Tag: New Zealand

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Posted November 29, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

The Bone People by Keri HulmeTitle: The Bone People (Goodreads)
Author: Keri Hulme
Published: Pan Macmillan, 1984
Pages: 540
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

It was a gloomy and stormy night, a mute 7 year old boy, Simon shows at the hermit Kerewin’s tower. The next morning his adoptive father, Joe came to pick him up. Because Simon couldn’t explain his motives, Kerewin has to rely on Joe to tell their curious story. A storm earlier that year sees Simon wash up on a beach with no memory or clue of his identity. Joe and his now deceased wife took the troubled boy in, but the traumatised boy is just too hard to cope with.

The Maori people use bones as tools and for art; they believe the notion of a person’s core is found within their skeleton. The bones are a common theme throughout the novel; each character is emotionally stripped to the bone. It is then we truly see what type of person these characters are. This novel is full of violence and twisted emotions, making this a tense and draining book to read.

Something I really liked about this novel was Keri Hulme’s use of silence as tool that drives the plot. Simon is unable to speak, but we find out this is more of a psychological rather than a physical restriction, as he can sing. I think he is afraid to say the wrong thing, a defensive strategy. He uses notes as a primary form of communication, this way there are no expressions of his emotion and he can protect himself. The book goes a little further, Simon is also silent about the pain, when he is beaten he doesn’t make a sound. Kerewin also uses silence in a similar way, she built her tower to hide away and be a recluse; no one can hurt her if she is in solitude. She is always an artist suffering from a creative silence; not being able to let her creative side flow through her art. You can read this book and find many examples of silences within it; very effective and I spent a lot of time trying to work out the meaning behind it.

Each character has been damaged that their defensive mechanisms make it hard to open up to others. Yet the three main characters spend the entire novel trying to work out what love is and how to find it. They are all isolated themselves from the world; Kerewin in her tower, Simon with his inability to steak and Joe with his grief. There is just so many themes you could look at in The Bone People, the idea of a utopian society uniting Maori and Western culture, Post-colonial discourse, cultural illness, violence as a way to communicate and you can just go on and on.

This is not the easiest book to read, it is confronting and tense. The Bone People left me with mixed emotions; on one hand the writing was wonderful and left me thinking about so many issues but on the other hand the violence just left me with a sick feeling. I often try to leave my emotional opinion of the subject matter out of analysing a book but I just can’t help it with this one. In the end, I think the book has something important to say and worth reading.


The Forrests by Emily Perkins

Posted August 16, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 1 Comment

The Forrests by Emily PerkinsTitle: The Forrests (Goodreads)
Author: Emily Perkins
Published: Bond Street Books, 2012
Pages: 352
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Forrests by Emily Perkins was the book chosen for my local bookclub for June, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it to this discussion so I decided to read this while in New Zealand as the author is a New Zealander. This book has already been talked about in regards to being listed for this year’s Man Booker prize (it never made the long list) so I was interested in seeing what the book was all about. The novel follows the story of the Forrests, a disenfranchised family that moves from New York City to Auckland. It follows the dramas of a family, dealing with normal every day issues; from love, marriage, motherhood and parenting to the financial issue, loneliness and a range of other issues that come with a dysfunctional family.

This book is a bit strange, you start off with all the dramas of this family and throughout the book the issues never end. While you are looking on, you never seem to be given enough information to fully understand what is happening and how the characters are feeling, like the author was always holding the full story from the reader and just expecting them to guess.  Each chapter is another scene which I’ve been thrust into without being armed with the relevant information to navigate through it properly. The family dramas never really ended in this book and I just couldn’t wait to get to the end of this book.

This is a beautiful piece of writing and Emily Perkins did a decent job at capturing a family in their flaws but I didn’t enjoy The Forrests so the writing was let down by the characters. It was a bit of a dreamlike book that did grow on you a little but for me it wasn’t enough to pull me to enjoying this novel. I think some people will really enjoy this book, it starts off by putting you in the deep end and I suspect it grows on some readers, just not on me.