2016: 55. The Bone People

“He walks down the street. The asphalt reels by him.

It is all silence.”

The Bone People, Keri Hulme

Oh, The Bone People.  What a book.  I hosted my new book club in May, and the host gets to pick the book.  Since you know I’m super into efficiency (HA), I suggested this one, as it had won the Booker in 1985, and we like to read slightly older books, generally, and someone had recommended it to me, etc. etc. And I thought, well I’ll at least knock one off the Booker list.  And then it came, and it was soooo long, and I started reading it, and the first 16 pages are like, Joycean, and I thought, WHAT HAVE I DONE? It got easier to read - the prose turned more normal (though the author confirmed in an introduction that she refused editing, and, indeed, had chosen some words just beause she liked the way they looked on the page, not even agreeing to normalize SPELLING), and some of the writing was very engaging and compelling.

But the book is bonkers.  It’s about three people - Kerewin, a former artist who won the lottery and lives alone in a crazy tower, Simon, a wounded adopted child who is mute and filled with both behavior problems and mystical energy, and Joe, his adopted (Maori) father.  And I don’t want to give away the plot but the things that happen to them are very tough to take.  Including Kerewin just, you know, curing herself from cancer which almost made me throw the book away, it made me so mad.  But that’s just a side note to the real tragedies therein.

I don’t know - I really was not a fan of the book when I finished it, but after we talked about it for almost two hours straight at book club, I had a slightly changed perspective.  It is so different from a normal book, with a normal story line or themes or anything, that the stuff I found distressing and improbable, I later thought was upsetting but maybe authentic? I really grappled with this one, and I’m not sure if I can really recommend it (certainly not without trigger warnings for abuse, and magical children, and fake cancer plots, and such), but if you did read it, I’d love to discuss it more.  It has stuck with me in a way that books I liked ten times as much haven’t.

The Booker Prize Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017