Book: The bone people - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Book: The bone people
Friday, 24 June 2005 at 08:41 pm
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Author: Keri Hulme

Details: (c) Keri Hulme 1983; Pub 1986 Picador; ISBN 0-330-29610-8

Verdict: The bone people is incredibly original, extraordinarily well-written, and very emotionally difficult.

Reasons for reading it / how it came into my hands: Present from rysmiel.

rysmiel warned me that The bone people is quite harrowing, and I was glad of this warning. It involves the reader with its characters in a way I've never seen done anywhere else. The narrative switches between first person viewpoints for the three main characters, but the way it does first person is by directly presenting the characters' internal monologues, without any (apparent) editing into a narrative. It's also in the present tense, but it creates an immediacy which goes way beyond that obvious device. I really did feel as if I was in the characters' heads, almost in the style of Being John Malkovich.

The trouble is that Joe Gillayley is very much not the sort of person I want to read about, much less relate to, much less actually feel as if I know what it's like to be him. It says a lot for the quality of the writing in The bone people that I kept reading in spite of this. Not only did I continue reading, I did find myself sympathizing with Joe even though some of his actions are about as morally repugnant as it's possible to be. Simon P's viewpoint is equally distressing, though in an entirely different way. But all three of them are just so incredibly well portrayed as people that the sheer nastiness of some parts of the book are justified.

There are other things that work well about The bone people. The language is rather beautiful, and there's an impressive sense of atmosphere and the background of rural New Zealand, the intersection between Maori and European culture and so on, are very nicely portrayed. The plot rests mainly on character and relationship development, but it's extremely accomplished and the pace at which information is revealed is absolutely exquisite. It's particularly impressive how little of the detail of Kere's past is made explicit, even though much of the narrative is her actual inner voice. The hints and fragments are more powerful in their own way, though.

The blurb, together with the author's note at the beginning where she boasts about being above trivial concerns like editing set up rather negative explanations of the book. I thought it was going to be all fluffy-wuffy and irritating. This turned out to be miles from the case; the book is genuinely moving, I would almost say spiritual, unlike so many which try to fake that kind of thing out of misplaced romanticism.

Easily one of the most impressive things I've read this year, and very unlike anything else. Wow.


Moooood: impressedimpressed
Tuuuuune: Radio 3
Discussion: 3 contributions | Contribute something
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rysmiel: words words words
From:rysmiel
Date:July 6th, 2005 03:34 pm (UTC)
11 days after journal entry, 11:34 am (rysmiel's time)
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Oh, I am glad that worked for you; it seemed a bit edgy to me but I figured it was worth taking a chance on. It has been a long time since I read it and unlike most things I admire that much I feel no urge to read it again because of the degree of harrowing it is. And yes, another one of those books which are an absolute pain to characterise when recommending to someone because of how unlike anything else they are.
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livredor: bookies
From:livredor
Date:July 9th, 2005 03:48 pm (UTC)
14 days after journal entry, 04:48 pm (livredor's time)
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Oh, I am glad that worked for you
Thank you! It's the sort of book I'd have been extremely unlikely to pick up unprompted, and I do feel that my mindspace is enhanced by having read it.

it seemed a bit edgy to me but I figured it was worth taking a chance on
I will admit that I'm not generally keen to read things that are that horrific, but it is so incredibly well done and not at all gratuitous that it was worth overcoming my squeamishness.

unlike most things I admire that much I feel no urge to read it again because of the degree of harrowing it is
I can understand that reaction, definitely. I actually feel almost guilty about enjoying the book, because of the difficult subject matter, but it really is incredibly well written.

an absolute pain to characterise when recommending to someone because of how unlike anything else they are
I reckon it's probably on the whole a good thing that there are truly original books out there! Thank you for warning me, though.
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dr_jen: default
From:dr_jen
Date:January 3rd, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
192 days after journal entry
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I loved that book too, it is beautiful. Thanks for reminding me to re read it.
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