The Bone People
by Keri Hulme
1984 , 445 pp.
1985 Booker Prize
I didn't think I was going to like this book at first, and I didn't love it, but it definitely kept me reading and I did care about the characters.
Kerewin is an artist who lives in a Tower by the sea. She likes living by herself and even likes the isolation. She is estranged from her family.
Joe is a factory worker with an adopted son who is always getting into trouble. Joe has a bit of a drinking problem and doesn't keep good tabs on his son. The boy ends up at Kerewin's place, and the three end up becoming friends, if not a quasi family unit. Secrets, lies, and violence lie beneath the surface, though, and threaten to tear them all apart.
The story takes place in New Zealand with Joe and Kerewin being part Maori. Some of the myths, culture, and history of the Maori are also part of the book.
This is a different kind of book that is written in almost a "stream of consciousness" style. I thought this was a bit distracting at first, but then I got used to it and even enjoyed it. I also don't like it when authors use the present tense rather than the past tense. This aspect bothered me for about 3/4 of the book, but then I didn't notice it anymore.
For instance (p. 34) "She picks up the curious pendant one last time, to fondle and admire before she goes downstairs," rather than "She picked up the curious pendant one last time and fondled and admired it before she went downstairs." I guess it's a preference issue.