About Me

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Victoria, Australia
I am an author of Young Adult Fiction books. I worked as a teacher in the Pacific Islands for seven years. Whilst in the Solomon Islands I taught PSSC English before the ethnic tension in 2000 forced a change of plans. I love Pacific literature, art and music. You can find me on Facebook at Beth Montgomery Author.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

The Bone People
(Picador, 1985)
It's Christmas and I've just finished reading this massive tome, which concludes with a Christmas party: a drunken, rowdy and full of hope scene. It's been a harrowing week trying to wade my way through The Bone People. There were several times when the violence irked me so much I was tempted to give up, but I had to find out what became of the central character, a six year old autistic boy.
   Simon is orphaned and cannot speak. He has the usual gamut of sensory issues that autistic people have and a talent for collecting trinkets, or stealing them depending on your point of view. When he can't express himself he lashes out violently. All of these things resonate with me now as autism has appeared in my own family. Of course all autistic people are different from one another and heaps of them can speak quite well and wouldn't dream of stealing anything. But the character of young Simon is so well drawn that I instantly felt for him.
   The other two characters were harder to swallow, but they too were drawn with complexity and compassion. Agressive Joe was so cruel to his son, that it made me wince but the story made me aware of the pressure he was under and how broken he was inside. Whereas Kerewin Holmes, the solitary painter who befriends Simon and Joe, and who recovers from a seemingly life-threatening illness seemed to wallow in drink and depression too much for my liking.
   I can't say this was an easy book to read. The Maori throughout became annoying when I had to break the fictional dream to keep flipping to the glossary. However the story was as engrossing as it was confronting. The dialogue was realistic and I got a real sense of the fragile love each of these three characters had for one another.
   This book won the Booker Prize in 1985 and is considered a classic of NZ literature. It's certainly one of those books that stays with you long after you put it down. Give yourself time to read this, it's not light summer entertainment, but it is worth the effort.

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