Yah, it blew my mind so thoroughly I haven't dared read it again. It's still on my shelf, though.
It's SO many years since I read that book. Perhaps I should reread it. Of course, to do that I will need to find my copy. I know I've got one somewhere, or at least I should have.

I always remember the stories about the book, about how Keri Hulme was going to make a doorstop out of it and then Spiral Collective printed it.
That book - which I think is amazing - is the first one I can remember ever kicking me so hard in what I now acknowledge to be my triggers that about halfway through - just at the point in which someone is in the hospital, if that's loose enough to not be a spoiler - I simply put the book down and left it on the shelf for years. It wasn't my book, it was my partner's. If it had been mine, I think I probably would have managed to lose it while moving or something. Instead, after oh, probably five or six years of flinching when I saw it on the hallway shelf, I - I, who am violent and mockable in my hatred of spoilers - flat-out asked my partner whether the thing which would make it all intolerable did or did not happen in the end. She told me it was complicated, but no, it didn't. After that, I picked it up, an skimmed a bit of the last ten pages, then flipped a little earlier, read a bit from there, and danced back and forth through the part I hadn't read, until I'd read it all. It was like I couldn't look at it straight on.

Like some other people above, I've never re-read it, though I do consider doing sometime. On the other hand, I praise it unstintingly to others, and recently gave it to my uncle as a birthday present.

I think it may well be the definitive hard book to read. I don't expect my uncle to have to stop reading though, although people can surprise you.
Hello. I just popped in for a visit for the first time (following a link from papersky) and saw this post and had to comment! This was an immensely powerful book. The only recent novel that has had a similar impact on me was Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which for some reason reminded of this one - something about the unflinching realism of violence but pure vision of love.
Always a pleasure to see an old friend acknowledged ...
I remember reading it when I was about 13 and then reading it again some 5 years later. I remember the coverart, which attracted it to me in the first place, but I can't remember much else. Time to read it again, I think. :)
A favorite quote -

Kerewin said at Moerangi, "Suffering is undignified." Suffering ennobles, I said, but I smiled to show her that I thought that was really bullshit. What was noble about enduring a hook in your thumb? And she said, "Sometimes, the dross is burnt off your character," and moodily she added, "But the scars that result from burning can be a worse exchange."
Everything Keri Hulme writes is wonderful. You might want to look for some of her poetry as well.
I have to be contrary. I felt obliged to read the book since I was a New Zealander and so surely reading it was, if not compulsory, at least patriotic. Plus, it was sitting right there on my mother's shelf.

I couldn't get more than a few pages in. The stuff she did with language was just driving me crazy. I tried to hang in with it, but eventually I just said to myself "Life's too short."

Obviously if one can get past that kind of thing one has a chance to judge the story itself, which I never got to.

I don't like rugby either. I am a bad, bad Kiwi.
I recall a lot of fuss over here about it being included in a shortlist for a prize (the Booker prize?) For once the selection panel got it right. Magic.

Yep

It really is time I got around to reading this. It sits there and taunts me every time I walk past the bookcase.

(And yes, my k1w1 radar picked up this blog entry well before SharpReader downloaded it)
Randomly, this rather odd music video appeared on my flist, courtesy of shatterstripes. Thought you might like it :)
Yep, that's pretty darn funny!