Our Missed Opportunity won the Booker Prize in 1985. Set in New Zealand, this is a powerful story of an unlikely bond between a father, his autistic son and a fiercely independent woman called Kerewin. The book is tender, brutal, rich and totally compelling.
- best book club reads -
THE BONE PEOPLE
BY KERI HULME
"O all the world is a little queer, except thee and me, and sometimes, I wonder about thee."
'The Bone People' by Keri Hulme was her debut novel which won the Booker Prize in 1985. Some of us in the Den remember reading the book over 30 years ago and with the sad passing of the author in December 2021, it is our worthy Missed Opportunity. Whether you are revisiting the story or reading it for the first time, this book is sure to cast its magic.
Set in New Zealand, the story is centred round a small autistic boy called Simon. One day Simon turns up at the eccentric home of Kerewin, a fiercely independent woman who lives alone, at one with nature, in a remote tower where she unsuccessfully tries to paint. When Simon’s father Joe comes to collect his son, they form an unlikely bond and Simon and Joe become regular visitors to Kerewin’s home. Over time this relationship develops into one of friendship and loyalty as these two adult misfits struggle to cope with the pain and love they share for Simon whose struggles are all consuming. He is mute, risk averse, steals, experiences nightmares and knows no boundaries but against the odds finds solace with Kerewin and together, although by no means perfect, they try to establish some stability to his life. The question is will they succeed and how far will their lives be damaged along the way?
The Den found this book utterly compelling. It is both beautiful and harsh. Set against the backdrop of the New Zealand wilderness and Maori heritage, it is a poetically told and an extremely powerful novel with a unique individual voice. It is also heart-breaking, frustrating and shocking. You will be sucked into the rhythms of the writing and beauty of the language, which at first you may find hard to follow, but persevere as it won’t be long before you are carried along by the verse. Despite some of the upsetting scenes, it is a book that is sure to stay with you.
Den tip – when you have finished the book, don’t forget to go back and re-read the beginning again!