Review: The Bone People – Keri Hulme 

This is a complex book wrapped in Maori myth and unusual characters. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did and in fact raced through the first couple of hundred pages on holiday before having to slow back down to my usual pace of reading on normal work weeks! 
The book tells the story of Kerewin, a self confessed hermit who seemingly enjoys being away from the world and separate from her estranged family. This remote and undisturbed life is turned upside down one day by the appearance of Simon, a young mute and semi wild boy. In tracking down where Joe has come from Kerewin becomes entangled in the relationship of Simon and Joe – Simon’s semi-adoptive father, who never quite finished the paperwork to make it official. Whilst Kerewin is cagey about the secrets of her familial estrangement there’s something still in her that values the importance of family and draws her to help the strange father and son. 

The pair have a difficult relationship veering from all encompassing love to abusive and Kerewin bears witness to both ends of the spectrum and whilst it seems beautiful and healing mid way through the novel on an unconventional ‘family’ holiday at a remote beach it later takes a dark and disturbing turn which surprised me. 

Without giving away the ending I was a bit disappointed in it having had such a strong start and a dark twist, but I’d recommend you read it to make your own mind up on whether a different ending could’ve been better. 

(The book has quite a lot of Maori phrases in it but helpfully an index you can flick to at the back of the book too.)

Favourite quotes

“They were nothing more than people, by themselves”

“Here’s to the skeletons we all keep in cupboards” Joe says unsmiling “Here’s to the ones we let out…”

“Life goes on, Ngakau. The weeping doesn’t last forever. Nor does the waiting. You’ll heal, man, back together again.” 

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