book review: the bone people

51zmdryxehlI picked up this novel from the Oakland Temescal library. I’d never heard of Keri Hulme before, but the backcover said it was a work of “unfettered wordplay and mesmerizing emotional complexity”, which sounded promising, kinda. Also, I didn’t know much about Maori language or culture, so I was curious.

This was not an easy book to read. Hulme has a Joycean way of joining words together so that they hit you with fresh intensity. Much of the dialog is not in English. The fabric of the novel is uneven and unfamiliar—but somehow brilliant, and very beautiful. The book was also difficult to read because of its pathos. Hulme writes compellingly and honestly about family relationships that are dangerously dysfunctional but still show hopeful glimpses of love and loyalty. That’s all of us, no?

I learned a lot from this book. Many thumbs up and highly recommend!

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