The Bone People
by Keri Hulme (or to use the author's preferred capitalisation, the bone people
) is a literary novel that was published by a small press in 1984 and famously went on to become the only New Zealand novel ever to win the Booker Prize. It is the story of a painter, Kerewin Holmes who is estranged from her family and lives a reclusive life until she finds a young mute, mystical boy called Simon Peter has broken into her home. A friendship develops between Kerewin, Simon and Simon's adoptive father Joe Gillaley. Just as Kerewin is coming out of her shell and a new family seems to be being formed, Kerewin realises someone has been horribly physically abusing Simon and things get nasty.The Bone People
is something of a joke in New Zealand as it is widely acknowledged as being a famous novel no one reads, because of its supposedly incomprehensible prose style. It is ultimately a worthwhile read to anyone who likes a challenge.
Keri Hulme is currently famous for having spent over twenty-five years promising that a follow-up novel is about to come out.
Tropes in this novel:
- Abusive Parents Joe.
- Asexual: Kerewin, in a suprisingly accurate portrayal. The author herself identifies as Asexual as well.
- Author Avatar: Kerewin Holmes is a clear one for Keri Hulme. Kerewin is a reclusive artist with artist's block who lives in the South Island of New Zealand. Keri Hulme is a reclusive writer with writer's block who lives in the South Island.
- The Alcoholic: Kerewin.
- Big Fancy House: Kerewin lives in a tower.
- Bilingual Bonus: the book is full of te reo Maori, only some of which is translated in the appendix.
- Break the Cutie: Simon. By the end he's suffered permenant brain damage as a result of the abuse.
- Cynicism Catalyst: Joe's backstory. His wife and son died, which supposedly justifies his abusive behaviour.
- The Danza: Kerewin Holmes for Keri Hulme. People even call her 'Kere' for short.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Kerewin after becoming friends with Joe and Simon.
- Easily Forgiven: Simon forgives Joe for beating him into a coma.
- Food Porn: The author is clearly a foodie and New Zealand cuisine such as oysters and muttonbird feature prominently.
- Hermit Guru: The old man Joe meets after his suicide attempt.
- I Know Karate: Kerewin is an Aikido master.
- Kuudere: Kerewin hates hugging and kissing and tends to be a loner. She does care about her estranged family deeply, though, and comes to care about Joe and Simon as well.
- Magic Realism the book gets this way at the end. Maori spirituality is a big theme.
- Mysterious Waif: Simon is a mute orphan who was literally washed in from the sea.
- What Have I Done: Joe.
- Orphan's Plot Trinket: Simon's expensive rosary seems to be this, but subverted in it never comes to anything.
- Pædo Hunt: Binny Daniels.
- Reclusive Artist: Kerewin, at the start.
- Redemption Quest: Joe goes on one after nearly killing Simon.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Kerewin's dialogue is like this at times.
- The Voiceless: Simon.