Ok, I know it’s Halloween reading time, so I feel like I need to be upfront about the fact that The Bone People isn’t a scary book. I think the synopsis does a better job at describing what this book actually is than I could, so I won’t try. But I will say that it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. And I kind of loved it.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
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.
I still haven’t fully sorted out my thoughts on this novel. I’ve never read anything like it, and my brain still hasn’t fully adjusted. The writing was incredibly unique. It was honestly a little bit disorienting, but I think that actually added to the whole atmosphere of this story. Once I got used to it (mostly, because I don’t think I ever fully got used to it), I actually really liked it. Since it was so different than what I’m used to, it forced me to slow down, and I think I ended up appreciating this book even more.
The Bone People largely revolves around a mute boy named Simon, and the people he brings together. It deals a lot with trauma and child abuse (trigger warning for physical abuse). It’s definitely not an easy read. This book hurt me, even though I saw it coming. I don’t want to give too much away, just know you will not be okay after reading this.
And although I really enjoyed the writing, the highlight of this book, for me, was the characters. I especially loved Simon. What can I say, I have a huge soft spot for snarky children in books. And the fact that he is mute and still snarky and sarcastic just made me love him more. I spent the entire book just wanting to give him a hug. I also really liked Kerewin. As a woman who recently entered her thirties and likes being alone, I identified with her probably a bit too much. This book had such a unique cast of characters, and I thought they worked so well for this story.
★★★★★ – I would say The Bone People is for everyone, it I loved it. It’s definitely one of those older books that deserves more attention. If you like literary fiction with a little bit of magical realism (that might make you cry), I would definitely recommend this one.
The Bone People is available in bookstores now. You can get your copy on Amazon.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may get a small commission for purchases made through this post.*