Publisher: Hodder & Staughton
Length: 464 pages
About: Three lonely New Zealanders thrown together
Style: 1st and 3rd person
Where: New Zealand
In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Homes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her art, woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor
– a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon’s feral charms, she also falls under the
spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality.
It is still dark but she can’t sleep anymore.
She dresses and goes down to the beach, and sits on the top of a sandhill until the sky pales.
Another day, herr Gott, and I am tired, tired.
She stands, and grimaces, and spits. The spittle lies on the sand a moment, a part of her a moment ago, and then it vanishes, sucked in, a part of the beach now.
Fine way to greet the day, my soul … go down to the pools. Te Kaihau, and watch away the last night sourness.
And here I am, balanced on the saltstained rim, watching minute navyblue fringes, gill=fingers of tubeworms, fan the water … put the shadow of a finger near them, and they flick outasight. Eyes in
your lungs … neat. The three-fin blenny swirls by … tena koe, fish. A small bunch of scarlet and gold anemones furl and unfurl their arms, graceful petals, slow and lethal … tickle tickle, and they
turn into uninteresting lumps of brownish jelly … haven’t made sea-anemone soup for a while, whaddaboutit? Not today, Josephine … at the bottom, in a bank of brown bulbous weed, a hermit crab is
rustling a shell. Poking at it, sure it’s empty? Ditheringly unsure … but now, nervously hunched over his soft slug of belly, he extricates himself from his old hutch and speeds deftly into the new …
at least, that’s where you thought you were going, e mate? … hoowee, there really is no place like home, even when it’s grown a couple of sizes too small.
It is in the final chapters of ''The Bone People,'' which detail this spiritual rebirth, that Miss Hulme finally succeeds in finding a voice capable of welding together her inclinations toward the
mythic and the naturalistic, the surreal and the mundane. And it is these pages that testify to her considerable, if unfulfilled, gifts as a writer.
The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani, 13th November 1985 for full review click here
Not so good:
Unfortunately, compelling effects and atmosphere are undermined by the atempt to raise the book to another level. Kerewin's tower and spiral staircase are the first hints f fairy-tale symbolism.
Other elements prompt distracting comparisons, and a reader could end up wondering whether a modern allegory of the Holy Famly is intended.
Antony Beevor, Times Literary Supplement, 25th October 1985
About the author
Keri Hulme was born in March 1947 in Christchurch, New Zealand. She was a writer in residence at Otago University in New Zealand in 1978, and in 1985 at the University of Canterbury. Hulme’s other
works include The Windeater / Te Kaihu (1982), a collection of short stories, and Homeplaces (1989), her homage to three coasts of the South Island. She lives in New Zealand.