Author, Book review, Fiction, Kerri Hulme, literary fiction, New Zealand, Picador, Publisher, Setting

‘The Bone People’ by Kerri Hulme


Fiction – paperback; Picador; 546 pages; 1984.

Set in remote New Zealand, Kerri Hulme’s The Bone People won the Booker Prize in 1985.

It tells the story of the ties that bind three amazingly different people together: Kerewin, an unconventional female artist who has turned her back on her family and an ordinary way of life to live alone in a tower by the sea; shipwrecked Simon, a mute boy with unusual scarring on his body who has strange behavioural problems and an aversion to haircuts; and Joe, a Maori widower who fosters Simon by providing love and heavy-handed violence in equal measure.

Beautifully written with uncannily realistic accounts of the blossoming friendship between the three characters, this fable-like story is funny, cruel and moving. It is a testament to love, friendship and family, and worth the effort despite the complicated style, the depressing/distressing twist in the last third and the sometimes confusing passages of inner dialogue.