New Zealand: Love and Violence Wrapped Up in Maori Myth and Legend

I am extremely interested in New Zealand and its culture. It is so far away, yet so familiar in many ways. It is however hard to find literature from New Zealand. I keep my eyes open, and I have asked the library to get some books, but nothing happens. Luckily, I found The Bone People by Keri Hulme easily online, and I finally got a chance to dig into Kiwi literature. And why not go for a The Man Booker prizewinner?

The Bone People was rejected by many publishers, including William Collins, Sons, apparently with a statement saying, “Undoubtedly Miss Hulme can write but unfortunately we don’t understand what she is writing about”. At times I felt the same. It is not the easiest book to interpret, albeit it is intriguing. It is a book about love, but at the same time, it differs a lot from all the other love stories out there.

The Bone People is not a romance novel, quite far from it. It is filled with violence. There are three main characters in the book, and they are all trying to figure out what love is. As we all know, that is not an easy task. The first part of the book evolves around the three main characters and their relationship to each other. The second part of the book digs into their individual lives and travels.

The main characters are Simon, a seven-year-old mute boy, his adoptive father Joe, and a hermit woman named Kerewin. All three of them have suffered traumas, and life is not about to get easier. Even though there is love, there is also violence. The book is full of loss, hard times, looking for one’s inner self, and everything is wrapped up in Maori myth and legend. Despite all the sad and bad things in the book, the ending is filled with hope.

As I said earlier, this is not an easy novel to understand, I felt lost at times, confused at other times. I am interested in Maori culture, but I cannot say I am familiar with all the myths and legends, and sometimes it is hard to keep track of it all. It is an engaging read, but I think I need to reread it at least once to get a better understanding of everything that was going on.

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