Bitches Book Club Review: The Bone People

The Book Club:

“At the end of May I was feeling sort of “meh” about the Goodreads book clubs I’m part of. No offence meant to them at all! I like them. But they’re just so BIG that the books I’m particularly interested in don’t often (read: ever?) get picked and there doesn’t feel like there’s enough incentive to take part sometimes. I wanted something that was smaller so, even if I’m not super jazzed about every single book, I feel motivated to read each one because I knew the other member(s) of the book club are reading too and because of the discussion that will ensue.

SO, of course, I voice messaged Claire about it and we decided on a book within the hour!

How it works is that one of us will pick the book one month and the other will pick the book for the next month.”

This month was Claire’s choice: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

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yes please

Book: The Bone People by Keri Hulme
Publisher: Penguin Books, 1986
Genre: Pacific/ New Zealand/ Literature/ Magic Realism

Summary: In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her art, a 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 charm, 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. Out of this unorthodox trinity Keri Hulme has created what is at once a mystery, a love story, and an ambitious exploration of the zone where Maori and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge.Winner of both a Booker Prize and Pegasus Prize for Literature, The Bone People is a work of unfettered wordplay and mesmerizing emotional complexity
More Information: GoodReads

Claire’s Thoughts & Rating:

Well I’ll be frank: this book was a tough one for me. I know that Nikki struggled through it but I managed to finish it but with a bit of cheating. What do I mean by cheating? I basically skipped all of the stream of consciousness bits, the over thinking bits and the diary entry parts. I know this doesn’t count as my having actually read the book but I had a few issues with the book. I will say that I do think Hulme writes well and I do think it’s a good book but just not one that I particularly enjoyed.

Content

I just couldn’t find it very engaging. I did like it at first but then the conflict and the book sort of plateaued and everything was slow moving and building. It was immensely difficult to get sucked in (especially, I think, for my commuter lifestyle where the majority of my time is spent squished onto a tiny train for large lengths, as such, it’s hard to find it interesting when you’re reading with one hand and trying not to fall onto the poor old woman in front of you) and keep that engagement up. Even when I read it at home I found it utterly dis-interesting.

Characters

I did enjoy the characters however. Simon was a bit exasperating, I have little patience for rudeness and random acts of violence but what I did enjoy was that Hulme built all of the goodness and badness of each character into a reason or point: Yes, Simon was infuriating but it’s part of his back story, who he is. He isn’t annoying for the sake of conflict, it has a point. I particularly enjoyed Kerewin’s character and always sought out her chapters, her point of view.

Style

This was my biggest beef. It took me a while to figure out her style of writing, the narrative and the difference between being said aloud and being said in someone’s head. I am not one for alternative points of view, I can’t stand it. I’ve written about it before but it will make or break a book for me: I want one narrator, one point of view. This is limiting yes but it’s just a personal preference. For others, I can see how this alternative perspective would be richness untapped and utterly fascinating. I was just a bit slow on the uptake and it took me a while to figure out if something was being said to someone or to just themselves.

Culture

I enjoyed the pockets of culture, the bits written in Maori. Nothing felt contrived, it all flowed naturally in both an elegant and rough and abrasive way.

In general, I would recommend this book to someone but it would the type of recommendation that you think both long and hard about. I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up and isn’t that the point of this book club and reading? To challenge yourself? It was a challenge for me and Nikki but I don’t regret reading it.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Claire’s Favorite Line:

“You want to know about anybody? See what books they read, and how they’ve been read…”

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Nikki’s Thoughts & Rating:

Clarie was so super understanding about my not getting through this one. I just had a lot of trouble with it. I think what was really hard for me was the fact that I didn’t actually dislike the book. That’s not what kept me from going on, so I don’t have any negative critique. I didn’t think it was too slow necessarily or uninteresting. It just didn’t do anything for me. On page 73 (the last page I was on before putting it down), I liked reading from Simon’s perspective after having read about his encounter with Kerewin from her perspective. I’m not generally a bit fan of flowery writing and that’s not quite how I’d describe Hulme’s writing here…more like poetic. But it didn’t make it any easier for me to immerse into the story. I am positive this will be different for other people and some will adore her style I’m sure.

I liked the idea of all the characters…the story seemed nebulous to me, like plucking at straws. It was the meeting of an almost fantasy world of stone towers and swarthy sea dogs and a ‘slice of life’ ordinary tale? It didn’t work for me and I found it pretty flat… But again I chalk that up to taste. I don’t feel like I’ve read enough to have anything more of interest to say, but even if I had, I feel this is the kind of story whose secrets may well have remained out of my reach. I don’t think this story was meant for me, sadly. I completely feel what Claire said: “I do think Hulme writes well and I do think it’s a good book but just not one that I particularly enjoyed.” But I’m glad Claire chose it and I feel really bad I wasn’t able to stick it out until the end. I looked desperately for an audiobook version because I know I would have been able to soldier through that way (like I did with Lirael!) even if the narrator was awful because it would only have been a day or two of listening at work. Alas, I could only find an audiobook copy available on cassette tapes and, as I have no way of playing a cassette (and it would have taken a while to get it delivered from New Zealand!) I gave up on that.

In short: I’m sorry, The Bone People. It’s not you, it’s me.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Nikki’s favourite line(s):

To care for anything deeply is to invite disaster.

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Have you read this book yet?

If you have, what did you think? If you haven’t, do you want to?

December’s Book Club choice is Nikki’s and she chose…

Feel free to read along with us! 🙂

We’ll be reading this throughout December and will blog about it last week of December/ first week January- if you have any thoughts you can always email claire@bitcheswithbooks.com so we can add them!
NameNikkixClaire

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About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, International, Literature and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Bitches Book Club Review: The Bone People

  1. Pingback: 2015 Reads | Bitches With Books

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