A bewitching fusion of Maori ancient traditions and humanities timeless imperfections
I am emotionally exhausted after spending the last two weeks reading The Bone People. As hard as I tried, I was never able to sit for more than an hour with these destructive and severely marred characters. Hulme's portrayal of the complex and layered relationship between a perpetrator of abuse and his battered victim is so accurate that I can only assume that she has been through a similar trauma in her own life.
Our protagonist - or antihero, in my opinion- is a troglodyte drunkard who is forced out of her self-imposed exile by a visit from a neighbouring impish boy, who happens to be mute. Against all odds an endearing relationship is forged between these two misfits, as Kerewin finds herself protecting Simon from the harsh hand of his overwhelmed and iron-fisted father.
It wasn't just disturbing content that had me straining to get through this finely printed, 450-page novel, as some of the book was written in the Maori language, and as a result we are forced to use an index of translations found at the back of the book in order to comprehend the contrasting cultural references. I am just thankful that I discovered the index by accident before I started, or else it would have been even more confusing and frustrating to wade through. Not only was it easily missed, it was annoying to have to flip to the back of the book, and as such I feel it would have been much more efficient to have just footnoted the translations at the bottom of each page respectively.
Ultimately Hulme's novel is poetic, inspiring of vivid imagery, and definitely worthy of more than one read in order to grasp all that it has to offer. Through unique customs and folklore we learn about the extraordinary ways of New Zealand's indigenous people, while we relate to their commonality through situations that are shared by emotionally damaged and flawed people from anywhere around the world.