Bone People,The ~ Keri Hulme ~ Read Around The World BookClub 6/05
May 20, 2005 - 02:49 pm
Set in the harsh environment of the South Island beaches of New Zealand, this masterful story brings together three singular people in a trinity that reflects their country's varied heritage. Winner of the 1985 Booker-McConnell prize for fiction. Source

For Your Consideration: Finis:

  • 1. Would you consider this book a tragedy? If so, who is the tragic figure and why?

  • 2. How great is the guilt that Kerewin feels for her part in this last horrendous beating episode? Does she feel equally at fault? What part does this play in her life?

  • 3. Why did Kerewin tear down her tower? What does that mean for her? What did it symbolize and what does its destruction indicate?

  • 4. The Elder has "watched" and waited for many years. He turns over his charge to the Broken Man.
  • How long does the Broken Man keep the charge?

  • Why does he release it?

  • What do all the symbols mean, what IS the glowing rock?

  • What ship might be sunk there?

  • 5. What ends are not tied up for you here at the last? Are the symbols noted by our readers below explained?

    "Do you find the ending believable? Where did those aunts of Kerewin come from?" (Deems)

  • 6. "What about Joe? Is he rehabilitated? Does his seeking out of the Elder work for you? What does he promise this elder?" (Deems)

  • 7. What is the significance of the repetition of this phrase in the Prologue and in the last section of the book?


  • 8. What does the title The Bone People mean?

  • 9. Who is the protagonist of the book? (Maribeth)

  • 10. What was the lump in Kerewin's stomach?

  • 11. What is the significance of the moth in the story?

    Symbols Noted So Far:

  • Green color and jade (Marni)
  • Spiral (Marni)
  • Black chess piece (Deems)
  • Curves (Kleo)
  • Objects (Joan K)
  • Simon's rosary (Marni)
  • The sea (Kleo)
  • Simon Peter (Marni)
  • fire
  • hair (Marni)
  • Rings with semi precious stones (Marni)
  • Stones (Maribeth)

    For your Consideration
    Chapters 1 & 2
         Chapters 3 & 4     Chapters 5 - 8    

  • Discussion Schedule

    June 20-30 The End: Collect the cards and put them back in the deck.

    Coding to post a link:
    <A HREF="URL">Title of the link</A>


    Discussion Leader: ginny

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    May 31, 2005 - 04:07 pm

    As we now prepare to begin our discussion of The Bone People tomorrow (I have an all day class tomorrow so will be beginning tonight), and Pat has put up the discussion schedule, (thank you, Pat), I want to talk a little bit about the format OF the discussion, to welcome you all here, and to talk about what we hope to accomplish and what we hope not to fall into the trap of doing in this particular series.

    I'm going to use, also, a new innovative suggestion from Jane, and put up ONE question per day, a focus question, and add to it as the days go on. I'll have more to say on the questions when we get to subsequent days.

    As well we have some brand new Guidelines for all of our book discussions here in SeniorNet's Books and Literature sections, a collaborative effort of all of the 30+ Books and Literature discussion Leaders, which will be our standard for discussions. I now would like to call your attention to them, if you like: Guidelines for participation on SeniorNet Book Discussions , linked in the heading here.

    I've very much enjoyed the background material you have provided in the pre-discussion, which will remain linked in the heading here as soon as we can, and be Read Only, and have done a lot of very enjoyable reading, myself, on the background of New Zealand, which appears to be a paradise on earth. I would now like to go there, not move there as I already live in a wonderful place, but I really want to see some of what I've been reading about in the background material. I have simplistic tastes in background info and like the World Book Encyclopedias with their charts, etc., which we bought for the kids, in 1977, which summarize and explain things from every angle, history, geography, economics, climate, the people, the government, etc., etc. etc. Some of it may be outdated, but you get a lovely quick précis.

    In that article I learned that the entire area of all the islands which make up New Zealand is equal to that of Colorado, that the inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living, that you are never out of sight of the mountains or more than 80 miles from the sea and it appears to be a paradise on earth. I enjoyed reading about the discovery and subsequent history of New Zealand and am delighted we have a real New Zealander here in our old friend Carolyn, who is enlightened and intelligent and just the person we need as we begin our new focus on books in this series. I recommend everybody read a little background somewhere on this fascinating and beautiful place.

    I have also found there seems to be no Reader's Guide OR questions for this book, even from the publisher, and that several reading groups have found quite a few negative things they felt about the book.

    Note that I say "the book" and not New Zealand and as I think Carolyn and some of you have mentioned, there are other authors from New Zealand who do present different voices and perspectives.

    There is a trap here in our Read Around the World Series that I would like for us to avoid, and this seems a good time for us to bring it up. See next post, I'm trying to break up these long things!

    May 31, 2005 - 04:13 pm
    Here's what I'd like to see us do in this series:

    In reading the voices of different countries and cultures, we need to try to keep in mind, if we can, that we're not reading travel guides or apologias or official presentations, but rather works of fiction (or non fiction) with an individual author's point of view. Our New Zealand choice this time appears a perfect venue for our experiment: New Zealand itself appears to be a paradise but the book is separate and we must not fall into the trap of feeling that we need somehow to...I'm not sure how to put this... venerate the book or the country in this series, just because they are unknown and new to US. You surely would not form your opinions of America by reading John Updike (I hope) and we don't want to do the same thing to any other country on the basis of one book, or one author's voice.

    We will approach this book, we NEED to approach this book, like we do all other books on SeniorNet, AS a book, and give our own opinions OF it, good OR bad, and discuss the additional and fascinating tidbits of New Zealand as we go, including but not limited to the interesting mythology and symbolism presented in the text, thus doubly enriching ourselves in the journey, keeping in mind always that in reading a book, we're hearing voices which may themselves not speak for the entire country, even a small one. They are, in fact, one person's point of view. Like any book, written anywhere.

    That is important. If we don't LIKE the book, if it should turn out that way, it does not mean we don't LIKE New Zealand, the Maoris, Aotearoa, Carolyn, or anything else! That's important to keep remembering, and we always are about our own opinions of the BOOK here in SeniorNet's Books, respectfully submitted (see Guidelines). Since we do have Carolyn IN here, I look forward to hearing from her what life is really like, and if she thinks the author has captured it, and a lot of other things. Like how you pronounce "Maori." I was seriously corrected on my trip because of my pronunciation, so I'd like to know how that word is pronounced?

    In addition, since this IS a series, we will want to always be comparing HOW these authors present the different countries OR points of view. If you were not in the original Kite Runner, not to worry, you can start with this one and compare the subsequent choices to it. If you were in the Kite Runner, you can also enjoy this process of comparison, and your reflections of comparison on THAT book will add to our growing list. We would be remiss not to try some comparative literature, in a series , but we will decide for ourselves and enjoy comparing our own thoughts on which author presents the elements of his own country more skillfully or whatnot, we can do anything we'd like in considering the books in the series as individual entries.

    SO! That having been said, what on earth shall we do for a starting point??!!?? It's VERY hard to pick "just one," and I'm really stymied. Shall it be the prose, the writing structure? The effect on the reader of this presentation? How about the characterizations? Could these first two chapters be set in any country in the world? Jeepers, how to pick something that might spark thoughts and a good discussion? Have to start somewhere tho…, so I think I'll do the First Day's Focus Question as:

  • What one thing in the first two chapters made the greatest impression on you and why?

  • We would like to hear from all of you.

    So welcome here, and in the morning, or tonight, doesn't matter, we will begin discussing the first two chapters (is YOUR book…there are MANY different editions…. arranged IN chapters?) I look forward to hearing everybody's comments, and YOUR own focus questions are welcome, also. We'll try to keep the new questions at one per day but that's hard for me to do, I worry that the one I thought of might not interest YOU, so we'll put up any focus thoughts you have as we go, in addition to any daily ones, I am anxious to see how this works.

    According to the glossary of Maori terms nicely placed in the back of the book, Tena koe, hello, welcome, to each of you!

    kiwi lady
    May 31, 2005 - 04:34 pm
    I think Keri Hulm has been very brave in writing about a subject that is largely denied in many societies. Remembering this book is about only a section of NZ Society.

    Descriptions of the countryside are correct and it is a very beautiful country. We have more and more Americans coming here to live so I guess they like it.

    Like every other society we have problems but we do a lot of navel gazing and this is good we do not think our society is perfect. We are critical of our society and our Govts. I think thats healthy.


    kiwi lady
    May 31, 2005 - 04:39 pm
    Maybe we can start with the writing style of the first section followed by the characterizations. It is an unusual writing style but not that unusual for indigenous writers I think.

    I am used to this style of writing but how do others feel about it? Is it hard to get into? Did it take a long time to feel comfortable with it?


    Kevin Freeman
    May 31, 2005 - 06:14 pm
    Yes, the toughest thing out of the gate in this book is its choppy, jumpy, asymmetrical narrative style PLUS jumping point of view.

    Actually I was confused by the reading schedule (caveat: my middle name is "Confused" as in
    Kevin C. Freeman -- whether you want to "C" him or not). Why? Because there's a PART I and PART II in addition to a CHAPTER 1 and CHAPTER 2 (not to mention -- but I will -- a prologue and a beginning that's an end that's a beginning).

    Also, sometimes Hulme uses a simple SPACING between short narrative bursts, and sometimes she uses THREE STARS and sometimes she uses the STARS PLUS SMALL, ITALICIZED ROMAN NUMERALS. You want rhyme? You want reason? Get thee to the Break, Blow, Burn thread.

    As for point of view, it's chiefly 3rd-person limited (Kerewin), though you get sudden jumps to the other two points of this Odd-sosceles Triangle (Joe and Simon), too. Some Joe, very little Simon -- and, like the movie The Piano -- a bit of a start when we get to hear the thoughts of a mute who we're use to seeing and not hearing.

    Furthermore, the tense is fluid between past and present, sometimes in the same paragraph and for describing the same chronological events. It tenses me up. It tensed me up. See what I mean? (See what I meant?)

    Sentence fragments.

    Lots of sentence fragments.

    Like people berloody talk.

    Sometimes the narrative is block form -- all indented -- only I don't know why. It can be a character's thoughts, but, on the other hand, character's thoughts show up in regular ole run-of-the-mill paragraphs, too.

    Sometimes run-of-the-mill italicized, and sometimes not.

    As the old candy bar ad goes, sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.

    The early chapters of this novel drove me nuts because of all of the above, but I've hung with it and the motley crew have grown on me and I can see the artistic reasoning behind this un-design, but I sure wish there were a key or a consistency to the inconsistency. Maybe there is. Maybe I just haven't solved it yet.

    Are "hiero" and "glyphics" Maori words, then?

    Ka nui taku mate,


    kiwi lady
    May 31, 2005 - 07:36 pm
    Kerewin reminds me of a Maori Lady I know. Gruff, outspoken to the point of rudeness and also extremely choosy to whom she extends her hand of friendship, Tending not to trust many people.

    I don't know why but I don't find the style off putting. Maybe because its a kiwi author. So far I am not driven nuts. I love the description of the seashore and fauna its all so familiar. Its nice to be doing a discussion where I can really visualise the setting. I can smell the seashore I can really see the tower in its remote setting.


    May 31, 2005 - 10:30 pm
    When I read this book, I felt like I was reading a mystery novel.

    In the Prologue, a poem seems to present 3 people: a singer who loves the light, a smiling popular male full of change and hope, and a whistling female who knows a lot. The author switches to prose and explains the 3 are "nothing more than people, by themselves....Together, all together, they are the instruments of change."

    Then, in prose, an intriguing mystery begins with, "IN THE BEGINNING, it was darkness, and more fear, and a howling wind across the sea." It's like a variation of the beginning of the Book of Genesis at first.

    I can see more clearly now, looking back at the beginning of the book, what's presented in the Prologue (The End at the Beginning). In the poem we see first Simon, then Joe, then Kerewin. Then in the prose we see, in the same order, Simon's thoughts, then Joe's thoughts, then Kerewin's thoughts at a time "in the beginning" before they were a three-some.

    Chapter I then begins, presented in a limited omniscient point of view, mainly through Kerewin's eyes, but which switches at times to Simon's and to Joe's. The style is choppy and a combination of prose and poetry, with thoughts, conversation, short phrases, rambling, slang, English, Maori, cursing, jumping from scene to scene, developing the fascinating characters and their relationships. I think the style suggests the states of mind of the tormented characters.

    Much of the language is very beautiful, descriptive, poetic, with vivid imagery. Kerewin seems to have developed her own personal language in thoughts and words. Mute Simon has developed his own language with hand and facial movements.

    I was drawn in and wanted to see the mystery solved, even though I hated the story at times.


    Traude S
    May 31, 2005 - 10:48 pm
    GINNY, The book is divided in the Prologue, four (4) Parts with Roman numerals and a boldened headline or theme.
    Each Part has (3) three chapters;
    the chapters are consecutively numbered for a total of 12 chapters. Then there is the Epilogue.

    Am I correct in assuming that our first reading assigment is The Prologue and Chapters 1 and 2 of Part I Season of the Day Moon ?
    Could we also read chapter 3 of Part I for completeness ?

    I have not opened my book until this evening because I wanted to wrap up the "King must Die" discussion first. I knew very well that I could not serve two masters, as the saying goes.

    This will be a new, totally different experience for most of us and require immersion until the reader has developed some sense of who these individuals are, where the hurt originate.

    I have noticed the items KEVIN mentioned about switching tenses, the indented phrases and who exactly is speaking the indented lines, and other peculiarities at which we purists tend to frown.

    CAROLYN, is it a sign of (perhaps grudging) accptance that the Maori are no longer referred to as "aboriginees", and was that a discrimnatory term?

    kiwi lady
    May 31, 2005 - 11:21 pm
    Maori were never referred to as aborigines that I am aware of. They were referred to as Natives in all the old history books I have read. The Australians still call their indigenous people aborigines.

    Maori oratory on the Marae is very poetic. I don't know how to describe what Marae means. A Marae has always been a marae to me. I guess it could be explained as a Maori meeting place. Each tribe has a Marae sometimes more than one. Our local marae is called Hoani Waititi Marae. Its quite a large complex. There is strict protocol on the Marae and it must be adhered to.

    What I am trying to say is the style Keri uses which you call poetic is very typical of Maori oratory.

    I wish you could all have the Marae experience. It is quite unique. All NZ school children have the chance to spend a night on a Marae. They are taught Maori Marae protocol. It is quite an experience and my children enjoyed it.

    We are a country with two official languages Maori and English. Maori have a large input into NZ society. All signs in public buildings are in Maori and English and many Maori words are part of our every day speech such as whanau for family and Kia Ora as a greeting.

    Maori probably have more influence on our society than any other indigenous peoples do in their own societies. I know aborigines envy the input they are permitted to have. I have heard the aborigines remark on this when some of their leaders have been interviewed on TV.

    There is a huge amount of intermarriage and there would not be many families I know who do not have a Maori relative. I have a SIL whose grandmother was Maori which means Brooke and Grace (my grands) have Maori heritage and it is visible in Brooke. My BIL had a Maori Grandmother so my nieces and nephews in that family have Maori heritage and that is only my family. Its typical of very many families here.


    Kevin Freeman
    June 1, 2005 - 02:48 am
    Yes, the point of view seemed chiefly 3rd-Limited, but of course it is, in the final analysis, 3rd omniscient. I suppose the Omniscient POV is necessary, given Hulme's designs.

    I, too, love the opening descriptions of the beach. There's more peace there (nature) than in the human goings-on, so reading it is like a refuge of sorts. Simon seeks shelter, Reader seeks shelter.

    Sympatico, I think it's called.

    Traude S
    June 1, 2005 - 04:00 am
    CAROLYN, thank you for clarifying that point for me. Obviously I mixed up what I remembered about Maori and aboriginees.
    I have located my old geography book, and the amount of information on both NZ and Australia is astonishing. You'd be surprised to see the home work questions we were given.

    By the time I tore myself away from the book in the wee hours of the morning I was a little the worse for wear, as my typing and unintentional bolding show. Sorry about that.

    Back to the assignments: could we possibly add the respectiv page numbers to the chapter numbers for clarification? Thank you.

    June 1, 2005 - 04:38 am
    Thank you all, this is a marvelous jump out of the gate, I agree with everything each of you has said (now how can that be?) and will return after my class tonight.

    No, we can't put the page numbers, Traude, I tried that initially and Pat informed me that her pagination in her book was different.

    We tried by themes. We tried by grouping. We tried by just about anything you can name, the heading, in our attempts to explain where we had left off, grew humongous, due to the need to quote where we were: we'll stick to chapters, those seem universal. That's why I asked if each of you HAVE chapters?

    Kevin, you are seeing STARS? You are seeing small italics? Roman numerals?

    I am seeing none of that, mine looks like ee cummings with caps. What are the rest of you seeing? Kevin please indicate where you are seeing stars, unless of course it's a personal affectation? haahhaah just kidding.

    Love all you have said, Marni, I totally agree, it's surely a mystery (good point on the Genesis allusion), and again it reminds me of the dialogue in Gormenghast (sp) which she does mention. You've got people talking but what on earth are they talking about, or saying and to whom and who is speaking, it's a major mystery, almost like sci fi I think. You are filled with anticipation.

    I started to ask what on earth is being said on MY page 6 in the Prologue but then realized I'd have to copy half of it out here first, but it's totally inexplicable, to me.

    So what DO those indentations mean? And in answer to the focus question in the heading (let's not forget that is up there?) so the things you have mentioned ARE the "one thing that stood out the most for you?"

    Anybody else have something that struck them forcefully, so we can get all our cards out of initial impressions on the table? You have to put the thing down and go away and return before the salient points kind of leap out at you.

    The style kind of reproduces a sensation like a madhouse, doesn't it? You hear everybody's thoughts out loud, sort of a...would you call this stream of consciousness? Or not? I like your identification of the narrator, too. I want to see if that applies throughout the book.

    Carolyn, are you saying this type of writing is typical of New Zealand or Maori writing? Would you indicate another New Zealand author with this type of style? Would you mind, you may not have seen my request in my first posts, spelling out what Maori sounds like, the word itself?

    I personally think that the first two chapters could be about any place on earth, what's particularly New Zealandish about them? Prove me wrong?

    More tomorrow on your fabulous posts, I love them.

    Mrs Sherlock
    June 1, 2005 - 07:07 am
    When I began this book, I didn't realize how deeply ididn't take to Kite Runner as "foreign". It could have been written by people from anywhere in the US, not to say the whole world. Bone People, however, was deliciously foreign. Never had I read a style like this. The inner thoughts of the artist, and she is primarily an artist, took me places I've never been. It has been a profoundly moving experience. Kite Runner never engaged my emotions in the way Bone People has.

    Now, my book is divided like Traude's: four parts of three chapters each with a prologue and an epilogue.

    Tena koutou katoa!

    June 1, 2005 - 09:39 am
    My paperback is divided into a short Prologue, then 4 Chapters (each close to 100 pages and each composed of 3 sections), then a brief Epilogue.

    We could cover all 3 sections of 1 Chapter each week. We could cover the Prologue along with Chapter 1 and the Epilogue along with Chapter 4.


    June 1, 2005 - 10:09 am
    Kevin are you referring to the three little "astricks" when say stars?

    As I was reading this book, I couldn't help think it was very similar to my Cajun roots - the speech patterns, the music, the food, even the religious overtones are very similar. It has a gentleness about it; yet I also see danger.

    At first it was difficult to read, but after awhile the words just seemed to roll over my tongue. The subject matter is a difficult one for me personally, so I don't know how long I'll last here.

    kiwi lady
    June 1, 2005 - 11:36 am
    Whale Rider has passages in it which are similar to this style of writing. It is the first one which comes to mind.

    Maori - Mowri with a long o as in your the a as in car. the a is virtually silent in this example.

    It is said that the Maori language does have similarities to other indigenous languages including some South American Indian dialects.

    We do not have perfect race relations here there are a small minority of rednecks on both sides that is the Pakeha side and the Maori side. The group in between get along together really well. My husbands rugby team for instance had only two pakeha players and my husband was one of them. We were never left out and these young men and their families became close friends.

    I don't know if the setting could be anywhere else in the world all I know is that it does speak of NZ to me.


    June 1, 2005 - 11:42 am
    Since I finished the book last month, I have to review. (My memory is shot.) I'm discovering things I didn't pay attention to first time around.

    On page 1 of Chapter 1, section 1, Kerewin in the bar silently says a poem as she puts a coin on the counter: "This ship that sets its sails forever rigid on my coin is named Endeavour...."

    I recently read that on his first "Voyage of Discovery," Captain Cook in his ship Endeavor charted the entire coast of New Zealand in 1768.

    I wonder if people of Maori descent have very mixed feelings about Captain Cook and his discovery.

    I found the following on a web site about Cook, apparently info from his journal: "[They] then sailed for New Zealand, which was found to consist of two great islands admirably adapted for settlement 'should this ever be thought an object worthy the attention of Englishmen.' The soil was most fertile, the trees were splendid, the natives vigorous and healthy, though somewhat addicted to cannibalism. Domestic animals were lacking, and that Captain Cook determined to remedy at some future time."

    June 1, 2005 - 11:51 am
    Hi- I'm reading the book and find myself right inside the story. It has wrapped itself around me. K is a character unto herself as are the child and Joe.


    June 1, 2005 - 11:58 am
    Our first image of Simon, seen by Kerewin when she discovers him in her tower, is that of a saint in a shroud, his hair a halo.

    This is prophetic.

    "In the window, standing stiff and straight like some weird saint in a stained gold window, is a child. A thin shockheaded person, haloed in hair, shrouded in the dying sunlight."

    kiwi lady
    June 1, 2005 - 12:07 pm
    I am a fifth generation NZer on my mothers side first generation on my fathers side.

    I have huge sympathy for the Maori regarding British settlement. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be Maori in the early days of settlement- to have been swindled out of my land in many cases and then to have my family wiped out with measles. (the Maori were decimated from a measles epidemic) I cannot help what my ancestors did but believe that Maori must be treated with respect and their culture and language preserved. I think we are on the way to redressing wrongs and we are developing a rich and unique blended culture, Long may this unique blend continue.

    My SIL never acknowledged his Maori heritage but I have encouraged him to do this and his children are registered at birth as being Pakeha/Maori. In generations past Maori were not respected and often rejected their heritage now there is pride in being Maori. That is a very good thing for all of us.


    June 1, 2005 - 01:56 pm
    My paperback is divided in sections just as Marni said, so we seem to have the same edition: Prologue of
    about 7 pages, then Chapter 1 starting on p. 11.

    I agree that the prologue is confusing. Actually I thought it was too hard to understand and
    plunged right into the first section. Re-reading today hardly helped.
    So my request is indeed: help, what is the author saying?

    May I jump in and post a sentence from p. 20?
    "What in the name of hell have I said that would make it cry?"
    It -- Kerewin calls a child it?, and had called him (prior page):
    Ratbag child. (even after being kind to him)

    A person who thinks of a little child as "it", even if the child is trespassing,
    is not a person I like. Maybe is a person I hate.

    Do you think the author uses these and similar phrases intentionally?
    Does the author want the reader to dislike Kerewin?
    Does Kerewin dislike herself? Is that why she build the tower, a hermitage?

    kiwi lady
    June 1, 2005 - 02:04 pm
    At first I did not like Kerewin but as the book progressed I did get to like her. The hardness was only a shell as we see as time goes on.


    June 1, 2005 - 02:17 pm
    As I was re-reading the first part of the book, I saw that Simon's name (Simon P.) was Simon Peter. I suddenly recalled that this was a name of one of Jesus' disciples. So, I looked up Simon Peter on the web. And wow. The name choice must certainly be symbolic.

    Simon was Jesus' head disciple, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter. Some called him Simon Peter. After Jesus' death, he became head of the original Christian community in Jerusalem. He had visions, baptised people, and cured people, apparently. Eventually, he was imprisoned and martyred by crucifixion in Rome, apparently. He was sainted.

    June 1, 2005 - 02:46 pm
    I had trouble with the Prologue, too. Now I'm thinking it is the end. As Hulme says, "The End at the Beginning."

    I think when we reach the end of the book in our discussion, we should go back to the Prologue and discuss it again. I think it might make more sense then.


    June 1, 2005 - 04:19 pm
    Would be easy if I could ever pull myself out of tide-pooling in San Diego as I read the book. I studied marine biology, phycology and zoology of marine mammals while living in San Diego. A tide pool is a tide pool anywhere along the Pacific Rim, it seems.

    The castle reminded me of stone Spanish buildings in California. I wondered while reading its description if it was cool in the summer and warm in the winter, or rather poorly ventilated and all sorts of everyday things that had nothing to do with New Zealand.

    The style reminds me of Faulkner and another writer whom I can't quite bring to mind. The style is very familiar to me, nothing unusual at all. I will put a name to this some time while reading.


    June 1, 2005 - 04:20 pm
    Hi Ginny. I'm here too. I like a book that I have to pay attention to. I bought The Bone People (Penguin ed.) at Barnes and Noble today after reading the first twenty pages or so.

    Mippy--In England and in this country until fairly recently, "it" was used to refer to a child with no insult intended. I'm not sure when this fell out of use, but it used to be common.

    I never worry about episodes--and there seem to be three separate ones in the prologue--that are vague. I figure that eventually, all will be made plain.

    Kiwi--Are towers common on the coast in New Zealand? I'm imagining a wooden tower sort of like the old fire towers we have here. Any description you provide will be appreciated.

    I sort of like Kerewin. She's just quirky (and well-read) enough for me. She's constantly making references, as she thinks to herself or speaks out loud, to pieces of literature.

    I also like the writing; I'm enjoying being inside Kerewin's mind: "For a cat, when in doubt, wash: for a Holmes, ruffle a guitar." Kerewin is fond of language although she apparently doesn't care much for people.

    I also think Simon is intriguing. He can't (or doesn't?) speak, but he certainly understands and finds ways of communication.

    I think the author indents whenever the material is Kerewin's thoughts as opposed to something she says aloud. In other words, she indents where I would use italics, to indicate a thought. These indentations are a few spaces further in from the left margin than a paragraph indent.

    Sometimes there's white space to indicate an interval and sometimes, when the interval is longer, there are three asterisks flush to the left margin. In the US or England, these pauses would be made up of stars or dots, but they would be centered. Other than that, I don't see too much that's confusing. It's just one of those books where you have to read every single word. If you try to skim this book, you will get lost.


    kiwi lady
    June 1, 2005 - 04:33 pm
    Towers are not common at all. I happen to know where there is a couple of towers built by people considered to be eccentric. The towers I know are not on the coastline but I could imagine one on the coastline.

    The tower is probably draughty and cold. We have some very cold draughty houses here. The insulation regulations for the building industry did not come in to force til 1978. I live in one of those cold old houses. I run a dehumidifier constantly in the winter which does warm it up and I had ceiling insulation fitted years ago. I could do with underfloor insulation. NZers of my generation still have the spartan mentality I think! I am fortunate in that I live in one of the warmest areas in NZ. Last month West Auckland where I lived had the day with the highest temperature in the country. We are near the rainforest and I think that has something to do with it. Its a kind of microclimate. Its stifling and humid in summer too. Where the story we are reading now is set is a cold part of the country.

    The South Island in general is quite a bit colder than the North Island in the winter. I could never live there it would be too cold for me.


    June 1, 2005 - 04:46 pm
    1. What one thing in the first two chapters made the greatest impression on you and why?

    The one thing is the feel of this book as a Biblical narrative, but not from the Book of Genesis, rather from Ecclesiastes (although I agree with the reference to Genesis, I did not think of it).

    "Maybe there is the dance, as she says. Creation and change, destruction and change."

    When I read this in the prologue (which I can't now separate from the first two chapters) I thought of Ecclesiastes and decided this would be a story of:

    "What hath a man more of all his labour, that he taketh under the sun?

    One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth standeth for ever.

    The sun riseth, and goeth down, and returneth to his place: and there rising again."

    (Ecclesiastes 1:3-5)

    This prologue set the stage for the first two chapters and the rest of the book. A man or woman creates nothing on this earth that they can guarantee they leave behind, that will not be taken down by the rivers running to the sea, the earth quaking beneath them. Nothing, that is, except what a human can create by sharing life with another human being. The end at the beginning tells me these are people who will learn what is of value in life.

    When I headed to the first chapter, I decided, YES! Ecclesiastes! She lives by the water, from which all life is born, and to which all life returns!

    What is the endeavour? It is to find meaning in life. And meaning in life is a journey shared.

    Lupins have palmately compound leaves. When it rains the drops of water on their leaves bead up into half-hemispheres. It has been raining a lot in California, and our coastal hills have been covered with lupins and their rain-dropped leaves for some time now. I haven't been up with the dawn to see the dew on one in quite some time. This is a woman who feels herself part of the natural world she lives in. Will her disconnect be to other human beings? Again, "there is nothing new under the sun," a soul looking for their place in the world.

    Kerewin is part of the circle and the curves of life. Her molecules become part of the beach when she spits. Maybe she stands out like the giant ngiao some times. Maybe she's just a piece of sand that makes up the beach. Even the creatures in the tides move to new homes, like Kerewin does, who is also part of the earth that humans live upon (Middle-Earth), whether she stands apart or not.

    What will come from the seabluegreen for Kerewin? Life.

    "[Unto] the place from which rivers come, they return, to flow again." The rivers return from the sea as the rain.


    kiwi lady
    June 1, 2005 - 05:03 pm
    I don't know whether Keri intended to give the impression of a biblical narrative. If she did it would have been on the lines of genesis.

    When Keri describes the sea shore she mentions Marram grass. Marram grass is planted here to help the sand dunes to stay stable. Its a technique to prevent the erosion of the sand dunes. Dunes are a west coast phenomena. We have dunes out here on the West Coast of Auckland.

    Do you have sand dunes on your beaches and do you have Marram grass?


    June 1, 2005 - 05:06 pm

    What is the current best estimate for the settling of New Zealand? What type of evidence is used for the date? Do you know?


    June 1, 2005 - 05:16 pm
    Marram grass is a common name used for a couple of different specious of rhizomous grasses used for dune stabilization along various US coasts (mostly temperate coasts, I believe). Ammophile arenaria or European Beachgrass, as it is called in California is one species planted for dune stabilization in California and on the East Coast. I believe that Ammophile is mostly a northern hemisphere temperate grass. Probably the New Zealand marram grass you are familiar with is a temperate species of Calamagrostis, or reed grass, though. This is not generally planted as a dune stabilizer in California that I know of. Various ice plant species from South Africa were planted along the California coast and are now horrendous weeds.

    I don't know what grass the NZ marram grass is. However, I could probably find out.

    Okay, marram grass in New Zealand is Ammophila arenaria. It was planted for dune stabilization especially for the growth of Pinus radiata stands just inland from the beach.


    June 1, 2005 - 05:23 pm


    Why could Hulme have intended to give the impression of Genesis and not Ecclesiastics?


    June 1, 2005 - 05:28 pm
    "...but we will decide for ourselves and enjoy comparing our own thoughts on which author presents the elements of his own country more skillfully or whatnot"

    Well, heck, how do we decide whether or not the author has skillfully presented his or her own country or not? I don't know enough about NZ to say anything one way or the other. As to Afghanistan, what most folks in the discussion disliked most about the story, the way it was told, was the most pure Afghan element of the story. But how would anyone unfamiliar with Afghan culture be able to tell? Did we conclude anything about how the author presented "the elements of his country" in Kite Runner? If so, what? Well, actually, how would I, familiar with the country, be able to tell whether or not the author presented Afghanistan skillfully enough to others unfamiliar with the country?


    kiwi lady
    June 1, 2005 - 05:36 pm
    Polynesian settlement with the great migration was in the thirteenth century. Evidence is from carbon dating, archeology, genetic analysis, burnt pollen remains and disposition of ash showers.

    The first recorded Pakeha to live in NZ were seamen and whalers who jumped ship, First recorded in the latter part of the eighteen century and early nineteenth century. Many of them married Maori women. The first if temporary European settlement was in the early 1790s. It was a whaling settlement at Dusky sound. The settlement was not permanent and the last of the whalers were lifted off in 1793. They were so frightened they had been forgotten they had begun building themselves a ship to sail back to Australia. The ship was left half completed on blocks when they left.

    Kororareka in the Far North was the first real settlement. Missionaries and whalers and traders. This was in the early 1800s. Captain William Hobson was despatched in 1839 to begin the process of claiming NZ as a British Colony. This was the beginning of the wave of European settlers to follow. My fathers name is R William Hobson and he was from a Military family. William was a family name and his fathers name was William. We know nothing about my fathers family as his father married very late and my father was only 6 when he died. His mother would never talk about the paternal side of the family. I intend to do the family tree one day and see if indeed Captain Hobson was one of my ancestors.

    My father was a professional Naval officer and emigrated here after being seconded to NZ in 1946 and marrying my mother in 1947. He went back to England to finish his commission and did not sign up again. He arrived back here in 1948 and I was born in 1949. So my dad was a first generation emigrant.

    My mothers family came here in 1864. They were not poor and came as cabin passengers in a sailing ship.

    New Zealand is as you can see a very new country.

    My information comes from The Penguin History of NZ written by Michael King and the official history of my own family compiled by my mothers cousin.


    Kevin Freeman
    June 1, 2005 - 06:04 pm
    Wow. Quite a quorum in the house. I could see everybody through the window as I strode up the walkway. Almost fell into the azalea, it looked so crowded.

    Welcome, marj and deems (recognized from the Paglia discussion). Mippy, no fair running out on a fellow New Englander. Hang with it! I call my dog "it" all the time. Also, remember fondly (if you will) Cousin It! That'd be the Addams Family.

    Clarification: yes, yes. Not stars, I'm seeing, but three dots like an ellipsis. I have the Penguin paperback (it's berloody blue, as seen in the header) and I'm almost positive I'll be able to find and bring back some internal thoughts of Kerewin's that are NOT indented. If I'm wrong, my memory is indented, to put it kindly.

    The fact that this is a first novel heightens the already high possibility that there's much of Hulme herself in her protagonist.

    Carolyn, we have dunes a-go-go on Cape Cod. It drives you buggy. Thus, dune buggies.

    I, like Ginny, have been to the max (work and grad school) today. Tomorrow, then?

    kiwi lady
    June 1, 2005 - 06:13 pm
    I think Kerewin used "it" to convince herself to remain detached from other people. Remember she has decided to shut herself off from the world. She has detached herself from her own family. Something happened that has caused tremendous pain to Kerewin. She has a drinking problem because of this trauma.


    Kevin Freeman
    June 1, 2005 - 06:27 pm
    Initially Kerewin treats Simon kind of like guys treat other guys who are good friends -- with digs, names, and other "play acting" insults of endearment.

    It's how guys can be "close" without being accused of being "close." And it's similar in dynamic to what Carolyn's saying -- a woman who's made a pact with herself to be a loner and won't admit to herself that intimacy remains a possibility.

    Games people play -- double solitaire is always one of them.

    kiwi lady
    June 1, 2005 - 06:49 pm
    Something almost beyond her control draws Kerewin to this young boy. She tries to fight the empathy she has for him but is unable to do so.


    June 1, 2005 - 07:03 pm
    Have you noticed how all 3 of our main characters have drinking problems? Kerewin and Joe - we're talking boozing it up to forget and into oblivion and often. And poor Simon - he's six years old! Not only does he take or ask for and receive booze frequently when he's with Joe and Kerewin, but he's taking his nightly raspberry syrup to sleep and keep away the nightmares.

    All 3 are a mess, physically and psychologically scarred:

    Kerewin, a drunk alone and imprisoned in her magical fairy tale tower, separated "in violence and tears" from the family she loved, afraid to be touched, mourning the loss of her art.

    Joe, a drunk still mourning his dead wife and baby, looking "bitter until he smiles," living in "barren cleanliness," with “evil shadows...ghosts riding on his shoulders.”

    Little Simon the thief, who can scream but can't speak, found washed ashore during a storm all black and blue, bruised and broken, too thin with shadows under his eyes, missing half his teeth, always missing school, a thief who constantly runs away from home, who lives with a "horror" that is "almost always there," who desparately latches onto Kerewin.

    kiwi lady
    June 1, 2005 - 07:09 pm
    I searched the NZ writers Assoc website to look at the list of writers websites. I hoped to find one for Keri and invite her to come in and and maybe comment from her perspective. She does not have a website. I had already searched with Yahoo Australia and NZ with no result.

    Maybe Keri in real life is as withdrawn as Kerewin I do not know. She does not put herself in the public eye all the time this I do know. I have her latest book "Stonefish" sitting here on my reading table as yet unread.


    Traude S
    June 1, 2005 - 07:37 pm
    Haven't had time to post because I'm too involved in reading.

    My own focus is on the characters as they slowly emerge. At this point I am going with the flow of the narrative and am not concerned about structure, the why, the wherefore, or the consistency of meaning of indentations and such.
    Total immersion is my principle, always, as so is my intention to get a feeling also of place and time and locale.

    CAROLYN, thank you for your much needed guidance.
    Re Ma - o - ri, is the stress on the first syllable or the second? I imagine the "Ma" sounds like 'may', and the 'i' like the end of 'Marie'.

    The author has a wonderful command of the English language and boundless imagination. There are Latin phrases and a reference to a Sufic poet. Among other things ...

    June 1, 2005 - 07:37 pm
    "magical fairy tale tower". In addition to the things mentioned, what impressed me most was the tower. It reminded me of imaginary houses I used to make up when I was a kid. And as Marni said, it gives the feeling of a fairy tale to Keriwin's life.

    This impression was not entirely favorable. I found something jarring and out-of-place about her description of the tower. It somehow doesn't seem to fit the rest of the description of Keriwin -- I'm not sure why.

    there are certainly enough Biblical references in this to go around: the three as a trinity with Simon appearing as Christ with a nail in his foot, Genesis, and Ecclesiastes. I think I see what Kleo means about this: the tone of Ecclesiastes.

    I have to go back and check, but I'm pretty sure some of the indented passages are Simon, as well as Keriwin. Probably Joe too.

    June 1, 2005 - 08:52 pm
    Kleo commented: "What will come from the seabluegreen for Kerewin? Life."

    Joe noticed that everything in Kerewin's tower was green. Simon has "sea-green eyes." There is something important in the book about green, the sea, and water.

    kiwi lady
    June 1, 2005 - 09:03 pm
    In Childrens fables and fairy tales princesses were locked away from the world in towers.

    Using a tower is a tool to reinforce Kerewins need to lock herself away from the world. IMHO


    June 1, 2005 - 09:33 pm
    Kerewin's speech and thoughts are filled with literary references. She occasionally refers to fables and tales, such as JRR Tolkien - e.g. the "hobbit" and fantasies of Lewis Carroll - e.g. the "snark."

    Kevin Freeman
    June 2, 2005 - 02:36 am
    Science and Fairy Tale. Odd mix. I have Kerewin down as more of a scientist -- as knowledgeable as a naturalist on ocean life and beach denizens and even the woods, than I do as a Rapunzel. (Admitting, however, that she does let her hair down as the narrative goes forth).

    I pronounce (perhaps MIS-pronounce) Maori as "may-OR-ee." I should know better, as, linguistically, most native American tribes accent different syllables than English-speakers do. Try pronouncing the river that separates Maine from New Hampshire, for instance:


    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 03:01 am
    Kevin try saying Mauuri. I am trying to visualise an American accent which is different from a Kiwi accent before I try to tell you how to say it. Apparently ( according to a doco on our accent I saw recently) our kiwi nasal twang is a combination of English as spoken by the Queen, with a few other dialects from England thrown in and English as spoken by Maori and it all began in the schoolyards of the thirties forties and fifties. The accent we had up until the fifties and sixties was different to the accent we have today. The o is a long sound. The Mao is like in Mao Tse Tung not as in more. It really is hard to try and tell you because your pronounciation of English words is very different from ours.

    There is one TV channel here owned by an Australian network and I was horrified to hear the Aussie news reader pronounce Marae as Maire. Its a word that pops up almost every day on the news. It actually irritates me that our news on this channel is compiled in Australia and read by an Australian. Its supposed to be a NZ channel but is all Australian content. The news slot is only half an hour and the pronounciation of things kiwi is abyssmal.

    I wish we had sound here it would be a lot easier!


    June 2, 2005 - 08:42 am
    Kevin: Try Connecticut (from the native American word "Quinnehtukqut." The only way I was able to spell "Mississippi" when I was a kid was because of a song we sang: "M,I - S,S,I - S,S,I - P,P,I" I think we sang it while jump roping.

    Carolyn: It sounds like you are saying to pronounce the Mao part of Maori as the sound in "cow" or "town." Is that right? What might be somewhat confusing for Americans is that we learn that a long "o" sounds like the "o" in "total" or in "bozo." Versus a short "o" as in "of" or "come."

    Traude S
    June 2, 2005 - 08:54 am
    CAROLYN, thank you for your much needed guidance especially in linguistic matters, and thank you for explaining the pronunciatin of Ma - o - ri. Assuming there are three syllables in the word, is the stress on the "o" ? That's how our geography teacher pronounced it, a lifetime ago. Did he have it right, I wonder ?

    More than anything else I am engrossed in the characters as they slowly emerge, and I'm trying to get a sense of the circumstances that led to the two adults' profound alienation from "normal" quotidian existence.
    That is more important for me at this point than the indentations, for example, even though we have to determine whose unspoken thoughts are being expressed.

    The author is gifted and the wide range of her knowledge admirable. There are Latin phrases and, among the literary referencs, one to a Sufic poet.

    more later

    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 11:21 am
    The stress is on the o making it what we call a long o.


    Traude S
    June 2, 2005 - 01:48 pm
    TTHAT's what I thought. Many thanks again, CAROLYN.

    Regarding the suggested symbol of the Trinity, I believe we must realize that, in the story, Simon is the catalyst, not born of an existing loving union.

    Following GINNY's suggestion, my diurnal contribution is a question and a followup thereto:
    What is the consequence of Simon's, the intruder's, scaling the wall of Kerwin's towered sanctuary , and
    what effect does it have on the two adults?
    Rapunzel of Grimm's Fair Tales came to my mind - but Rapunzel was imprisoned, while Kerwin's withdrawal from conventional society was voluntary.

    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 01:51 pm
    I looked at the similarities with the idea that in Kerwins case it was voluntary imprisonment - a withdrawal from the world that had dealt her pain and which she feared would cause her more pain.


    Traude S
    June 2, 2005 - 01:57 pm
    I'm tempted to ask another question, and/or share another thought or two, but want to be sure it is permitted within the framework of the discussion.

    Will check back later.

    June 2, 2005 - 02:14 pm
    I thought that Kerewin withdrew voluntarily, but then she became imprisoned, albeit by her own hand. She was psychologically unable to get out.

    In the Prologue, Kerewin says or thinks (pg 7): "I am encompassed by a wall, high and hard and stone, with only my brainy nails to tear it down. And I cannot do it."

    June 2, 2005 - 02:16 pm
    Traude: INTERESTING idea about Simon scaling the wall of the tower!

    I DO think of Simon as a person who comes to save Kerewin - from herself.


    June 2, 2005 - 02:19 pm
    I am just SO enjoying everything you all have written! You all are BRILLIANT, excuse me for saying so and I'm glad to have this great group for THIS book particularly.

    Welcome Deems (Maryal)! I am so pleased to see you for many reasons, not the least of which is you and I never agree on the female protagonists and this one is as quirky as what's her name in Bee Season, and I did so benefit from your remarks then. I was interested in your remark about you will miss something if you don't pay attention to every word, this is going to be quite interesting, welcome!

    As far as confusing, as several of you noted, in the Prologue, (BRILLIANT, Marni on its being the end, and our need to reread it at the end, well done!), on my page 6, which begins:

    IN THE BEGINNING, it was a tension, an element of strain that grew…. And ends…"And he knows the rock of desolation and the depth of despair."

    THOSE two pages make absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. Can any person here tell us WHO the characters ARE and what they are talking ABOUT?

    Carolyn, we have audio capability here, we have made tons of audio files for the Latin students, email me and I'll show you how you can pronounce and attach it to me and we can hear YOUR own voice!

    (While you're doing it, would you mind pronouncing Kerewin?)

    I am interested in so many of the points you all raise. Several of you have said you are immersed immediately IN the story. What factor do you think has caused this sensation for you? I remain on the outside, in fact as I read this book my eyes continually stray, constantly tho I try so hard to make them stop, to the pagination (surely I've read more than THIS!) and I don't know why that is. We are all so different, what fun to explore this together in so many different ways.

    Since we all have chapters, then, we'll stick to the chapter divisions in the heading.

    I'm mesmerized by all of the different things that stood out for each of you, thank you for attempting that question, and even tho the business about getting lost in the book is intriguing, I have another question for today, let's see what you think of it.

    Mrs. Sherlock, what are some of the elements that have made this book " deliciously foreign, " for you?

    Scrawler, on the danger you sense, do you think the presence of a lot of foreshadowing has anything to do with that? It's an interesting technique, what do you, as a writer, think of it, so far?

    Carolyn, thank you for the pronunciation of Maori, that is what I was told. So far, other than the injection of what I have to assume are Maori phrases (some translated in the back of the book, some not, which I find somewhat annoying, how does that strike you all?), I am not yet feeling that this takes place particularly in a different country. But I have not read past Chapter 2, either.

    Marni, thank you for that great reference and link to Captain Cook, I have always been fascinated with Captain Cook and Captain Bligh, and the relationship between them, fascinating. I wonder, too, about your question. We were always told Captain Cook was beloved of the islanders and lands he visited. Wonder if that's so? There are descendents of the mutineers on Pitcairn Island and I bet there are some in the Islands Cook visited, too.

    MarjV, so great to see you here, as you say the characterizations are strong, I think that will be our focus question du jour (we make our own days and nights here), but what DO you personally make of Kerewin??

    Good point Marni on our first introduction to Simon P, and him perceived as a saint no less, are any of you put off a bit by the various names she calls him? I KNOW we are supposed to get from this, she's a gruff Tugboat Annie type with a "heart o gold," but this constant referring to him as a "brat" really is irritating to me, am I the only one?

    OH GOOD one Marni on Simon Peter and the parallels!! Well DONE!

    Mippy, I agree with you questioning the child called "it," and "ratbag." Carolyn had a good explanation for that, what do you all think?

    Mippy, you have also raised some excellent questions and I LOVED this one, " Does the author want the reader to dislike Kerewin?"

    Why do you ask that? Do YOU dislike her? I think I do. More on that later on.

    June 2, 2005 - 02:21 pm

    I want to ask you all today on your thoughts ON the characterizations beginning with the character of Kerewin. How would you describe Kerewin, if you had to give a one sentence description, what would it be? What techniques, what things does the author do to form our opinions of Kerewin's character? Do you see any chink in her armor? If so what is it? Is she a strong character in your opinion or a cardboard one? What are your thoughts on the characterization of Kerewin and her character so far??

  • Do you think the author wants the reader to like or dislike Kerewin?
  • Does Kerewin dislike herself? (Mippy).

  • Maryal, I don't have any of this:
    Sometimes there's white space to indicate an interval and sometimes, when the interval is longer, there are three asterisks flush to the left margin. In the US or England, these pauses would be made up of stars or dots, but they would be centered

    All I have is indentations, and Kevin I know you are right, the thoughts IN those indentations change and sometimes they are not in indentations at all. In Faulkner (Deems is a Faulkner expert) when that happens it means something or at least so they said in my class. Deems, do you think Hulme (has anybody noticed the similarity in "Hulme" and "Holmes?") is another Faulkner?

    So you "like" Kerewin? I don't think I do. I think she's a fake, and I think she thinks so, herself. What do the rest of you think, based solely on the first two chapters??

    Good point, Kleo on the Biblical narrative parallels, I had missed that. Beautiful post.

    Kleo: Well, heck, how do we decide whether or not the author has skillfully presented his or her own country or not? I don't know enough about NZ to say anything one way or the other.

    We will not have the slightest bit of trouble deciding for ourselves whether or not the author has made NZ come alive for each one of us individually. That's a decision each reader makes, you need no special inside knowledge. We, if the author does a good job, will emerge with greater understanding.

    Carolyn, thank you for that interesting historical background and your own family history is fascinating! Good point on the use of "it," that never would have occurred to me.

    Good point Traude on the mélange of different languages strewn throughout. How does that affect you all? What's the effect?

    Marni, all three damaged? Which do you think is the strangest of the three main characters?

    Joan K, this is food for thought: the fairy tale tower. I like that, but then you say This impression was not entirely favorable. I found something jarring and out-of-place about her description of the tower. It somehow doesn't seem to fit the rest of the description of Keriwin -- I'm not sure why.

    Actually there is a LOT in this which jars me, here in the first two chapters, how do YOU see Kerewin? Do you think, with Carolyn, that the tower also symbolizes something: her need to be alone?

    (Why do I keep thinking of a lot of different works, at the moment Lemony Snicket?)

    Marni, you are HOT today, Joe noticed that everything in Kerewin's tower was green. Simon has "sea-green eyes." There is something important in the book about green, the sea, and water. Well done!

    We need to make a list of what we think are the important recurring (what would you call these, Deems, not themes? Symbols, possibly?)

    Kevin you see Kerewin as more of a scientific type despite the overwhelming literary references, songs, and different languages? How real is she to you?

    How REAL, be honest, is Kerewin to any of you?

    THIS is great, Traude: What is the consequence of Simon's, the intruder's, scaling the wall of Kerwin's towered sanctuary ,

    and what effect does it have on the two adults? Rapunzel of Grimm's Fair Tales came to my mind - but Rapunzel was imprisoned, while Kerwin's withdrawal from conventional society was voluntary.

    Following Jane's new suggestion I'm only doing one new question per day but tomorrow let's have a look at Simon, in this and in everything, great job!

    Love it.

    OK, the floor's open for all of the questions contained in the last two posts on Kerwein! How real IS she to you? Do you think the author wants you to dislike her? (Mippy). Do you? Do you think she is a fake? Do you think she is a strong person? What IS she? And more to the point, what makes you think so? What's indicated in her calling the child such derogatory names in her own mind? Does she project a different outer image than the one she has of herself? Do you agree she's flawed? What's YOUR take on Kerewin?

    How would you describe Kerewin, if you had to give a one sentence description, what would it be? What techniques, what things does the author do to form our opinions of Kerewin's character? Do you see any chink in her armor? If so what is it? Is she a strong character in your opinion or a cardboard one? What are your thoughts on the characterization of Kerewin and her character so far??

    Let's hear from YOU.

    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 02:26 pm
    Kerewin is not a usual maori name. The kere is a maori word but the win is not a Maori word to my knowledge. W always as far as I know comes with a h attached. awhitu whangarei for instance iwi which means tribe is the only word that comes off the tip of my tongue that does not come accompanied by an h. One rule of the Maori language is a word always ends with a vowel.


    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 02:27 pm
    Ginny that would work except that my microphone is knackered! I don't know anyone who has one near me either. I wonder if their is any Maori language websites that have audio file. I will look on the net tonight and see.


    June 2, 2005 - 02:31 pm
    Ginny: Re: "IN THE BEGINNING, it was a tension, an element of strain that grew…. And ends…"And he knows the rock of desolation and the depth of despair." .....THOSE two pages make absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. Can any person here tell us WHO the characters ARE and what they are talking ABOUT?

    This is about Joe and his wife. But we don't understand this by reading the first 2 or 3 sections of chapter 1. We understand it more by the end of the book.

    All of these prose sections of the Prologue are like this, I think.

    June 2, 2005 - 02:31 pm
    no way ... look at her behavior when the boy touches her:
    (p. 31 in the paperback)
    "his hand comes out, pauses, and then as if reaching over a barrier, takes her hand."
    "How touching" (that is K's inner voice)
    "You can ... hold things," removing her hand ...

    Kerewin, can't you stand it when a child touches you?
    You are damaged goods, aren't you?

    Obviously the book hits me hard; being unfeeling to a child makes my hair stand on end.

    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 02:47 pm
    Kerewin was not unfeeling. She felt alright! You have to look at her ultimate actions to know she did have feelings.

    Yes she was very damaged. I have met people and children who were damaged just as much as Kerewin.

    I do not dislike Kerwin because I can understand her reactions. The child liked Kerewin too that says something very profound. The child recognises something in Kerewin that is part of his pain as well. He sees further than her manner.


    June 2, 2005 - 03:02 pm
    I don't think Kerewin can be summed up with a couple of words. She is extremely complex. She has admirable traits and negative traits. But, at this point in the book, I think overall she is pathetic.

    Pros for Kerewin: independent, talented, creative, poetic, very intelligent and literate, amusing, KIND TO SIMON. I know some of you don't like the way she talks to him. But he has broken into her house. She hears from others that he is a runaway, a thief, emotionally disturbed. Kerewin allows him to stay. She feeds him and lets him sleep there in her lonely tower. AND SHE LETS HIM TOUCH HER. That's a big deal. And Simon thinks she is someone special. He wants to be with her. He feels comfortable with her. He likes to hold her hand.

    Cons for Kerewin: She has hidden herself away, unable to break out of her prison, unable to make up with her family that she loves, unable to allow anyone to TOUCH her. Kerewin is brusk and mean sometimes. She says (and thinks) terrible words to Simon.

    I think we are seeing a breakthrough for Kerewin because of Simon - the beginning of a change.

    June 2, 2005 - 03:58 pm
    63 messages already!! I didn't try to read them all; my apologies. Has someone already noted the similarity between the names of the author and her heroine? Kerewin Holme/Keri Hulme? I can't help thinking that in many ways the author is writing about herself.

    I love her descriptions, and even find in the choppiness a cue to mood. As Kevin said, 'it sounds like berloody people!' Does she like herself? Now that she can no longer paint, I think she does not. She saw herself primarily as an artist, and now she has little that she values in herself.

    Her self-description is certainly not flattering. “I wonder if I still look peeculeear? Heavy shouldered, heavy hammed, heavy-haired. No evidence of a brain behind those short brows. Yellowed eyes, and eczema scarred skin. Large hands and large feet, crooked only if you look closely.”


    Traude S
    June 2, 2005 - 05:07 pm
    Allow me to say that "Kerewin allows the child to stay" is not quite what happened.
    The child cleverly manipulates her: the weather is dastardly; night has fallen; no one will come to get the child until morning, and Kerewin has decided NOT to involve the police.
    Much against all her instincts, she keeps the child and lets him sleep in her own bed, while she stays in a lower level in front of the fire in a sleeping bag.
    Simon is not totally angelic, nor altogether other-worldly.

    Kerewin is not a complete recluse. She did go to that pub, early on, remember? She needs distance, treasures privacy, shrinks from touch. But that may change --- we are only covering chapters 1 and 2 for now.

    I agree with MARNI that we have too little to go on to give an appraisal of Kerewin now. I believe we need to uncover more about her past and the origin of her pain. There's reason to believe that she is 'thawing' - why, she's motivated to try painting again !

    The book may well be autobiographical: we do know from the Preface to the First Edition (1984) that the author worked in tobacco fields (as did Kerewin) and wrote in her spare time. She tells us that it all started with a short story called "Simon Peter's Shell", and the characters "wouldn't go away. They took 12 years to reach this shape."

    As for liking the protagonist or not liking her, I haven't given that a thought yet. I never make up my mind that early in a book.
    Furthermore, we don't really know, do we, whether the author (or any author, in fact) set out to deliberately make us like or dislike the main protagonist.

    CAROLYN, where are those Motueka tobacco fields, and what is their significance?

    Kevin Freeman
    June 2, 2005 - 05:35 pm
    Carolyn's point is an important one: the boy instinctively is drawn to something warm in Kerewin -- maybe the child she once was that she keeps hidden and cherished inside.

    Yes, Kerewin strikes me as a classic "turtle" character -- hard on the outside, soup on the inside. We all know people like that. Crusty, lovable old grouches. Heck, the fact that she gave up her BED to the lad on NIGHT #1 speaks volumes. I'd be patting myself on the back if I just gave the berloody breaking-and-entering brat a sleeping bag on the floor. Let's face it -- our beds are personal sanctuaries. We don't yield them lightly, do we?

    Also, I'm a bit perplexed at the distrust of loners here. Being a part-time loner myself, I must protest. I see in Kerewin a love of solitude that I happen to share, as well as a self-deprecation which automatically gives pardon to any "trash talk" or "smack" she delivers to Simon the Rock or any other character.

    Why do people distrust loners? Thoreau was one, and he was branded "odd" by his Concord neighbors, too. (Though time and death have caused those who don't have to live with him to change that reputation to a more positive one. The good people of Concord -- heh, heh -- just love him these days.)

    It should also be noted that writing is a SOLITARY profession. As noted before (and I think someone above agreed), Kerewin H. is most certainly mirror, mirrored on the wall by her Creator, Keri H., who must've need all KINDS of time in a tower to write this 400-plus page book.

    June 2, 2005 - 05:37 pm
    Welcome, Babi! Great points, yes I just mentioned (great minds run together) the similarity in the last names and totally missed the Kerewin, Keri!! YOU get a seat for that one, hahahaah Thank you.

    Thank you Carolyn for saying it's NOT a Maori name, why ever not, one wonders? Does THAT mean something?

    Traude we have to talk about something in the discussion parameters which we have set in the heading. I think our own first impressions of Kerewin in any form and the characterization of her after 100 or so pages is a valid topic.

    That's an interesting point you make, tho, how do we know what the writer wanted to do? We don't. We only know what the writer has produced (I'm assuming Kerewin is not a real person whom we know intimately) on paper to which we're reacting.

    Mippy, you raise an interesting point. We are privy here to her inmost thoughts, too. So we can't be sure, (actually as you think of it, this is a pretty ambitious book). Some people are one thing on the surface and another thing inside. Here we see the outward behavior (and appearance, thank you, Babi) and the inward at the same time, so…..would you say nothing is hidden from us? The narrator……did we say THIRD person?) I'll have to go back again, …do we have a lot of narrators here?

    But nothing is hidden from US? Or is it? Did you find the sudden appearance of the "snark" inner voice surprising? I did. Or were you expecting it?

    Babi, I missed that description of her entirely, what on earth is wrong with her eyes? Yellow? Does she have jaundice or something?

    Marni, thank you, I was going nuts over that page 6 stuff, and that further reinforces my thought that you are 100 percent correct on that being the Epilogue, so is the entire thing a flashback then or what's happening here?

    As we talk about this little boy touching her, are we all on the same page that this is a 4 year old? Or? What age are we seeing here?

    Yes let's talk about the character of Kerewin as we know her so far. Maybe by page 800 she'll be different, if so, we'll make the journey with her, and having made the journey, we'll notice the change. That's one reason we read in parts. That is what we ask in the focus questions, let's give it a try.

    I agree she's a complicated character. She seems to project "independence," what's the source of her income? She won the Lottery. Didn't you think that was a bit much? I thought it was lazy, too easy, too pat. It removed me from her character like a hot knife thru cold butter.

    But winning the Lottery wouldn't confer happiness, right? Or independence? Or would it?

    She's a mass of insecurity, she has that inner voice telling her she's never BEEN anything and never WILL be anything and I was confused as to what brought that on? I was sympathetic with her, actually, and thought that was a fine piece of writing but I am not sure what caused that to all emerge and her attempt to drown it in alcohol.

    I am not sure...what are YOUR impressions of all this?

    June 2, 2005 - 05:48 pm
    Some things I found out about Kerewin in Chapter 1 that struck me were:

    -She called her tower "the hermitage."

    -No one is invited to her tower "because they don't know her secrets."

    -She doesn’t like looking at Simon at first because, as she says, he is “maimed,” “contaminating.”

    -She took pains to "steal" her grandmother's coffee mill after the family split.

    -She has scars on her throat. (Did she try to commit suicide???)

    -Her jade collection is extremely important to her.

    -She said, “To care for anything deeply is to invite disaster.”

    -She said, "....hands are sacred things....Touch is personal..."

    June 2, 2005 - 05:51 pm
    Kevin, is it the "loner" aspect of the character of Kerwein that you sense people distrust or is it something unstable people sense in her character?

    I truly don't get the feeling from her that she IS a loner. Despite the props and the attitude.

    June 2, 2005 - 05:53 pm
    Marni, I am amazed at your list, that is NOT the list I would make, isn't this interesting! Let's all make a short list of the things about Kerewin that struck us the most, this is like a litmus test.

    I would not have said that!!! Love it. Thank you, you are a much closer reader than I am, I'm going to learn a lot in this discussion.

    I'll give mine tomorrow, the pumpkin is turning into a frog here.

    Kevin Freeman
    June 2, 2005 - 05:58 pm
    Nice list of facts, marni. I'd forgotten about the wrinkled neck! Turtles, again (um, kidding there).

    Ginny. I guess we have to agree on a definition of "loner." Do you consider her a frustrated socialite? I guess she's paid her dues, loner-wise, over the years -- which is not to say she doesn't CARE about other people or that her PAST and the PEOPLE POPULATING IT aren't very important to her. They seem to be QUITE important.

    But shoot, like everyone else, every loner has a history... a deep pool that makes her interesting... and often it is OTHER PEOPLE and past interactions with same which serve as the mortar holding together each loner's metaphorical "tower."

    I'm just saying the word shouldn't necessarily have a negative connotation, yet for "the establishment" or "society" it often does.

    Why do you think she's a fraud? If she is, she's hoodwinked me bigtime so far (won't be the first time... ).

    Could she be unstable? Sure. As I said earlier, this book foreshadows Dr. Phil and that'd fit like OJ's glove. But more important to OUR discussion, what in Chapters 1 & 2 foreshadows this instability of Kerewin's? If I flew right over the cuckoo's nest without knowing it, I'm willing to look it over and second-guess myself (usually my wife's job, but she doesn't read this so I'm on my own).

    June 2, 2005 - 06:10 pm
    In a very brief bio on the web I found this:

    "Hulme, who avoids publicity and likes fishing, painting, drinking, and writing like her protagonist Kerewin, has said that had she known the book would be so widely read, she would have made Kerewin more different from herself."

    "Haere, mou tai ata, moku tai ahiani."

    I have no idea what the Maori words mean and don't know if they're related to the above paragraph. Sorry.

    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 06:29 pm
    I very much like my own space and have never been a social butterfly. I like to have company sometimes and other times I will withdraw and spend a lot of time alone.

    When I had a family I would get up before dawn so that I could have solitude for an hour or two. As a child one day I would organise and produce puppet plays for my young siblings and the next would be spent shut in my bedroom with a book for the whole day.

    There are some people who at times need to be with other people not always even relating to them but to be in the presence of others. Yet they must also have solitude. The extreme of this is the combined introvert/ extrovert personality. I have one daughter who openly admits to this personality. She needs to withdraw from time to time and have time alone.

    As I said before Kere is definately Maori what the win has been added on for I am not sure maybe there is a meaning there.

    While we discuss this wonderful book ( of which I am so proud of my fellow kiwi for giving to us) I can't help thinking what Keri would make of our analysis of her style. Somehow I think her style is not as contrived as some of us think. I feel the writing flowed from within Keri without as much contrivance to be clever as some would think. I feel her writing comes from the spirituality that being Maori resides within her. Yes she has given us some inclination of the classics but I feel the style is Keri herself.

    I will comment on this aspect further when I have read "Stonefish" which still awaits my attention.


    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 06:31 pm
    I have tried to translate that phrase above using my Phrase book but it does not make sense to me. I am not a fluent speaker of Maori knowing mostly well used phrases and greetings etc. Maybe I can look on Keris website and see if its been transposed here from the website.


    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 06:35 pm
    Still I am unable to fathom it out. Maybe I can find someone who can! I think the guy next door speaks fluent Maori if I see him over the weekend will ask him to translate.


    June 2, 2005 - 08:07 pm
    The link doesn't work for me. The following message came up:

    RMIT Communication Studies student email lists Sorry Your request to subscribe or unsubscribe from a Communication Studies student list cannot be processed because you haven't filled in the needed information.

    You must fill in your email address and your first and last names for your request to be processed.

    If you are having problems please contact the list administrator

    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 08:10 pm
    I will not be in to the discussion after today til Sunday.My son who lives down in the country wants to come and get me tomorrow to spend the night and then as he has to come back up to Auckland on Sunday for work will bring me home again.

    I would rather stay home but I cannot again say no. I will have a lovely weekend they have a home theatre and a collection of very good movies and my DIL is a super cook, I normally get to choose the menu for dinner. She also has a huge wine cellar and I get to choose the wine for dinner. A privilege as I only drink a small glass and only when I stay with them. They have a huge stone fireplace in their main living area and as I am bereft of a fireplace and the weather is very cold that will also be a delight.

    Of course I also get to see my two delightful grandsons!

    My two wee dogs will be accompanying me.

    I may come back in later to see if anyone has posted otherwise will see you all again Saturday afternoon your time!


    Traude S
    June 2, 2005 - 08:11 pm
    Carolyn asked me to post a link for her here and I just tried.

    It was clickable but, because of its length, it ran wayyyy toward the right.
    I feared (with some reason)it might cause the exuberant wandering of the text beyond the right margin, something that has happened before with longish URLs.
    Therefore I deleted my post and will instead enlist JANE's help in transmitting it to this folder. Thank you.

    June 2, 2005 - 08:40 pm
    Carolyn: Thank you for trying to find out the meaning of the Maori words! Have an enjoyable weekend. It sounds wonderful, especially the fireplace. Here in Connecticut the weather has been somewhat chilly for this time of year. My husband and I bought a "fire pit" for our deck. It's like a huge copper pot that sits on legs and has a mesh top to cover the pot. Sometimes we make a fire in it in the evening and sit around it with friends, talking and drinking wine, watching the flames. It's terrific!

    Traude S
    June 2, 2005 - 08:51 pm
    CAROLYN, enjoy your weekend with your son's family, especially the grandchildren.

    I have e-mailed JANE and asked her to post your link here.

    MARNI, thank you for your link. It does explain quite a few things, especially the autobiographical data.

    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 08:53 pm
    It is snowing down in the Alps (South Island) (middle earth) and snowing on the high country in the middle of the North Island about three or four hours drive from here. The icy winds are blowing up to us and its wet and cold. Brrrrrrrrr! The snow boarders will be happy and Queenstown is bracing itself for the winter season.


    June 2, 2005 - 09:29 pm
    Do kiwis really refer to a place in NZ as middle earth? Kerewin refers to it and I just assumed she was referring to middle earth in Lord of the Rings.

    June 2, 2005 - 09:35 pm
    I was just thinking about Kerewin calling her tower "the hermitage." I'm reading American Sphinx by Joseph Ellis, about Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson's first name for Monticello was "The Hermitage" but he changed it. Sounds like Jefferson certainly was often a recluse. I was so surprised. The way Ellis describes him, Jefferson was an introvert who periodically had to escape to his mountain top retreat.

    Andrew Jackson's home was named The Hermitage. I wonder if he named it and if he was a recluse at times.

    kiwi lady
    June 2, 2005 - 09:43 pm
    We do refer to NZ as Middle Earth now often in tourist advertisements and in other situations. Its how most of the world has got to know us. Through Lord of the Rings. It sure was good publicity for our tourist industry! There is a Lord of the Rings handbook which gives all the locations so that fans can come down here and see the scenery for themselves.

    When I first began posting here in SN many other seniors had no idea what NZ was like . Where it was and often confused us with Australia as being part of Australia. Some still do. We are a sovereign nation and do not even share the same currency values. We have quite different cultures. Australians are very much like Americans we tend to still have some of our English heritage alive. When I read descriptions of the folk in New England particularly Maine I think many older kiwis could be compared with those folk.

    We have a love hate relationship with the Ozzies. Like siblings. We fight like mad but if anything happens to one of us we are there to help each other and defend each other. Kiwi and Aussie kids tend to hang out together when working overseas particularly in London they have a lot of social contact.

    I think we are nice people and kind people but its hard to know when you are not looking at your country from a distance.


    June 3, 2005 - 04:31 am
    Thank you Marni and Carolyn for those links, and Traude for asking Jane to put it in shorter form. I will ask Pat to please put the formula for short links in the heading so we can all post them with ease.

    Have a wonderful trip, Carolyn, we are very glad to have you in here, and look forward to your return! You have added a great deal to the discussion background already! Thank you for that perspective on the writing possibly being an aspect of her spirituality as a Maori, I think that's important! We will want to bring that point up again.

    I wondered last night if perhaps she, like Gore Vidal (you remember Truman Capote's and Vidal's arguments) just tape recorded her musings, but I think it's more than that. I hope so anyway. It does seem "stream of consciousness," to me.

    Please remember, Everybody, that whether or not you like or hate the book, it has nothing to do with your feelings for and respect for Carolyn, New Zealand, the Maoris or anything else. We really do have to make these separations to concentrate on the book.

    WE are here to discuss the book. I don't know what she would make of our musings over her style, but that was the first question asked here by Carolyn and I think it's worth discussing.

    Some people love the book, some people hate it, we're about our own opinions of the book and we want to hear all of them, good, bad, and indifferent: our opinions of the BOOK will cast no shadow on the kindness of New Zealanders as a people, so let's hear from you today. Our series cannot continue unless we can speak frankly about every book we read, regardless of which country it's from.

    Kevin, you asked why I think she's a fraud, is fraud different from a fake? Marni's link and Hulme's own statements make me wonder now why she wrote the book, wasn't that an interesting quote? She appears a very interesting person.

    However Kerewin, to me, is not truthful with herself, so the outward appearance and the inward inner snark jar and I think she as a character (NOT talking here about New Zealand, the Maoris OR Keri Hulme) is a fake, not true to anything. That's MY take on it in the first two chapters, of the character of Kerewin, but what's YOURS?

    June 3, 2005 - 06:12 am
    Coding for posting a link is in the heading just above GUIDELINES.

    June 3, 2005 - 06:31 am
    The link is

    Myth and Symbol in the Bone People


    Traude S
    June 3, 2005 - 07:04 am
    GINNY, I was able to pull up that entire elaborate,multi-part link by author Clare Oataway.

    It contains fascinating detailed information on mythological Maori journerys, bone symbolism, spiral symbolism, A Vision for the Future, and considerably more, all representing a scholarly work.

    BUT by referring to the entire book and all of its parts, and their meaning, Clare Oataway gives away more than our reading schedule allows.

    kiwi lady
    June 3, 2005 - 07:23 am
    The site I found is important I think to understand the book, That is why I thought it was very useful.

    Kerewin is a fake in that her outward personna does not really reveal the person within. One has to peel back many layers to expose the real Kerewin. The layers have formed from painful life experiences. There are many people who leave this earth never having these layers removed. That is a sad but true fact of life.

    I am in here at 2am after finding myself wide awake at this hour.

    Back on Saturday.


    June 3, 2005 - 07:27 am
    Myth and Symbol in the Bone People

    This link works for me. Try again.

    June 3, 2005 - 07:28 am
    Well that's a good point, too, Traude, and a good caveat. Those of you who have not read to the end may want to wait a bit before delving into that link, I do know that topic IS important to the book later on.

    Thos of you who have read to the end have knowledge those of us who have only read 2 chapters don't. If we did, we'd doubtless structure things differently, and have a different viewpoint.

    One thing I like about our Read Along With Mitch discussions IS that we function sort of like a GIANT BRAIN here in that when YOU read privately, you think XXX and YYY immediately, and then when you get thru, of course, you know maybe ZZZ. Maybe not.

    When we discuss here we note our initial impressions in print! So it's fascinating to me to see changes, because, of course, the author has written things just the way she has for a purpose. And as we read here Along with Mitch, if we choose to do it that way, we become a GIANT BRAIN, when we note her our initial impressions and every impression adds tremendously to the whole reading experience. Or so I think.

    It's very exciting to me to read everybody's diverse opinions. I am not seeing particularly (but will be grateful for the notice) much symbolism at this point (or is the seagreen Marni mentioned one of them) but again it's early days.

    Thank you for that notice, I'll need to wait on that one for a bit, but save it and return to it.

    Thank you, Pat, for putting the instructions on how to make a clickable link here in the heading.

    June 3, 2005 - 07:46 am
    I'm way behind, but am learning so much from your posts. Kevin mentioned Kerewin's self-deprecation and I must agree with him. That description loomed large for me also. I get the impression that Kerewin has been dreadfully hurt, both physically and mentally. And she seems to think she has failed somehow, but please don't ask me to back that up with quotes. It's an overall impression. Another impression is that of Kerewin coming across as curmudgeonly. But I really don't think she is an elderly curmudgeon. How old is this woman? From some of her statements I think she's in her late 30's, maybe 40's. (Knowing the age is important to me; it's an inherited gene.)

    The hints about the characters' history make the book intriguing, and I must confess I jump around withing the chapters for this week, trying to find out more in a hurry. There are gaps in my reading.

    Re: previous posts about her name. Why would it be Maori? She is not Maori, and even wants to keep her ability to speak Maori from Joe and Simon.

    kiwi lady
    June 3, 2005 - 07:56 am
    She is Maori. Not full blood but maybe half Maori half European. The book is about two Maori - Joe and Kerewin and a Pakeha child SP. It should be noted here that not all Maori are fluent in their language. The language almost died when children were beaten for speaking Maori in the schoolyard in the first half of the last century.

    The very dialogue and the words she uses tell us she is Maori. She says Aue constantly early in the book and the very nature of her thoughts tell us she is Maori.

    Carolyn ( still awake at almost 3am)

    June 3, 2005 - 08:13 am
    I see alot of James Joyce in Keri Hulme's style of writing and in the subject matter that she has chosen. Just as James Joyce is sometimes depressing so too Keri Hulme has chosen a depressing subject matter. To be fair to the author I would need to read several of her books before I could really get a sense of her writing, but so far her style reminds me of James Joyce.

    She isn't exactly straightforward with the readers which can either frustrate the reader or pull them along because we are curious about what is going to happen as well as what has already happened in the story. She uses emotion to draw the readers into the situation. We are both puzzled and fearful, but from that point on to coin a phrase: " we are hooked line and sinker" into the story.

    For example: Prologue: The End At The Beginning:

    "IN THE BEGINNING, it was darkness, and more fear, and a howling wind across the sea.
    "Why not leave him?"
    They can't whisper any more.
    "No guarantee he'll stay on the bottom. Besides, we'll have to come back for the boat."
    The voice. The nightmare voice. The vivid haunting terrible voice, that seemed to murmur endearments all the while the hands skilfully and cruelly hurt him.

    I don't know about anyone else but this passage hooked me. A cold chill went up my spine even though I had no idea who the passage referred to. But what do we know? We know the passage has to do with the sea and "something" about "someone" staying on the bottom. Maybe a shipwreck comes to mind.

    But it is the line: "...The vivid haunting terrible voice, that seemed to mumur endearments all the while skilfully and cruelly hurt him" is the line that sent chills up my spine. How could this be? How could anyone mumur endearments while skilfully and cruelly hurting someone? This is what kept me reading only now I was fearful almost as if I knew there was a saber-tooth tiger behind me and I thought I saw the tiger's glowing eyes, but couldn't be sure of what I saw.

    June 3, 2005 - 09:02 am
    (I like her name, by the way, keeping it in mind for a future Jack Russell Terrier. It goes well with Kemper (one of the two current JR's). I wonder if it's in the baby names books? If it is, we could figure out how to pronounce it.)

    I don't find the style anywhere near as confusing as Joyce although the influence may be there. In fact, so far, the story seems plot driven. We are left with many questions. How come K. has those scars on her throat? Even little Simon notices them. And what is this hermit crab of a woman doing in that tower? And why does she hang out at bars where she doesn't socialize? And why does she drink so much? And why did she have to steal the coffee mill? And why although she has such a gruff exterior can the little boy see right through her. And what does it mean that she takes such pleasure in playing chess again with a real live person? (In terms of symbols, Ginny, you might contemplate the black queen that SimonP steals from the chess set.)

    And then there's the spiral staircase and the tower itself. How many people live in a tower? How many people BUILD a tower to live in?

    And Kerewin, loner though she may be, has actually been missing people. I want to know how Joe got that large scar across his back; I want to know why Simon doesn't speak. It's pretty obvious that no one knows exactly how old he is although his foster father Joe guesses he is somewhere between six and eight (Penguin 51).

    I want to know why both Simon and Kerewin have trouble sleeping. I want to know why Kerewin is estranged.


    June 3, 2005 - 09:29 am
    The Spiral must be an important symbol in this book. Spirals are all over the place - for example, the spiral staircase, spiral shapes in shells on the beach, etc.

    The spiral is a religious symbol in a number of native American cultures. I'm not sure what it means. Infinity? Life is ongoing?

    I read a book called The Spiral Staircase a very long time ago. It was about someone who went mad.

    Thanks for the link to "Myths and Symbols." The author says there: "The SPIRAL structure of the novel is a seductive one that draws the reader into an intricate web of pain, violence, love, despair, hope and redemtion."

    Even the structure of the novel has a spiral shape!! I hadn't thought about that.

    I noticed that there is a section on this site about spiral symbolism. But I think I'm going to wait til we're farther into our discussion before reading the info on the site. I don't want to give away anything.


    June 3, 2005 - 09:40 am
    Scrawler: Re "...The vivid haunting terrible voice, that seemed to mumur endearments all the while skilfully and cruelly hurt him."

    I had the same reaction to this part. So horribly creepy. My first reaction was that someone was being tortured and sexually molested.

    Then later in Chapter 1 when Joe explains how he found Simon washed up on shore bruised, broken, battered, black and blue - I thought Simon was the person being tortured and abused - that he didn't just get broken from being tossed around in the surf.

    It could explain why Simon doesn't talk.


    June 3, 2005 - 10:01 am
    I forgot the most important thing about Kerewin (when I name the JRT, I'm going to take out the second e--Kerwin)--she's an artist who can't get going on her paintings. So far, she sketches the sandal in her log, she fiddles with clay, she thinks a lot about easels and how they're waiting for her. But she's blocked. (I wonder if the author didn't take to writing this at a time when the painting was either not coming or not going well.)

    June 3, 2005 - 10:06 am
    Carolyn: Native Americans nearly lost their languages, also. They were nearly wiped out, forced onto reservations, and their children sent to schools where they were not allowed to speak their native languages, were beaten if they did.

    I saw a TV program about the Navaho "code-talkers" in World War II. It is so ironic that they were being forced to lose their language and then the government discovered that their language would be the perfect thing to use as undecipherable code during the war.

    June 3, 2005 - 10:09 am
    marni--Good point about the native Americans losing their language. Being forbidden to speak it. And the Navajo code talkers. Many Indian languages had no written form too, so if not spoken, it would disappear. I don't think Navajo was written at the time of WWII. I'll have to look that up.

    June 3, 2005 - 04:56 pm
    I read the book about 6 or seven years ago -- don't remember it in detail, just impressions from it. One strong impression I remember is being disturbed by Kerewin's relationship to THINGS. It didn't ring true to me then, and I think that is one thing that disturbed me when I reread the first two chapters.

    So I was fascinated when I read this in the Bone People link:

    "The emphasis placed on objects or artifacts with magical powers have been identified as one of the most visible differences between Maori and Pakeha writing".

    Could this be what I'm seeing? Or is it just me -- I am the person most oblivious to my physical surroundings you will ever meet.

    June 3, 2005 - 05:45 pm
    Do you think Kerewin thinks the jade pieces in her collection have magical powers? I've been wondering why they are so important to her.

    I also wonder why she wears so many rings all the time.

    Kevin Freeman
    June 3, 2005 - 05:55 pm
    I guess it depends on what these "things" are. The "things" Native Americans were close to might strike us as odd, yet the catalogues of "things" we love to browse and buy from (Crate & Barrel, Williams & Sonoma, Orvis, Cold Water Creek) might strike them as odd. As inveterate materialists, we need only look around us to see the role "things" play in our lives. We're drowning in them, by the standards of most people in the world!

    Just as Kerewin is half-Maori, so are her priorities. Could it be a cultural thing you're recalling, then, Joan? Indigenous tribes of peoples throughout the world are known for their practical use of things -- say, every single piece of a killed deer or bear -- and we're not known for that.

    We're known for plastics and not knowing half about the stuff we buy or eat (where it came from, what's in it, what was sprayed on it, whether its genetically-altered or forcefed antibiotics and growth hormone, etc., etc.). We certainly don't pray for the spirit of the cow before we eat him in the form of a Big Mac or a Whopper w/Cheese. Nor do we use bones from said cow as tools, nor jewelry from a bear's teeth and claws, etc.

    I see Kerewin as a hybrid in more ways than one, then. I see her as someone close to the land and sea, someone who knows a thing or two about catching, cooking, using the world around her. But the wildcard, I admit, remains her secrets (which seem more momentous than most of ours).

    BTW, to get back to last night's "fake" discussion, I do not think it is "fake" to hold secrets from the world, I think it's normal and something we all do to a greater or lesser extent.

    All of which is by way of saying, I seem to be in Kerewin's corner -- at least at THIS early stage in the game. I also see her as being a more sympathetic character, on the whole, to male readers than to female. That's my gut feeling. Are there any other male readers in this group to test the theory, though? Probably not. Still, I sense that some of our lady posters here have championed Kerewin's cause, too. And yet there seems to be a healthy dose of distrust and suspicion to this somewhat "unladylike" lady of independence as well.

    (BTW, Deems, the name "Kerewin" sounds like it belongs in a King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table tale with N.C. Weyeth illustrations, no? Are your Jack Russells named after the Knights Bold of Old and their Faire Ladies of the Lake?)

    June 3, 2005 - 06:55 pm
    Kevin: I thought the name Kerewin was from a fantasy, too. Actually, I thought it sounded like the name of the elf princess in Lord of the Rings (the beauty who married the king and gave up her elfhood to become mortal.) I can't remember her name.

    Oh, boy. I just found it on the web. It's Arwen. Well, not exactly close - but a little similarity.

    Traude S
    June 3, 2005 - 06:57 pm
    KEVIN, like you I find myself squarely in Kerewin's corner. Why would we be surprised when someone wo has been hurt, perhaps more than once, withdraws into a shell or his/her own sanctuary, in turtle-like fashion, as you aptly put it?

    How can we with our short history of this country possibly comprehend the collective sorrow and suffering of the Maori race which the English ruthlessly pushed aside, subdued and nearly extirpated?

    Yes MARNI, the treatment of the Indians came to my mind too, how they were plied with "fire water", "generously" given blankets with TB bacilli, driven from their ancestral land, banished to arid regions and segregated in reservations where today alcoholism is rampant, forever socially dismissed.

    Who can blame them for speaking out in anguish and with resentment, or writing about it? One who did is the talented author Sherman Alexie (born in 1966), a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian who grew up on a Spokane Indian reservation.

    With due respect I believe we cannot measure this book in conventional terms or read it just like any other book. It defies comparison and begs for slow, patient reading, for reading with the heart, as it were. That demands work. It does not promise fun.

    The author uses all kinds of literary devices, stream of consciousness, interior monologue, dreams, flashbacks and flash-forwards, Maori myths of which we have no knowledge, and we try to grasp it all, nolens volens .

    Yes, the spiral symbol is a powerful clue to the story and worth pursuing.

    June 3, 2005 - 07:01 pm
    We were introduced to another object in Chapter 1 - Simon's rosary. It was his most special thing and he gave it to Kerewin. She didn't want to accept it at first, but he insisted.

    Of course, the rosary could be considered a sacred Catholic object. This isn't like one of your Coldwater Creek items. Perhaps some believe a rosary has magical powers.

    So, what is the author telling us about Simon's gift to Kerewin?

    June 3, 2005 - 07:13 pm
    I'm in Kerewin's corner too though I won't say any more until I know why she is alienated from her family and what happened to her. I do know that she is wounded, emotionally, and it looks like physically. I don't know of anyone who attempted suicide by cutting her throat. Certainly it has been done, but hasn't everyone succeeded?

    Re: I like the way Kerewin has much deep feeling for the denizens of nature. She seems respectful to me. Not quite like offering a prayer to the cow one is about to eat, but still. . . .

    June 3, 2005 - 08:53 pm
    A lot of people consider me and my best friend to be 'loners' because we both are willing to spend time by ourselves, plenty of time. I had lunch with a very charming gentleman the other day discussing a new job I just started. One thing I particularly liked about the job was that I worked by myself all day. He said he could not do a job like this.

    I think that Kerewin is comfortable with her own company.

    This is one of the things that struck me about her.

    Another thing is that she uses 'it' to not have to acknowledge the human attraction she has to another, to not admit her need to be with other human beings, even if the other is a child. I do enjoy spending time by myself, but I also have an active social life. Although others consider me a loner they would not consider not inviting me to participate in their activities.

    Another thing I think is that there are not a lot of people who put Kerewin in their thoughts.

    Being a loner can make one lonely if the loner cannot admit their NEED for the company of other humans.

    This, again, is the only thing we can own, the only thing we can take with us, while we leave it behind: the relationships we build as human beings that tie us into the fabric of human life on earth.

    Another thing that struck me was her seeming need for life to have curves. I suspect she does not trust right angle.


    June 3, 2005 - 09:01 pm

    "However Kerewin, to me, is not truthful with herself, so the outward appearance and the inward inner snark jar and I think she as a character (NOT talking here about New Zealand, the Maoris OR Keri Hulme) is a fake, not true to anything." Ginny

    How is she not truthful with herself, Ginny? Or, better yet, how are others more truthful to themselves? Don't we all put on clothes to walk out the door?

    How is she a fake as a character? What's not true? What does her character have to be true to?

    Ginny, maybe you said something earlier about all this and I missed the post? Could you please use examples from the book and elaborate as I can't see this from this post of yours.


    June 3, 2005 - 09:04 pm


    "BUT by referring to the entire book and all of its parts, and their meaning, Clare Oataway gives away more than our reading schedule allows."

    Thanks for the warning. I will bookmark the post and head to it later.


    June 3, 2005 - 09:10 pm

    Howdy! Interesting that of all the lines the one I found most intriguing was not amongst yours, in this particular passage;

    They can't whisper any more.

    This is the line that caught me. Why can't they whisper any more? Is it that there is nothing more to whisper about? Why, because the truth is now known? Or is it that there is no one to whisper? Or because there is no one hearing the whispers any more? Some of the reasons are horrid in their possibilities, some are magnificent.


    June 3, 2005 - 09:14 pm
    The spirals to me, and the circular tower, were more parts of Ecclesiastics, the circle of life, nothing new under the sun, the sun sets and the sun also rises, a child is born and grows up and another child is born and the first one grows old and another is born. The circle of life. All life is connected, like a spiral, or a circle, which, when complete, is made by all parts being joined to each other.


    June 3, 2005 - 09:31 pm

    Loved your post, and I agree with a lot of what you said. So, it's not just a male take on Kerewin, although it might seem to be.

    "I guess it depends on what these "things" are. The "things" Native Americans were close to might strike us as odd, yet the catalogues of "things" we love to browse and buy from (Crate & Barrel, Williams & Sonoma, Orvis, Cold Water Creek) might strike them as odd. As inveterate materialists, we need only look around us to see the role "things" play in our lives. We're drowning in them, by the standards of most people in the world!

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Americans are dreadfully attached to things. Just look at what is in our stores. 17 different types of kitchen garbage cans at just one store! Afghans in America have far far fewer things in their houses than Americans, no matter what size their house. Yet American Indians who know so much about the objects around them seem, to non-Indian Americans to be attached to things! To me it is far more natural to be attached to the things around us in their natural setting, in the tidepool on the beach, in forest, the prairie, than it is to be attached to things in our houses that were made for humans.

    Just as Kerewin is half-Maori, so are her priorities. Could it be a cultural thing you're recalling, then, Joan? Indigenous tribes of peoples throughout the world are known for their practical use of things -- say, every single piece of a killed deer or bear -- and we're not known for that.

    Out of respect for the role that the bear or the deer plays in the world they share, of course! When I was a child our neighbors always hunted and sometimes gave me animal bones or teeth to make jewelry with. The would never have left any part of the animal in the woods, because they felt responsible for using all of what they took. I wish Westerners were known for that, for the reverence for life that some people have.

    "We certainly don't pray for the spirit of the cow before we eat him in the form of a Big Mac or a Whopper w/Cheese. Nor do we use bones from said cow as tools, nor jewelry from a bear's teeth and claws, etc. "

    But we should. We should pray for the spirit of the cow, and of the grass the cow ate, and of the rivers that carried nutrients to the grass that fed the cow. When I stop praying for the spirit of the cow I stop eating its flesh.

    "I see Kerewin as a hybrid in more ways than one, then. I see her as someone close to the land and sea, someone who knows a thing or two about catching, cooking, using the world around her."

    Yes, I love this about her, her being someone who can catch her own fish and fry it up in a pan.

    "BTW, to get back to last night's "fake" discussion, I do not think it is "fake" to hold secrets from the world, I think it's normal and something we all do to a greater or lesser extent. "

    And if we don't hold secrets from the rest of the world, risking being termed a fake for doing so, then we're termed a chatterbox for not holding secrets from the world! I just don't see how humans can possibly attain perfect disclosure with all other humans. For one thing, no one would ever be able to eat as they would spend their lives spilling their guts whenever they could get a word in edgewise from everyone else spilling their guts to them.

    I like Kerewin because I'm not perfect. It's nice to meet someone in literature who is complex and imperfect.

    I just read the intro to a Psychology Today article that said that humans like a little mystery about life. I agree.


    June 3, 2005 - 09:38 pm
    "How would you describe Kerewin, if you had to give a one sentence description, what would it be? "

    I think Kerewin knows she is part of the circle of life, but can't bring herself to put herself on the circle. She makes her physical life, the spiral staircase, the tower, part of the circle of life, maybe to fool the gods.

    She thinks she can ignore her spiritual side.

    I'm also obsessed with round towers, round rooms, and spiral staircases. I grew up a few blocks from a house that we called the witch's house because it had a round tower at one corner with a pointed roof like a witch's hat. A couple of years ago I met two people at my new job who both grew up just block's away from that house. They, of course, called it the witch's house also, and loved the tower. There are a couple of other round-room houses in my old area, one with a round porch, another with a four story round tower. The witch's house was a short two-story or maybe only 1 1/2 story tower, a dilapidated house, always painted yellow, with a black roofing shingles hat.


    June 4, 2005 - 04:52 am
    Great posts, great thoughts and lots to chew on and think about, thank you All!

    Today we'll offer up Simon Peter for your thoughts on his characterization and take Traude's question and Marni's on the boy and see what you all think?

    Topic du Jour:

  • 3. Let's look for a moment at the characterization of the character called Simon Peter. Is this character REAL to you? What impression or picture do you have of him? Is there anything about his situation which seems incongruous?

  • What is the consequence of Simon's, the intruder's, scaling the wall of Kerwin's towered sanctuary , and what effect does it have on the two adults? (Traude)

  • What is the author telling us about Simon's gift [of a rosary] to Kerewin? (Marni)

  • Welcome, Pedln!!

    I loved your impressions and we are so glad to have you here! On your "she seems to think she has failed somehow," Yes, I agree. This passage particularly somewhat surprised me, but I am not sure why, maybe it's part of the incongruity I see in her personality:

    "You are nothing," says Kerewin coldly. "You are nobody , and will never be anything, anyone."

    And her inner voice, the snark, which comes into its own during depressions like this, says,

    And you have never been anything at anytime, remember?.....

    "Shut up," says Kerewin aloud to herself. "I know I am very stupid." But not so stupid as to take this. (page 112, Picador [the orange one} paperback, next to the last page in Chapter 2.)

    And so she follows this with a bout of drinking and "drinks her way into a kind of cold and uncaring sobriety."

    That's definitely feeling a failure, you have good impressions.

    Now Carolyn, on this same subject, you said,

    Kerewin is a fake in that her outward persona does not really reveal the person within. One has to peel back many layers to expose the real Kerewin. The layers have formed from painful life experiences. There are many people who leave this earth never having these layers removed. That is a sad but true fact of life.

    Now that's a super thought and I had not thought of that, like an onion then? And you peel back the layers? Good job here.

    Kevin on this same subject, you mention, "BTW, to get back to last night's "fake" discussion, I do not think it is "fake" to hold secrets from the world, I think it's normal and something we all do to a greater or lesser extent."

    I'm not sure who was talking about Kerewin and the world? I wasn't, tho there does seem to be a lot of interesting discussion here about loners and relationships to the world, I was talking about her relationship to herself.

    And no, Kleo, I don't think I will quote chapter and verse where I formed my impression, but like Pedln, I'll just say it's an impression I got, and still have. You feel she's comfortable with herself, I don't see comfort anywhere, it will be interesting to follow up these thoughts, and I'm glad to see the variance, makes for a good book discussion.

    Pedln mentions the hints about the history of the characters making the book intriguing, I guess it depends on again on your own perspective. Scrawler says you're caught, hook, line and sinker. I'm not. I'm slightly repelled, if she mentions the child is missing teeth one more time I may scream. The episode in the Prologue, everything you all have mentioned in reaction, I also thought, whatever it IS it's unpleasant and I'm not sure I want to wallow thru it, but again, in for a penny in for a pound, that does not mean I have to embrace it. We here are about our opinions.

    Carolyn thank you for mentioning she IS Maori, the Aue and the other signals, I would not have known that!

    On the James Joyce parallels, Deems and Scrawler, I wish I knew more about Joyce so I could parallel too, it's interesting, thank you. Why am I thinking of William Carlos Williams for some reason?

    Scrawler, "She isn't exactly straightforward with the readers which can either frustrate the reader," yes it can and does, this reader. It's a tactic, a ploy, Hosseni used the "come on," and this writer is too, in a different way, it's interesting.

    Deems, thank you and all of you for the wonderful symbols in these first two chapters. I liked Marni's list so much (I like lists) that I want to put one in the heading of symbols we see in the chapters as we go. This is interesting, "And what does it mean that she takes such pleasure in playing chess again with a real live person? (In terms of symbols, Ginny, you might contemplate the black queen that SimonP steals from the chess set.)"

    I have no idea but I suddenly see the parallel STEALS, so that's two thefts in two chapters, were there any more?

    Marni thank you for the spiral symbol, I'll add IT to the list, with "objects," thank you all for the great discussion on objects. Kleo thank you for the curves, also added, along with Marni's green color, Simon's rosary, rings, and jade. I wondered why she wore all those rings, too.

    I am impressed with the close reading you all have done.

    Kleo I disagree with this, "Yes! Yes! Yes! Americans are dreadfully attached to things."

    Really? Almost any developing country, when they do get funds, what do they want? Stores. Megastores. Where they can buy THINGS. Objects, electronics, televisions, cell phones, objects. OBJECTS as you all have pointed out, have different symbolisms for different peoples, I liked everybody's discussion here on the difference different objects play in different cultures, very informative, thank you all. Thank you especially Joan K for pointing out this IS especially of Maori culture.

    Several of you mention that Kerewin has been "hurt." Traude you ask, "Why would we be surprised when someone wo has been hurt…" Where are you seeing this in the first two chapters? What makes you think this?

    Deems, why do you assume that the scars on her throat are from a suicide attempt? Lots of these characters seem scarred, don't they? Are we to conclude physically and mentally?

    Kevin you think the character of Kerewin would be more sympathetic to men than women, why is that? I am loving the alliances or misalliances each of us feel with her, this is going to be great. You said, "And yet there seems to be a healthy dose of distrust and suspicion to this somewhat "unladylike" lady of independence as well." I'm glad you qualified that with "healthy." hahahaa

    First off I don't agree she's "independent," I think that irritates me more than anything else.

    But oh, I got INTO it with my husband on this unladylike lady thing on the fishing. Kleo liked it that she could catch her own fish. This area of the country where I live is a hunting/ fishing sort of place and I personally (here IS a prejudice, mark it well) think that women who hunt are unnatural. Sorry, that's just my opinion. It's not "natural." Hahahaa PREJUDICE ALERT! (Repeat that like Gomer Pyle's "Citizen's ArrEST, Citizen's ArrEST!") hahahaa

    She not only spears that fish, she contemplates its intelligence first, it's flapping, bloody (?) holed, she smiles with slow satisfaction. She enjoys that. She tosses it, still flapping, into her sack. Ties it up with a knife . Lots of images of killing, blood, instruments of killing, and lack of feeling for a fish which she probably gutted alive. I've seen that, have you? Unnatural and here for a reason I think? I have a feeling we're going to see a lot of this sort of violence and etc, in this book. … That's our introduction to her, page 5, that's how we meet her? What's the next thing she turns her attention and pliers to?

    Distrust is not the word hahaaha with ME, but my husband got irritated and around we went, so I'll leave it.

    I agree with Marni and Kevin that "Kerewin" sounds like something from King Arthur, it sounds Welsh to me, and that goes along with castles and such. Confusing, but I do agree it's a pretty name.

    This was an interesting thing that Deems said, " So far, she sketches the sandal in her log, she fiddles with clay, she thinks a lot about easels and how they're waiting for her."

    Yeah, there's a kind of…is there a lethargy? This is not the first character in a book we've seen with it, if so, would you say she's depressed, then?

    The thorn thing was just too much, that also was a major distancing thing with me, Androcles and the Lion, a ONE INCH THORN? Oh come on, a child's foot and a ONE INCH THORN? Wouldn't that protrude thru the TOP of a child's foot? Have you got any grandchildren handy to measure? Gosh.

    Maybe in the heel then? Sideways somehow? Usually when you get a thorn in your foot it's not sideways?

    hAHHA Marni, " This isn't like one of your Coldwater Creek items." Hahahaa So you get their catalogue too? Hahahaa Love that.

    I have a stunner of a question for you tomorrow, and I wonder if ANY of you can answer it, it's something she says, and it's WAY incongruous, stay tuned, but for today let's turn our attention if you like to Simon Peter, the rock (note all the references to ROCK in this thing, rock of desperation, etc., ) and see what you make of HIM?

    The floor is now open for your thoughts!

    Kevin Freeman
    June 4, 2005 - 07:20 am
    I'll be back (as many in history have said), but just wanted to check in to express my appreciation for support from an unexpected quarter -- Ginny's husband!

    Also, while I agree money leads to materialism leads to a surfeit of "stuff," I maintain that the US of A has elevated it to an art form, to a capitalistic fetish, to an accepted (even expected) addiction at times. My daughter and her friends shop for sport, shop to fend off boredom, shop for things they don't need but just would like to have because it's there and because they CAN. (And I don't think they're alone.) So where I used to meet a friend and maybe play a game of HORSE at the driveway basketball hoop, they jump in the car and head for the dreaded MALL (heh-heh. Don't get me going on malls. Anywhere, USA. Anymall, USA. An icon of America at its worst).

    No shame in that, I guess, if you're into it. I'm just not into it, though I'm not guilt-free, either. What's this "thing" I'm typing on, afterall?

    Kerewin AND Keri would back me on all this, too, I'd wager. Kerewin, Keri, Ginny's hubby in Hunting Land, and Me.

    What was that old New England maxim -- something about using it up and wearing it out before buying anything new? Quaint and dated as the horse and buggy, I'm sorry to say. One look in my daughter's shoe closet (or at her purse collection) accents the point. Yes, we Americans are as "stuffed" as a Thanksgiving turkey when it comes to STUFF ("Things").

    And now -- although we can tie this discussion into Kerewin's character and the things she keeps -- let's back to the book and, as Ginny advises, to Simon. Rock on!

    June 4, 2005 - 07:51 am
    I can relate to Kerewin. I too have created a "tower" of my own making. It's not built in stone, but it's a tower just the same. And I can't stand to have anyone touch me physically; so I also understand why Kerewin is frustrated with Simon when he touches her.

    I write at night [listening to the night noises is special] besides I have a difficult time sleeping and I tend to catch "cat naps" here and there or just close my eyes and rest from time to time. So here too is something I have in common with Kerewin.

    You talked a little about lauguages being lost. My husband lived on a Navajo reservation from the time he was born until he went into the service. He was not American Indian; his father worked for the US Army as a butcher. He talked Navajo from time to time; especially when he was angry or frustrated. So I would say he didn't loose the Navajo language; he just got used to speaking English, because more people could understand him - including me.

    The image of spirals are used frequently by Keri Hulme. First, we encounter Kerewin's tower in which a "spiral staircase" is the center. The floor contains an engraved double-spiral; its almost as if you continue to go around and around in this double-spiral. You find a lot of double spiral in American Indian art works which I found interesting. To the American Indian the spiral is considered a symbol of rebirth and I have to assume that it means the same in the Maori culture.

    June 4, 2005 - 08:14 am
    re: Kerewin's heritage -- p.62 ". . by blood, flesh and inheritance, I am but an eighth Maori, by heart, spirit, and inclination, I feel all Maori. Or, I used to."

    Ginny -- unnatural for a woman to hunt? But if she wants to eat . . ? My youngest, a former vegetarian, who grows all her own produce, now wants to take up hunting, "Just to be self-sufficient, Mom."

    Traude S
    June 4, 2005 - 08:59 am
    GINNY - I am absolutely overwhelmed. ONE thought per day, wasn't it to be? This enumeration will take some time to even read, let alone respond to each and every thought!
    My hardcover has 445 pages, chapter 2 ends at page 92 . This may take all us summer!

    The word "independent" (or "of indpendent means" when used in connection with women) can disturb some men (it did my late husband). Actually, in Kerewin's case the term "self-sufficient" (just used by PEDLN) is more to the point, I believe.

    To say that Kerewin was "comfortable" in her skin may be an overstatement. But the tower she had built to the astonishment of those around her became her personal refugium, there she felt safe from the intrusion of others.
    That this safe haven and her absolute privacy had beee violated by an intruder produced her outrage and her sharpness toward the child. She was not inherently mean or vicious, not from my reading of her so far.

    She still had the emotional need of other people, for no man is an island, and even the greatest misanthrope needs peoople - if only to hate them!

    True, we send millions abroad, but most I believe for agricultural and other humanitarian purposes. Many desperately poor countries have unreliable power supplies and little chance to use the gazillion electronic gadgets we so highly praise in this country---- where indeed we worship at the altar of money.

    June 4, 2005 - 09:03 am
    ok, Kevin, I'll be a lady (tonight) to your post,
    although a woman is my choice of designation

    I dislike any person, real or fictional, who drinks to forget his/her problems; of course, that extends to substance abuse, for the same reason: reaching for oblivion.

    Many of us may have experienced the equivilant of Kerewin's anxiety over not being able to paint (I know I have), but we don't turn to drink (I hope) and we don't whine about it.
    Sure, whining may develop into a novel for some such people, it doesn't convince me.

    There is certainly a lot of great fiction out there where the author is not a border line alcoholic.

    Simon is a wonderful character, who I believe is 6 or 7 years old, not as young as some of you posters supposed. That is based on his ability to write notes, which would be unusual for a younger child.
    I believe Kerewin says such a line, but I cannot find the page.
    Simon is speechless after a trauma -- have to be careful saying this, because I read the whole book, and
    should not give away anything too soon.

    Simon gets into a heck of a lot of trouble, yes, but he is a survivor! Any child who knows how to manipulate adults as he does is certainly smart. And skipping school -- that's no shocker, if others are mean to him. I really like the kid, trouble and all!

    June 4, 2005 - 09:13 am
    GREAT responses! Like Kevin and MacArthur, I, too, shall return.

    One small clarification?

    Traude, one "thought" per day? Oh no, that's not possible. One FOCUS QUESTION for the entire GROUP per day, yes. One thought from ME?


    In the first place as Discussion Leader I want to and need to respond to every poster here. They don't all have the same one thought, do they?

    And then every time they say something that may spark another question on that topic.

    And then I may, myself have something to add.

    One thought per day is never going to happen with me, in one of my discussions. Thank God.

    Just pick one you like and go for it. Sometimes the one directly addressed to YOU is a good place to start?

    June 4, 2005 - 09:34 am
    "And no, Kleo, I don't think I will quote chapter and verse where I formed my impression, but like Pedln, I'll just say it's an impression I got, and still have. "

    I just loved reading Scrawler's post in which she quoted from the book telling how her impressions came from a passage that had also strongly captivated me. However, it seemed that every line but the one that most interested me, were the ones that made an impression on Scrawler. This is also why face2face bookclubs all use the same edition, the fun of quoting chapter and verse and how they impacted one person and another or not. Not because it's onerous to quote chapter and verse while discussing a book, but because it is enlightening.

    Quoting from the book while discussing it is great fun.


    Thanks for sharing a chapter a verse.


    June 4, 2005 - 09:50 am
    Hunting and fishing is a necessary part of life for many women in the world. There is nothing unnatural about a person who eats meat being willing and able to procure the meat for themselves. I can't think of any part of the USA where it is unnatural for women to hunt if they need food for their family.

    What seems unnatural to me is the huge disconnect between supermarket meat captured in its butcher paper and cellophane and plastic trays for meat eaters, not the human being who is willing to see that eating meat requires the taking of life. And, yes, I have been a vegan for many years, and go without meat quite often, but do generally eat meat. I have no qualms about people using the limited resources and power of a single human capturing an animal and using all of the animal's resources versus the amount of resources necessary to keep the consumer from the killing of the slaughterhouse to the transportation courtesy of oceans and arctic reserves of gasoline and plastics all the way to the supermarket. Since when did supermarkets become natural? The animals in them are killed, they suffer in the killing (visit a slaughterhouse or poultry farm).

    The Taliban limited women in Afghanistan who were widows to begging for alms. This is why the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran are filled with women, they were told that it was not their place to procure food in any way except through a man.

    It is natural to kill if you eat meat. It is "in accordance with nature; relating to or concerning nature" for a human to spear her own fish rather than purchase one at the seafood store.

    Many of the women in my family hunt and fish. My Mom hunts duck and pheasants, and also fishes. My Aunt Annie gets a deer each year (she would go hungry or have to have the family provide for her if she didn't) for her freezer--she loves the feeling of being self-sufficient. My husband's aunts all kill their own fowl that they've raised for Thanksgiving dinner, for Sunday dinner.

    This is not unnatural. This is survival. IMO.


    June 4, 2005 - 09:59 am
    "To say that Kerewin was "comfortable" in her skin may be an overstatement. But the tower she had built to the astonishment of those around her became her personal refugium, there she felt safe from the intrusion of others. " Traude

    Oh, this made me think of something, a tower, though, is not a discrete little hovel. Didn't she consider building it below ground? She opted to attract attention by building this unusual structure on a beach. She felt safe from the intrusion of others, but she made her safety a beacon.

    "She was not inherently mean or vicious, not from my reading of her so far. " Traude

    I don't see any meanness, yet.

    "She still had the emotional need of other people, for no man is an island, and even the greatest misanthrope needs people - if only to hate them! " Traude

    Thanks for the laugh.

    "Many desperately poor countries have unreliable power supplies and little chance to use the gazillion electronic gadgets we so highly praise in this country---- where indeed we worship at the altar of money. " Traude

    This reminds me of a friend who went to a third world country, plugged in her hair dryer after her first day in the field and blew the power for half of a nation. She complained that they didn't have any signs saying, "Don't Use Hairdryer" (common in the remote field stations we work at in the US). The local leader had her give a talk about what a hair-dryer is and what it is used for.

    Yes, the altar of money and all that it empowers, the ability, especially, to be able to remove oneself from the reality of the world we live in like, for example, being able to eat meat or fish or fowl without ever killing an animal.


    June 4, 2005 - 10:02 am
    I think the sea is also a powerful symbol in this book, maybe more powerful than the curves. I wonder, though, what the Maori symbol for the sea is. Many cultures use curves to symbolize the sea.


    Kevin Freeman
    June 4, 2005 - 10:12 am
    Simon is a Gift from the Sea. Anne Morrow Lindbergh take note.

    June 4, 2005 - 11:51 am
    Things come up that catch one’s attention,...cues that there is something here that needs explaining, hints that pique the readers interest. -the ‘viciously quick’ reaction of self-defense when the child touches her unexpectedly.

    - both Simon and Kerewin have scars on their throats. Where did hers come from, I wonder?

    -- the “very strange” jade pendant she found on a beach.‘very curious’. She has a special affinity for that piece.

    - “..</>while I was busy blessing the god of munificence, the lightning came. It blasted my family, and it blasted my painting talent. I went straight out of one bind into another one. Very strange. I never could understand why.”

    One wonders,....what could have happened that ‘blasted’ her family and her writing talent? There is much yet to be discovered about Kerewin, as well as Simon. I don't see any true meanness in Kerewin, but I see an enormous amount of pain.


    June 4, 2005 - 01:06 pm
    I think, Babi, that pain can be dehumanizing. It's hard to be a lovely human being when all your energy is focused internally on your own pain, whether mental or physical. Allowing others into your pain, especially when it is mental, can be part of the healing process. But it can be almost impossibly for a wounded animal to reach out and touch someone. So, what's a human to do?


    kiwi lady
    June 4, 2005 - 03:58 pm
    KleoP In wholehearted agreement with the above post. Internalised pain is very hard to deal with and very hard to share.


    June 4, 2005 - 05:10 pm
    My fur bristles whenever I hear or read this word. As if there were some kind of behavior appropriate to ladies, like having tea of an afternoon and wearing white gloves and having strictly nothing to do with "filthy lucre" or heaven forbid, hunting. Ladies are meant to sit on their verandas and wait for the meat-hunter to return home with a dead animal that someone else will prepare for freezing/eating/hanging on the wall.

    Kerewin is fishing in order to have fish for dinner. She is not sporting around to see how large a fish she can get or to have stories to tell at the hunting lodge. Why shouldn't women fish? Or hunt? And I'm like pedln, I really like the word woman.

    I'm not a hunter, but I was a good shot on the rifle team in high school and if I did hunt, I would try my best to make a clean kill and I would hunt only for the meat, not for sport.

    Rant over for the time being.

    Ginny--I unintentionally confused you. I was answering another poster and trying to say that I didn't think those scars on Kerwin's throat could possibly be the result of a suicide attempt. Very unlikely in my opinion.

    Kerewin appears to me to be a strong woman who is never mean--thanks for that Traude and Kleo. Young Simon--and he is 6,7,or 8 according to his father--is drawn to her. He seeks her out; he is close to loving her. Children are generally not attracted to strange adults unless they sense something kind in them.

    This novel seems to me to be very much a novel of the seventies or eighties. It's marked as of that time period in a number of ways, subject matter, popular ideas, themes. But I've read ahead so I'll say no more on this point until later.

    Kevin Freeman
    June 4, 2005 - 05:22 pm
    I apologize to Mippy and anyone else who takes issue to the word "lady." Clearly I am learning here because I never knew it was a pejorative or even when or why it became one.

    "Woman," from here on out. I promise.

    kiwi lady
    June 4, 2005 - 05:30 pm
    I take the viewpoint that we do not need to cuss or swear or jump up and down to make our point in debate. I like being a lady but I also like being a lady who is not pushed around by anybody. I prefer words in reasoned debate to a tirade of abuse. I would be not be offended if anyone were to refer to me as a lady. One of the strongest women I ever met was a lady, She had her own career and looked after her family as well. She was a sought after midwife and herbalist but was a lady through and through. Her name was Jessie Storrie, she was a Quaker and also my great grandmother.


    June 4, 2005 - 08:38 pm
    KLEO: "Yet American Indians who know so much about the objects around them seem, to non-Indian Americans to be attached to things"

    Yes, you are right. That really made me think.

    When I came back to this country in 1966 after living in Israel for three years, my first impressions were of how many things Americans had and how little they cared for them once they had them. Staying with friends until we were settled here, I was shocked to see my American friends throwing away enough food every day as would have lasted me for two days in Israel. It seemed to me then that my friends were obsessed with getting new things, but as soon as they owned the thing, it lost specialness in their eyes and they were looking for more new things. The people I had known in Israel can from backgrounds of scarcity where each thing they had was treasured and cared for.

    I had my moment of feeling superior. Now of course, I am completely repatriated -- throw away and waste as much as anyone else. Although I live much more simply than most folks I know, I have my areas where I always want more, more, more. Especially books and music. I always want more Cd's although there's not time in the day to play half of the ones I have. And my house is stuffed to the ceiling with books I read once and never looked at again -- books I could have borrowed from the library and then handed on to someone else.

    My impression was that Kerewin was attached to an awful lot of things. Maybe it's that she only acquires things she is attached to.

    June 4, 2005 - 08:44 pm
    KLEO: "The circle of life. All life is connected, like a spiral, or a circle, which, when complete, is made by all parts being joined to each other".

    Your wonderful posts have really made me think. II strongly feel as if our three characters are parts of a whole and need each other to be complete. We'll see if I'm right.

    June 4, 2005 - 08:52 pm
    Again Kleo commented that the idea of time in the Bone People reminds her of the circular time in Ecclesiastes, with the sun rising and setting and the seasons circling. Sociologists sometimes study the social construction of time: how our circumstances form our view of time. This circular idea of time is the time of agricultural people everywhere: people whose lives move to the circling rhythm of the seasons. It is also the time of ancient civilizations, civilizations that live with the ruins of those who have come before.

    Perhaps it is Maori time as well.

    June 4, 2005 - 09:01 pm
    Kevin: I absolutely loved your comment, “Simon is a Gift from the Sea.” That is so perfect.

    Kleo: I thought your comment, “...she made her safety a beacon.” (regarding Kerewin's tower) was very interesting. Her beacon worked. It guided Simon to Kerewin.

    June 4, 2005 - 09:11 pm
    I have been wondering why Kerewin refers to herself time and again as a "snark." All I knew about a snark was that it had something to do with something that Lewis Carroll wrote. Here is a link to his poem "The Hunting of the Snark." It takes awhile to read. (I haven't finished yet.) Maybe it will shed light on Kerewin.

    June 4, 2005 - 10:27 pm
    OK, I'm not answering the questions; but here's my list of some things I thought were important or interesting about Simon in the first chapter and Prologue. I can be kind of a list person when I'm trying to figure something out. I've commented on a number of the bullets below already. Sorry for repetition.

    -First image of Simon is in tower window: a saint with a halo, shrouded

    -He has thorn in foot, is limping, lost sandal

    -He's as blond as blond can be, with sea-green eyes – Kerewin expects his father to look Viking - I think his coloring will be symbolic

    -He's too skinny, has shadows under his eyes, has nightmares, can't sleep without medicine, and has scars & teeth on one side are missing. What's going on?

    -His name is Simon Peter – disciple’s name. St. Peter's original name was Simon (Jesus changed it to Peter and some called him Simon Peter) - Peter cured people and apparently some miracles occurred around him

    -Why can’t Simon talk?

    -Simon cries when Kerewin offers him lunch in beginning

    -He likes to drink alcohol - and he's approx 6 years old

    -He wants to stay with Kerewin – he sees something in her - apparently unusual for him to feel this way about someone

    -Simon is physically affectionate - likes to hold hands with Kerewin; hugs Joe

    -He misses a lot of school

    -He often runs away from home

    -People think he is a thief and emotionally disturbed – he does steal - he stole Kerewin's chess black queen

    -He shields himself when Kerewin touches him in his sleep

    -He is ecstatic when Kerewin can tell he is cold

    -Pg 42 – he has a "terrible ache"

    -He washed up on shore during a gale 3 years ago on a Labour weekend; a “stranger cruiser” sank;

    -When Joe found him washed up on shore, he was all black and blue, bruised and broken. Had he been beaten and tortured by his former …… who? kidnappers? Who were they?

    -He has a special possession, a rosary, that he gives to Kerewin

    -He sees Kerewin "covered with flames like knives"

    -Pg 73 – “The horror was still at home in him. It was almost always there. The only defense he could raise against the dark and the horror and the laughing terrible voice were his golden singers, the sounds and patterns of words from the past that he had fitted to his own web of music….”

    -When Joe found him, he was “a screamer” but couldn’t talk; was afraid of sharks, Citroen cars, fires

    -Joe whacks him in front of Kerewin

    -Kevin said, "He's a gift from the sea"

    Kevin Freeman
    June 5, 2005 - 03:27 am
    Thanks, JoanK, for the follow-up on "The Things Americans Carry" (Tim O'Brien title... tweaked). Your honesty speaks a truth all of us could confess to -- we are indeed lucky (though we know not HOW lucky) to be blessed (and cursed) with so much in this country.

    Terrific list for Simon, marni. Your reminder of how he was found brought back that eerie description of the dead man thought to be his father. Hulme says he is a muscular man whose face is intact but whose head is split and emptied of its content. Whether that description of a father who is a "shell" means anything or is incidental, I can't say.

    The beads and ring. The rosary. They are huge for young Simon, who goes ballistic when they are taken from him, according to Joe's story (told to Kerewin):

    "Those beads were his lucky talisman for over a year. He wasn't separated from them ever. Not in bed, not in the bath, not anywhere. Nobody got to have a good look at them for quite a while. They were in the pocket of the woman's blouse. They were shown to him to see if he knew them. He knew them all right. He grabbed them, kissed the ring on them, and thereafter wouldn't let them go. For over a year, as I said. If you wanted to see them, you had to fight him for them, literally. One time, when the police were still trying to find out who he was, a senior detective type came from Wellington to photograph them, and try and question Himi. He would have been about four at this time, I suppose... and my oath! the racket! We told him we were only going to look at his precious beads, but it didn't make an iota of difference. In the end, I grabbed his arms and pinioned his legs and carried him out of the room, after Hana had removed the beads. We were regarded as poison for a month after." -- p. 87 (Penguin paperback)

    There's no doubt but the religious images and fairy tale images do battle (or perhaps complement each other) in Hulme's work. Also, of the triad (better, mayhaps, to use "trinity"), Simon seems the "holiest" even though he's a holy terror. Arms held and legs pinioned, the boy brings to mind an image of Christ on the cross (as seen in Kerewin's tower on the wall, for instance).

    Kevin Freeman
    June 5, 2005 - 03:49 am
    For a grad course I'm taking in film, I read an essay by Elisa Bussi called "Voyages and Border Crossings: Jane Campion's The Piano (1993)." In this essay, Bussi links New Zealand director Campion's film to fairy tale archetypes. As the film features a Scottish woman who is mute (of her own volition, since age 6) and sent as a mail-order bride to New Zealand, I couldn't help but think as well of another New Zealand-based mute, our lad Simon in The Bone People.

    Anyway, quotes of interest:

    Muteness/silence:"... muteness is a common feature of fairy tales: usually it is a temporary condition, imposed or self-imposed, an interdiction connected with a threat, a promise or a command: 'You must remain silent for seven years, and if you utter a single word your brothers will be killed' ('The Holy Virgin's Daughter', in the Brothers Grimm), 'You will remain silent until you have finished your task', or 'You must never reveal the source of the gift'. Silence may be the condition for the reward, or the punishment for a transgression; or it may be a self-imposed denial, a form of rebellion against the world. In modern terms we could see it as a refusal to accept the symbolic social system with all its inscribed norms and codes of behaviour."

    The bit about never revealing the source of the gift brought to mind the rosary given to Simon. That gift, like all of his past, is something he will not reveal -- at least to this point.

    Other brief quotes:

    Feminine skills:" in the fairy tale, it is normal for the heroine to possess some special skill: it may be spinning or weaving, for example, both of which are of course traditional 'feminine' abilities. From the heroine's loom, for example, wonderful clothes will be woven, which will entice the king into proposing marriage. (Interestingly, there is an Eskimo tale in which the woman is metamorphosed into a spider, the spinning animal par excellence.) However, there will, inevitably, be a series of obstacles to overcome."

    The special skills of the feminine, applied to The Bone People, works quite nicely when we see how self-sufficient and adept Kerewin is with her hands. There's another archetype mentioned by Bussi that has to do with tied or severed hands, but as we see none of that here (at least so far), I'll skip to this archetype which practically shouts off the page:

    Husband as ogre: "frequently, in the fairy tale, the daughter is (unwittingly) married off to an ogre who will imprison her in his castle, subjecting her to his ruthless (male) will."

    This part of Bussi's essay continues with a discussion of the Bluebeard fairy tale, used directly by Campion in her film, but for me, the image of Joe as possible Ogre was readily seen. True, he's not Kerewin's husband, but he does seem to be becoming a love interest and he IS the giant, the ogre, the male will (and iron fist) that Simon must reckon with at a young age.

    Well, maybe all this is a stretch, but it's an INTERESTING stretch, and as posters here have already brought up fairy tales, I figured I'd drag out the ole archetypes, which are always fun to type.

    June 5, 2005 - 08:59 am
    "We'll have to move soon."

    It is happening again, and like the time before, there is nothing he can do to stop it. It will take away the new people, it will break him, it will start all over again. He cannot change it. And worst of all, he knows in an inchoate way that the greatest terror is yet to come. There is a sudden pause in the crashing of the waves, and a drawn prescient hissing.

    It took me several readings before I realized that the above passage referred to Simon and what he was thinking. One of the things that jumped out at me is that Simon seems to be telling us that he has been abandoned and it isn't the first time that it has happened. "It is happening again..."

    This may be one of the reasons that Simon is attracted to Kerewin. I think in his "child's mind and heart" he senses that Kerewin too has been abandoned. Children are very smart in that they can sense these things.

    Children are often "frustrated" with the adult world that surrounds them. Even when they are in a bad situation they may cling to the very person who has hurt them.

    Fate is hard to understand even for an adult. As a child it must be that much harder and for a child who can't communicate with the adult world it is even harder still. He wants to tell someone that he doesn't want the new people to go away. That if they do, it will break him and he'll have to start all over again. These feelings of abandonment are in adults as well, but at least adults have the knowledge to understand why someone is leaving them and why they have to start over again.

    But what sent horror through me was the line: "And worst of all, he knows in an inchoate way that the greatest terror is yet to come." What could be worst than abandonment to a child?

    kiwi lady
    June 5, 2005 - 09:57 am
    NZ literature often can be quite dark, I attribute this phenomena to the fact that NZers do a lot of navel gazing and our society admits to much that other societies keep hidden.

    I guess as a nation we are a nation of idealists, a nation of people who worry about others both nationally and internationally. Privately per head of population we give the largest personal charity donations in the developed world. We have one of the lowest wage structures in the developed world.

    I write and I was reading through some of my poetry the other day and came upon one I wrote about child abuse. It is very dark when I read it now after the fact.

    There is a place in society for dark writing, writing that forces us to go into areas of life that we don't feel comfortable with. These books help to bring about change in society much as the novels of Charles Dickens did in his day. I have often heard people say "Dickens is so depressing!" However Dickins novels brought an awareness to the British middle class of what was happening in their society.


    June 5, 2005 - 09:37 pm
    Ginny: I just noticed the Symbols list on our page (above) and would like to add Simon to it.

    -I propose that Hulme's depiction of Simon with white-blond hair and "Viking" physical appearance are to make Simon a symbol of the white man in New Zealand. So, Simon himself is a symbol.

    -I also think Simon is a symbol of a savior, with his initial presentation as a haloed shrouded saint named Simon Peter, (martyred? crucified?), who scaled Kerewin's tower (to free the prisoner), cracking her emotional entombing wall.

    kiwi lady
    June 5, 2005 - 10:30 pm
    I don't think Simon would represent the White man as it was the Maori who were treated badly and not the white man in our Society. The Maori certainly fought to retain their lands but many were wiped out both from the Maori wars and from European diseases.

    I certainly do not think the white man was ever a saviour or a saint far from it. He was a destroyer more than anything.

    June 6, 2005 - 03:15 am
    My GOODNESS, what a veritable explosion of creative ideas, passion, and great stuff! I am sorry to be somewhat delayed in getting back in, we have a lot going on here at home, but my gracious you have certainly not let YOUR end down!

    Where to even START?

    Kevin, that was brilliant. As the commercials say, BRILLIANT! I love the parallel with fairy tales, and especially Grimm. I'm reading a book on the Grimm Brothers and who really wrote those stories (would you believe women? They got them from, literally, the girls next door I think only one of the fables came from a Grimm) but I'm still reading: this is some new scholarship. The title of the book is Clever Maids by Valerie Paradiz, subtitled The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales. It's actually fascinating. I'd like to do something with the Grimm Fairy Tales someday and include the nasty ones left out of collections and see what the symbolism IS, maybe we can lure a Grimm Brothers scholar in here. Wouldn't you LOVE to know some of that? Was "Falada, Falada, why hangest thou there?" a Grimm? Or was it? Do you all know it? It gave me nightmares for years as a child, not sure on the provenance of that one but I've still got the book and the illustration.

    But more on your great thoughts later on.

    I'll try to break this up into smaller posts, this IS our last day here in the first two chapters, tomorrow we move on, and so if you have any further thoughts on material in these first two chapters, please don't hesitate to voice them now? (Of course you can always return TO these chapters as well later).

    I can see here that we all have strong and differing feelings about some things, and that's good. First off, Pedln of course I don't think your daughter is anything but wonderful, anybody related to you is bound to be exemplary (I admire Pedln VERY much) and so I think I will withdraw my own (labeled as such) prejudice, and have learned a lesson by it. Like all prejudice, it's not worthy of the light of day.

    On hunting: I think (and had forgotten) that hunting is about as safe a topic in America today as religion, politics and stem cell research. My own viewpoints on it are based on more than 40 years of experience. I am not sure that you all might agree that often times there is quite a gap between perception and theory and actual practice and reality. That's certainly the case with hunting or the farm poultry flock or livestock. I think the death of any animal is never without pain or suffering, unless attended by a veterinarian, despite the rosy "I shall hunt humanely for meat," even the lowly chicken… I think those of us who do live on farms and who have seen death in many guises…perhaps have a different viewpoint. I had written but trashed a Reality Check post about what can and more often than not does happen, but I'm going to leave this hot topic to others, thank you all for your input here.

    As Scrawler says, what could be more terrible than to be abandoned? Scrawler, you seem, yourself apprehensive of the book? What effect would you say this writing is having on YOU? The somewhat heavy handed foreshadowing indicates to me that something quite unpleasant is coming. The techniques in this book are quite interesting, the slant of the author, the way she presents the materials. She has not succeeded in luring me in, I'm not in the willing suspension of disbelief, as are so many of you. I remain on the outside, staring at the page numbers, wishing them gone.

    But like all of you, I also have some knee jerk phobias and one of them is the deliberate hurt of another creature, human or animal. So since we see something wicked this way is coming, it will be OK for people to express their real feelings in this discussion? You are entitled, whether or not your opinion and base of knowledge comes from reading books, or second hand hearsay, or the real thing, you're equally entitled, and we'll receive your opinions with cordiality and respect (see Guidelines for Book Discussions in the heading).

    Hahaha In our early days in the Books I made the statement quite casually (but I meant it) that I don't read books about incest. One of our participants, apparently forgetting that it was I who had said that, about 5 years later confided to me that she had even seen on SeniorNet some idiot saying that she didn't read books about incest. Could I imagine the ignorance? Hahahah Yes, yes I could. And I told her who the Idiot was. Again we are all entitled to read what we like and to react as we like, we are always about your opinions!

    SO! That having been said, thank you all very much for the reflections on Simon Peter here. I believe I have seen several different takes on what he represents and I think he may be a symbol as well, so let's add him to our list above and then see if we even agree IF he's a symbol and then, what he represents? I hope perhaps we'll have several takes on it. Thank you Marni.

    As well thank you Kleo for the ocean or sea as symbol, I'll add that too.

    Deems, I'm sorry that I misunderstood your post on the scars on her neck, how gracious you are! Hahahaa I wondered why you made that assumption!! (One thing I am not familiar with is suicide attempts. I read recently that people who slit their wrists a certain way don't really "mean it." I wonder about that, apparently there's a right way and wrong way but they don't teach that in school, how is anybody to know? But I would think if you cut your throat, that would be it, am I wrong? I have no knowledge of these matters). (Deems, did you see there's a new Broadway musical based on Spelling Bee?)

    Speaking of Broadway, I missed most of the Tonys last night, but am so glad to see Billy Crystal get one, his 700 Sundays was very moving and hilarious at the same time. I was supposed to be at the opening night of Spamalot, but, doggone it, the trip cancelled.

    Why I'm rambling on I have no idea, back to YOU!!


    June 6, 2005 - 03:30 am
    Today I have SUCH a question for you, and I'd like to hear ALL of your takes on it IF you can? Or are interested?

    Many people have noted the Bibical references in the book and there was one which stunned me, on paperback page (Picador edition) page 66. It's sort of right in the middle of the part called Feelers? I am confused by the use of it here, does it have more than one meaning?

  • 4. An Interpretation Question: There will be no right or wrong answsers here, but what's your interpretation?

  • The expression "coals of fire" when used with the expression on ones head is an an English Idiom meaning:

    Idiom: heap coals of fire on someone's head:
    To make them feel guilty by repaying evil with good.

    It comes from a verse which occurs twice (!) (or maybe more times), in the Bible:

  • In Romans 12:20 …."Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."

  • And in Proverbs 25: 21-22...."If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
    For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee."

    What is meant in this section by the following:

    I'd stay here all night and play chess with you if that's what you want, and it doesn't need an offer of tea, either. Because you looked after Himi and I'd like to do that.

    Heap coals of fire upon my head.

    "We didn't have tea," he says. "We came straight here after I got home from work…"

    What does the expression "coals of fire" mean to you? What does it mean in this context? Has she used it correctly or what is she doing here? What do YOU think, what do you make of this??

  • We pause in this program for a brief 3 mile walk (a new health kick) before it gets to be 90 degrees and will return asap.

    Let's hear from you today on this issue or anything else you saw in Chapters One and Two or anything else you'd like??

    The stage is waiting for YOU!
  • pedln
    June 6, 2005 - 07:23 am
    "Coals of Fire upon my head" Kerewin is chastising herself. -- I interpreted as Kerewin thnking "What have I brought on myself now. I sure didn't mean to say that." Also, Joe is now saying such kind things, and all she was interested in was getting him and Simon out of the house.

    Regarding Simon: He has to be very bright. No joke. His communications skills are above average -- the simple signing, the writing; he hasn't been in school that long, and is only there about half the time anyway. And he's perceptive in reading people --
    Does she like you? NO

    Traude S
    June 6, 2005 - 08:29 am
    In this case I believe, like PEDLN, that the meaning of "coals of fire" is literal rather than symbolic.

    The age of the child is unkown, says Joe, and unknowable. Simon certainly has wisdom well beyond a child's.

    June 6, 2005 - 08:38 am
    Kerewin puts spirals in her artwork. But in her work "the coils become tangled and hectic so she screws them to oblivion". The double-spiral is common in Maori art and it originally comes from the fernfrond. The ferns and their trunks served many purposes, including food, objects of worship and building materials for the ancient Maori people.

    But for Kerewin her spirals, at least in her artwork, have been tangled so she has destroyed her art and in a sense deestroys her old life. When Joe and Simon enter her life she doesn't really want to accept the responsibility of having them become a part of her life. She thinks she has found her own answer to her problems in her tower. But when Simon breaks into her tower (literally) this changes her life whether she wants it changed or not.

    The curled coils of mariners' rope may also have inspired the spiral motif which leads us back to the sea, shipwrecks, and Simon. I'm not sure whether you can say that Simon in Kerewin's life means he is a saint or sinner, but I think he is there to help Kerewin untangle the spirals in her own life by focusing on his life.

    June 6, 2005 - 10:39 am
    Catching up, catching up, Scrawler, how interesting, love all your metaphors: tangles, coils and spirals, good job!

    Pedln, and Traude who agrees with her, good thinking on that aspect of the quotation and Pedln do you think it's noticeable to anybody else besides Simon that she dislikes the child? I really think that may BE the key to the quote above, actually! I have gone around and around with it, myself.

    I have refined Question 4 above, to add the meaning of the English Idiom and to give the reference for it. Since Hulme uses so many Bibical references in her text, this one specific to the "on a person's head," one stops in wonder.

    Would you say she knows the Bibical reference or not?

    How do you think she is using it here? For what reason?

    Then how can she be using it properly? At first I thought she had used it by mistake. Then I took the tack that she means something negative, as Pedln and Traude have said. Then I said, well is she blaming...who is she blaming for the "coals of fire?" How has Joe's sweet offer cast coals of fire on her head, or is she herself doing it? I worried if she was casting off blame. Then I wondered if it were her own conscience blaming her. How does Joe know she does not like the child and did not want to help the child so that he WOULD be heaping coals of fire on her head? Is Joe that kind of person? Or what's happening here? IS she, in fact, saying that Joe and the child have some kind of prescience and can read her mind?

    There's enough pilpul here to satisfy any scholar, but what is YOUR opinion, there ARE no right or wrong answers and Inquiring Minds Want to Know!

    June 6, 2005 - 10:44 am
    I never did finish reading "The Hunting of the Snark." But I did see in "The Mavens Word of the Day":

    snark = an elusive imaginary creature (from the snark in the poem.)

    snarky = critical in an annoying, sarcastic, grumpy, wisecracking, or cynical sort of way.

    June 6, 2005 - 10:52 am
    Thank you Marni, I knew the snark from Lewis Carroll, when ARE we going to read Lewis Carroll, "Twas brillig.." and

    "The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things.
    Of ships, of shoes, of sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.
    And why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings..." (or something like that). ..

    How many times do we quote him!!! Wouldn't it be fun to read him, I think it's been suggested before.

    Anyway, I did NOT know the meaning of it in English, thank you! So she has a sharply critical voice, then, always in her head.....who doesn't? I do? Do you all? What causes that?


    June 6, 2005 - 11:13 am
    Is Kerewin guessing right? Is that correct church Latin?
    p. 67, Penquin paperback: "the letters flow into one another, but look like gothic V."
    What would that signify? Is it part of the plot?

    There's another puzzle on p. 72, regarding colors:
    Redbrown, redbrown as red chalk, earthcoloured reminder.
    (Eathercoloured another symbol?)
    "Stammel and murrey," she murmurs happily, "ruddle and madder and o solferino"
    hunting with gusto through the chest of chalks.

    These are apparently the names of the colors; does anyone know if they have additional meaning?

    June 6, 2005 - 11:24 am
    Simon had earlier envisioned Kerewin with her head "ringed with fire."

    When Simon visits Kerewin (pg 64 in Penguin paperback), he sees her as "this lady of the fire."

    Simon insists that Kerewin take his rosary. When Kerewin examines the rosary, she finds it to be somewhat unusual - it is made of 15 "decades" made of semi-precious stone beads. There is no crucifix, but there is a gold ring with a coat of arms. It has a PHOENIX "nesting in flames."

    I wonder if there is any relationship between the phoenix of the rosary and the vision Simon has of Kerewin as the "lady of the fire." Does Simon somehow see Kerewin as a phoenix?

    This brings ups the concept of REBIRTH (which was mentioned as a theme earlier).

    Phoenix: "fabulous bird that periodically regenerated itself, used in literature as a symbol of death and resurrection. According to legend, the phoenix lived in Arabia; when it reached the end of its life (500 years), it burned itself on a pyre of flames, and from the ashes a new phoenix arose. As a sacred symbol in Egyptian religion, the phoenix represented the sun, which dies each night and rises again each morning. According to Herodotus the bird was red and golden and resembled an eagle."

    Phoenix: "A person or thing of unsurpassed excellence or beauty; a paragon."

    June 6, 2005 - 11:26 am
    Boy I tell you what, this is some discussion, you get a half day behind and it's all you can do to catch up!

    So here we have all these swirling images, metaphors, symbols, snatches of song, Biblical references, etc.

    Hahaha Kevin, so droll, "Rock on, Simon Peter." Nice analogy.

    Scrawer, thank you for the mentions of the double spiral in Indian art, meaning rebirth, that's important, how can we find out, Carolyn do you know, if it means "rebirth" in the Maori culture?

    Mippy, good point on the drinking in the book, have you seen Sideways? I would kill to discuss that movie with somebody.

    Simon seems almost a changeling, everybody in the book seems to speculate on a different age, but apparently (keeping in mind his history) there were no records of his birth anywhere? The unknown ship sank?

    Oh and a good point, so you feel an affinity for the child, how about the rest of you, would you say HE'S the most sympathetic character here? We did not look at Joe, what do you all think of Joe?

    "Gift from the Sea," Kevin, hahaa wasn't the original Simon Peter a fisherman?

    Babi, I agree, so many images that catch the attention and we're all different and we all have different images.

    Great quote, I almost missed that, while she was busy blessing the god of munificence, lightning from another god came and blasted her talent. How? She's putting a spiritual take on everything, or do you think so??

    Joan, oh good point: "This circular idea of time is the time of agricultural people everywhere: people whose lives move to the circling rhythm of the seasons."

    And again a Biblical concept, to everything there is a season.

    I like your take on the ancient civilizations living with the ruins of those that came before.

    (In an aside, on the "circle of life," I am reading the account of Disney Wars, and Jeffrey Katzenberg actually based The Lion King on his own childhood, trivia for the curious.)

    Marni, another fabulous list, love that, it helps ME clarify, anyway, I'm not very organized in thought but I love to see how other organize things, it's very helpful. That's a good outline of the salient points of Simon Peter.

    Kevin, don't you love courses that deal with film? I took a great one once and about all I can recall is we had to see East of Eden, read it and see it on the stage, (I was famous for my noticing mistakes in the movie but I think [now] I was wrong about the lettuce.) Still, such fun. I love film.

    Did you say Graduate Course? Are you a film major then?

    Wonderful points, (BRILLIANT) on muteness. And how interesting on the Eskimo tale which parallels the ancient Greek Arachne story, now what on earth are we to make of THAT? Land bridge? Or????

    So you see Joe as Ogre? I don't seem to have a handle on Joe, at all. How would you all describe HIM? Somehow for me he seems kind of amorphous?

    Carolyn, when you say NZ literature can be quite dark, what do you mean by dark? Serious or unpleasant subjects, or? Are you back home now?

    Good point Marni on the contrasts in LIGHT and DARK!!! Lots of contrasts in this thing and I still don't know what the rosary means, but I am sure it will be revealed, maybe his mother's?

    At any rate, today's the last day for the first two chapters, is there ANYTHING you all want to say on them? And what's YOUR interpretation of Issue du Jour #4 in the heading? No wrong answers, just interpretations!

    June 6, 2005 - 11:28 am
    Marni, also, good one on the phoenix and fire. Wasn't it Penecost where the tongues of fire showed on every person or do I have my references askew? That also, was a type of rebirth.

    June 6, 2005 - 11:34 am
    Proverbs 25:21-22 (KJV): 21 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
    22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

    OK, here's the biblical reference. The idea perfectly fits the context in The Bone People. AS pedln and Traude have suggested, Kerewin is just trying to get rid of Simon and Joe and there he goes being nice to her, the kid pleading to stay for tea (as she has somewhat grudgingly invited them) and she sees herself as their enemy, but they in being gracious and giving in and staying for tea are the ones who have "heaped coals of fire on her head." She knows the quote. She knows lots of quotes. And that voice inside her head comes up with a good one here.


    June 6, 2005 - 11:35 am
    Ginny: I think I posted just as you did. I'm looking back at the whole phoenix/lady of fire thing. Then I looked again at your question about "heaps of coal" on Kerewin's head. It's kind of part of the same "head ringed with fire" thing.

    June 6, 2005 - 11:43 am
    Oh ! Can't keep up with you all, two more good points of view! I thought the person who heaped coals of fire had to be aware of it?

    Marni I'm putting up your questions in your post 153, another good reference to fire (and coals of same?) wow, great work, both of you!

    June 6, 2005 - 12:00 pm
    Well my goodness, Deems, isn't this amazing? You have it as Proverbs, and I have it as St. Paul and Romans 12:20.

    And it's ALMOST exactly the same:

  • In Romans 12:20 …."Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."

  • And in Proverbs 25: 21-22...."If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
    For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee."

    So it occurs in the Old and New Testaments. I did not know that, amazing. I will add Proverbs to the heading as well, thank you!
  • kiwi lady
    June 6, 2005 - 12:11 pm
    Hello everyone

    I have posted since I got back.

    The double spiral. The explanation of the spiral in Maori art and symbolism has been explained by another poster. I have no idea what the double spiral means. I am not an expert in Maori culture I really only know a little from the blended culture that we all enjoy here. (I love the fact that we have this unique blending which one cannot see til we leave NZ or stand back and think about it)

    I still cannot help thinking that Keri did not CONTRIVE her style of elaborate symbolism more from allowing the Maori part of her take over as she wrote. Maori are very spiritual and still believe in Mythical creatures such as the Taniwha who can take the form of something like a log in a river. Taniwha is a water creature of Maori mythology.

    Maybe because I am a kiwi I do not see what you see in this book!

    I do know I am enjoying reading it a second time and enjoying your response to what you read.


    kiwi lady
    June 6, 2005 - 12:17 pm
    Jade or Pounamu as we call it is a stone that has a spiritual connection with Maori. Its more than a gem to them. It is regarded as a healing stone, a stone with an energy. Pounamu should always be given as a gift. You should not purchase it for yourself.


    June 6, 2005 - 12:34 pm
    I made up a list of things I though were interesting or important about Joe as I was going along.

    -His wife Hana died 3 years ago from flu at age 30, along with their baby, Timote, age 10 months – Joe is still mourning.

    -It was Hana in the Prologue (pg 6) who wanted to keep Simon when Joe found him washed up. Her last words to Joe were, "O Ngakau, mind our child." His own son was dead, so she was referring to Simon. Joe thinks: "It gnaws at him: he has this one thing left of her, this secondhand, barely-touched half-formed relic of her presence. And he no longer really wants it..."

    -Joe never officially adopted Simon.

    -People think Joe is a “good bloke.” He does seem very pleasant, outgoing, and kind to Simon, like a long-suffering father dealing with all of his son's trouble.

    -When sober, he is often very physically loving towards Simon; but he hit him hard in front of Kerewin.

    -He’s an alcoholic. Kerewin first saw him in a bar "in the middle of a rambling drunken [coarse] anecdote."

    -He lets Simon drink alcohol. Is this part of Maori culture to allow little children to drink so much alcohol, or is it just Joe and Kerewin?

    -Joe has a scar running from right shoulder blade down in a curve across his ribs

    -He is 3/4 ? Maori

    -To Kerewin, he looks "bitter until he smiles".

    -Joe's house is plain and sterile, "antiseptically clean" – Kerewin sees it as “barren cleanliness” – He explains that some of his possessions were broken when Simon threw them at the wall.

    -Kerewin says he has “evil shadows – ghosts riding on his shoulders”

    -Joe comes on fast as a friend. (I think too fast.) As soon as he meets Kerewin, he pretty much makes himself at home, even asks to shower in her home, invites her over to his place, sends her presents, signs note with XXXX.

    -Joe says things about Simon such as: “…if bloody Haimona doesn’t wreck things, maybe she’ll want to come back again.” "Behve yourself, Haimona. Don't let's spoil it, eh...It would be nice to have a friend again, somebody we could talk with who wasn't a relation." This suggests Joe doesn't have friends.

    -Kerewin is suspicious of Joe when he talks at length about Simon. She thinks: "There is something peculiar about all this pleading. As though I'm being set up, or primed....It doesn't feel right. Has he got some strange hope I'm going to be the kid's substitute mother..."

    June 6, 2005 - 12:42 pm
    Carolyn: That is so interesting about jade in the Maori culture!!

    Do you remember if Kerewin received her jade collection as gifts?


    kiwi lady
    June 6, 2005 - 12:51 pm
    Apparently at our stand in the World Trade fair being held in Japan at the moment there is a large Pounamu carving as centre piece. Its only a small exibit compared to many others but its crowded apparently. The Japanese love the carving and the Pounamu and want to stand and look at it and touch it. I believe the exhibit exudes peace and tranquillity and the Japanese relate to that. They say its the Pounamu that is attracting the crowds.

    No I do not know if she was given the Pounamu. If its pieces not carved jewellery she may have found it and regarded it as a gift from the earth if they are pieces they may be inherited pieces. The best Pounamu is found in the South Island where the Jade industry is sited. Maori have authority over the mining of Jade. Jade is strictly regulated and people who illegally mine it are prosecuted. Someone was prosecuted recently for having a massive block in their possession. It was huge!

    I am still waiting for someone to give me a Pounamu pendant! My grandaughter has a beautiful piece given to her by her grandmother who was given it by her MIL who was Maori. Maybe I can ask for a pendant for my 60th from the kids. I would like one in Maori traditional design. The long slim pendant hanging from a fine leather tie for round the neck. There are some fine pendants being worn by Maori women here and I love to look at them. Some of them are inherited and very old.


    June 6, 2005 - 12:56 pm

    Ginny--Paul would have been quoting (or referring back to) Proverbs. There was no Old Testament when he was writing, just the Hebrew scriptures. Paul's letter are the first written of the materials in the NT and it's not officially the NT as we know it until somewhere around the second century. Anyhoo, the OT were the scriptures Jesus (and Paul) knew. Jesus is always referring to the Law and the Prophets. The Law is Genesis-2Kings and the Prophets are the Prophets. The Writings get officially put in later although some of them were written earlier. Ooops, I'm rambling.

    June 6, 2005 - 01:04 pm
    Ginny--OED on the colors you asked about:

    murrey--reddish purple
    ruddle--red ochre used for marking sheep
    madder--reddish purple
    solferino--bright crimson

    Traude S
    June 6, 2005 - 01:39 pm
    yes, MARNI, it's a good idea to keep a record of the characters' respective attributes as they slowly, very slowly, emerge.

    As for the shower, Simon went there before Joe did. In the bathroom Joe found one of the gems Simon had taken from Kerewin's collection -- and severely physically punished him for it.

    But during his peregrinations and breakins, Simon had routinely stolen things - that much we learn early on from the (knowing) operator's talks with Kerewin.

    Joe bears watching.
    Again I submit that it is impossible, for me at least, to arrive at a pat character analysis of the protagonists without further reading.

    Of course the Maori would (have to) be familiar with biblical references, how could they not- those who survived and were force-fed over subsequent generations-, had in their bones, so to speak, but what seems to be important is the linking, the fusion of the biblical reference with Maori myths.

    This is a supposition,, and conjecture, on my part and, as always, I defer to CAROLYN.

    June 6, 2005 - 03:17 pm
    I just read an interesting comment from someone in a classic literature book club that I participate in. We're reading Robinson Crusoe (published in 1719). A member of the book club found a comment by James Joyce about the British colonist. I thought I'd share it because New Zealand was colonized by the British beginning in the 18th century. Here goes:

    "Novelist James Joyce eloquently noted that the true symbol of the British conquest is Robinson Crusoe: 'He is the true prototype of the British colonist… The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit is in Crusoe: the manly independence, the unconscious cruelty, the persistence, the slow yet efficient intelligence, the sexual apathy, the calculating taciturnity.'"

    June 7, 2005 - 06:18 am
    OK!! LOTS going on here. Let's start out FIRST with some new directions for this new section to give you all something to say, and then I want to go back and say something on some of the neato stuff you have talked about.

    We now enter the second section, which in my book brings us to half way thru.

    I wish I had taken my own suggestion and written down what I personally thought of Joe in the first section. But I didn't. I HAVE written down my predictions for Kerewin's coming behavior tho, to me, the signals are just as sharp as Joe's were but I won't say now and at the end I'll put up a photo of my notes, whether or not I was right. I think as we read we ALL make conclusions and I was dead right with mine on Joe.

    There were SO many signs, weren't there? A 6 ? year old smoking, drinking, not going to school, parent doesn't care, (oh but he DOES), parent doesn't know where he is, battered, parent drunk half of the time, parent says maybe it's good he did get banged up there because of what happened…just absolutely revolting, you really don't need a gun pointed at YOU, do you, to know what's going on?

    Did it surprise you who the batterer was?

    But some things in this section DID surprise me, very much.

    I have questions.

  • 1. Why did Kerewin NOT go to the authorities? What was her excuse? Was it realistic?

  • 2. Why do you think she invited Joe and Simon on a vacation with her after she discovered Joe's secret?

  • 3. Does she continue to refer to the child as a brat or it, or any other disassociated terms?

  • 4.
    "So you picked up the techniques, but not the spirit of it?" (next to last page of current reading schedule)

  • A. What was your reaction to Kerewin's beating of Joe?

  • B. What is the significance of the ring, "Bright as their smiles, seemingly unbroken as their friendship." (last sentence in this segment).

  • C. "I'm good enough to take the beginners…I started out with a cold temper, fast reactions, a killer instinct, as well as Maori ancestors…all of which makes me someone to avoid when I'm in a nasty mood. Don't worry," she says ginning, her teeth shining red in the light from the open firebox door…

    What was your reaction to this speech?

  • 6. What, in your opinion, did the author do well in this section? What, if anything, do you think she did poorly?

  • 7. What is meant by Kerwein's dream about teeth?

    Let's hear from YOU!!

  • I think fire definitely has to be added to our list of symbols. I don't think you really want to hear my opinion of this section of the book, or the characters, so the floor is now open for you, and I'd like truly to hear what YOU think. AIEEEEE! (Watch out for flying Ninjas. HAI!)
  • Traude S
    June 7, 2005 - 01:32 pm
    GINNY, obviously we are not all on the proverbial "same page" because several people have the paperback; I have the hardcover from the library, and I am UNABLE to follow the outline and, more important, the questions in your previous post.

    It was clear to me early on that the chapter arrangements and, logically, the page numbers are totally different in the paperback edition from those in the hardcover.

    That has concerned me from the very beginning, as I have posted. My concerns were not addressed. And though I may be in the minority, I'll voice them again.

    This is the table of Contents of the hardcover (following the Prologue)

    I Season of the Day Moon

    1 Portrait of a Sandal
    2 Feelers
    3 Leaps in the Dark
    II The Sea Round
    4 A Place to Sleep by Day
    5 Spring Tide, Neap Tide, Ebb Tide, Flood
    6 Ka Tata Te Po
    With only this lineup before me, how can I tell WHERE exactly we are?

    Does the paperback edition list the SAME chapter TITLES?
    Since the current assignment is chapters 1 and 2, can we assume that it ends with the last word in "Feelers"?
    To preclude further confusion, would it be possible to LIST the chapter titles?

    Thank you for accommodating fossils like me who have the hardcover. At this point I have no idea where I am supposed to be in this discussion.

    June 7, 2005 - 02:11 pm
    OK good point, Traude, these editions are REALLY crazy and different aren't they?

    Thank you for posting that so we can see where WE are?

    WE are now reading up to the end of A Place to Sleep by Day?

    So you'd read up to and including A Place to Sleep by Day, and I can put up the last Chapter title in the heading right now, thank you.

    (That is half way thru the paperback).

    No wonder you're all so quiet! Does this help??

    Cat got everybody's tongue? Haha it had mine, last night, but I think that there's a lot to discuss here, especially #6 and #7 up there, what are your thoughts?

    I can't get away from thinking about Kevin's archetypes, I love archetypes and want to find out more now, great work, Kevin.

    Ok my own take on the now removed Question #4, I keep forgetting that our Deems here is a Biblical scholar, she teaches the Bible as Literature, and despite my own two courses in OT and NT, I had either forgotten that about Proverbs or never knew it, thank you DEEMS!

    I think we are getting just a world of really fascinating adjunct information here, it's wonderful really as per the participants are making the experience.

    Like Carolyn and the jade, and the I did not know that, never buy for yourself, isn't this fascinating?

    Also I forgot to put something about "auras" in the heading, have you heard of people who see auras and do YOU believe in them?

    And of course, again, I may have missed it, but am on the lookout for the meaning of the title, we're half way thru, perhaps you covered this while I was in Europe? I must reread the Pre-Discussion (thought I had but may have not taken it all in, jet lag and all).

    MIPPY!!! That was YOU! with the MCdeV and the colors, (thank you Deems, the wonderful OED), but I thought it was Marni! Mea culpa!! I shall fix in the heading immediately.

    (Funny thing, last night I woke up early and thought…Mippy, I know MIppy said something somewhere….but this voice said (hahaha) but you never said anything TO her…and this other voice said ( hahaha) yes but I can't FIND where she said what she said!!!! Well there you are, Mippy/ Marni!! MM!

    I'll fix that! And now that you know the colors, why, Deems does it say those strange terms are used, (does it?) I have never heard them before!

    Good questions, MM! hahaaha

    Marni, 15 decades, doesn't the book say that's usually the religious who carry those? And the child calls self Clare? As in Poor Clare, one wonders? Is there a Nun in the Closet here, one wonders?

    I don't know about you all but I absolutely LOVED the dissolute Lord's grandson thingie, just loved it, did you think it was hokey? I loved it.

    Carolyn, I did not know there was a World Trade Fair going on, can you give us a link to that Pounamu carving? How interesting this all is!!! Thank you also for telling us what the traditional Maori pendant looks like, what a lot we're learning here!

    Oh good point, Traude on the fusion between Maori myths and Biblical references, good job!

    Marni, how does Robinson Crusoe hold up after all these years? I loved that book! What a quote from Joyce!!! Thank you!

    Ok here's my problem with the Interpretation Question, formerly question 4. To me there's a subtle difference in the two from Proverbs and Romans, and I want to concentrate on the NT one but maybe the OT one would shed more light. We know Deems has said both Christ and Paul referred back to the Law and the Prophets, and we also know that this verse itself is quite…would you say derivative of the walk with him twain idea Christ espoused?

    OK the way it's worded in Romans seems to suggest to me, well look at it:

    In Romans 12:20 …."Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."

    If this were in Latin (and I don't have a Vulgate and need one) but this would be a specific type of sentence. I don't know what the sense of the original was. But in THIS one at least, the protasis is is in the Imperative, you feed him you give him drink. Then the rest is and in so doing you will heap coals of fire (as understood in the idiom) on his head if you return good for evil. Conditional sentence. He'll feel bad, as we've said.

  • Joe says he'll stay all night and play chess , "because you looked after Hemi, and I'd like to do that." He's returning her good deed and trying to reciprocate and do something nice.

    She sees it as "Heap coals of fire upon my head."

    But he's not heaping. There's something here about the way she says it that makes me feel she thinks he's doing it. I don't think he is.

    I don't think he realizes she did not want to be nice to the child. I don't think this action IS the application of the "coals of fire" in the sense she takes it as. She may FEEL guilty and FEEL that now she has coals of guilty fire on her head, as you've all said, but (here we are talking about fire on heads again) HE did not do it, that's all I'm saying and I think that phrase is misued here.

    In order for it to BE this, Joe would have to be aware of it and SHE would have to be aware of what he was doing, they both would have to be aware, does this make sense?

    I couldn't figure out if she was blaming him for her own guilty feeling or what, but I truly don't think this idiom applies here as she has used it. She may just be reacting to how SHE feels, but again there's that verb Heap.

    If she had left that off I am not thinking I would have had a problem but she didn't. And I'm not sure what it means.

    (I know this is pilpul, but this is the type of trivia that drives ME nuts, but let's hear from THEE) hahaaha
  • Ginny
    June 7, 2005 - 02:26 pm
    Patwest, thank you for that super HTML page of former For Your Consideration, Chapters 1 and 2 link in the heading.

    kiwi lady
    June 7, 2005 - 02:29 pm
    Kerewin - Obviously abused in some way. Perhaps in a marriage where she had chosen her partner in a dysfunctional manner. She had been abused as a child and like many other abused children chose an abuser as a partner. Staying within the comfort zone the experts say. She has bottled up her pain and uses alcohol to dull her internal pain. She recognises that both Joe and SP are in pain also.

    SP - A child who has been abused maybe even kidnapped and abused before he came to live with Joe and his late wife. Joe loses his son and his wife in one fell swoop. He has unresolved grief. He abuses SP only after drinking. When he drinks his inhibitions are unleashed and he takes out his anger on SP. SP is a difficult child. He needs someone who understands his pain too and who is willing to work with him to enable him to express his early trauma. Joe is not that person as he is damaged himself. ( We adopted two older children and there were issues to deal with there and there were two very difficult years)

    Joe dealing with unresolved anger and grief. He does care for SP but all the other stuff gets in the way. He becomes an abuser.

    When I read a book the most important feature of the book is the drawing of the characters. The style is not as important to me as how realistic the characters are. This book may make us uncomfortable but its really realistic. We are seeing a side of life that is real and it exists in every society. If Keri makes you hate a character, empathise with a character, understand a character she has done a good job.


    June 7, 2005 - 02:30 pm
    the author gives us a summary, which we may indeed need:
    (Penquin edition, p. 95):
    So. We take up an old cold trail -- what clues do we have, Sherlock?
    ... A rosary and a ring. A dead boat in deep water, and two dead
    people. An inarticulate child, a tongue-locked mind.

    That's why Simon doesn't speak: a tongue-locked mind!
    Kerewin apparently does think he is mute because of some trauma.

    And she falls asleep trying to decide whether to go to the police and to check hospital records. Will she?

    June 7, 2005 - 04:28 pm
    GINNY says"I don't seem to have a handle on Joe, at all. How would you all describe HIM? Somehow for me he seems kind of amorphous? "

    I agree. There is a lot about Joe that we don't know yet (where he got his scar, for example). But, like Kerewin and SP, he is almost two characters: at times seeming like the ideal boyfriend: considerate, courteous, helping with the housework, cooking even. This seems to me overdone, it doesn't ring true somehow. The dark side of him is not simply drink: there is more to it than that.

    Both Kerewin and SP have a side to them that is more than human, transcendent in some way. Joe lacks that and is very afraid of it -- he punishes SP when SP makes his musical towers and really dislikes it that Kerewin can hear them too. I assume these represent a mystical, otherworldly life that the other two are connected to and Joe isn't. Perhaps it is this common other dimension that makes SP immediately bond to Kerewin and give her his rosary.

    kiwi lady
    June 7, 2005 - 04:41 pm
    Joan - Repressed anger combined with drunkeness is a volatile mix. I do not believe he is either suffering from a serious mental illness or he is just plain evil. Repressed anger is a very dangerous emotion when let loose.


    June 7, 2005 - 05:29 pm
    I agree c/ Carolyn that the characters are the most important part of any story;essential if one is to become involved.

    However, Hulmes writing style pays a big role, IMO, in bringing our these personalities. It is evocative, providing a mood as well as a description. we get to know the main characters well, from the inside, as it were. The verbal expressions, like ‘hokay okay” and ‘apricocks’ are very individual, and help make the character real to me. And I find that I like the woman very much, just from 'listening' to the chatter of her own thoughts.

    I find myself liking Joe as well, knowing how much he hates what he does to Simon, even though I want to knock him into next week when he pick up that d--- belt! The amount of alcohol consumed on a routine basis by all these characters staggers me. And even knowing that Joe loses judgement and control after drinking, apparently no one seems to consider not drinking a reasonable option.

    KIWI, you're our NZ expert. Is heavy alcohol consumption a problem among the Maori?



    kiwi lady
    June 7, 2005 - 05:57 pm
    Amongst some Maori yes alcohol abuse is a problem. However there is much being done these days by the various Maori Health providers and the elders to address this problem. If you ask me alcohol is a big problem with all sectors of our society, professionals and blue collar workers alike. Pity they don't hit alcohol like they do smoking. I have never heard of anyone committing murder either with their hands or with a motor vehicle after smoking tobacco but alcohol abuse seems to be tolerated. I think advertising should be banned ( and its all aimed at young people) and the price should go up. Abuse of alcohol should be made as unpopular as smoking in our society.


    June 7, 2005 - 06:27 pm
    Re: "When he [Joe] drinks his inhibitions are unleashed and he takes out his anger on SP."

    Joe hits Simon whether drunk or sober, not just when drunk. For example, pg 95 paperback - Joe arrived and Kerewin began to tell Joe a story about how Simon "took on an adult," a story she thought amusing. She didn't have a chance to finish when Joe "nods coldly, his eyes on his son. Simon's shrinking back against the wall. [He knows what's coming.] I don't get to finish the story because the boy gets hit, twice, hard. 'I told you before, don't you ever....'"

    Joe's inhibitions are unleashed whether he's drinking or not.

    I agree that Joe is grappling with unresolved anger and grief over the deaths of his wife and baby. He takes it out on Simon.

    When I think about Simon in this section, I think of the term "WHIPPING BOY." A whipping boy is a person or thing made to bear the blame for someone else's actions; a scapegoat. That's what Simon is.

    Simon is such a tragic figure that I have to see him as symbolic, not just as real. (It's too difficult for me to see him just as real. It's too awful.) Simon lived when Joe's real son died. Also, Simon is a very blond blue-eyed white boy. Joe may be subconsciously blaming Simon for other unhappinesses in his life, too, perhaps deep-seated hatred for the white man.

    Simon can't fight back like a man, but he sure fights back as a strong little boy.

    Joe has forgotten his wife's last words: "O Ngakau, mind our child."

    June 7, 2005 - 06:39 pm
    Kerewin notices: "I had already learned that any kind of thieving is totally forbidden. So is anything resembling lying it seems, and woe betide the brat if he doesn't do whatever he's told to, more or less on the instant. The matter is settled right then, thump, that's it. It always looks so ridiculous, Joe hefty and twice his child's size - BUT THAT'S THE WAY WE DO IT IN GOOD OLD GODZONE......anyway, the hell with it, what business of mine is it how he chooses to bring up his son?"

    What does Kerewin mean: "THAT'S THE WAY WE DO IT IN GOOD OLD GODZONE"? Is severe swift corporal punishment typically the way children are disciplined in NZ?

    I think it is important to note Kerewin's attitude regarding the punishment. She doesn't do anything about it here. To be honest, I couldn't just stand by and watch something like this. But, then again, I'm not in her shoes.

    June 7, 2005 - 07:01 pm
    Simon thinks, "The smell of the sea was the smell of blood. He didn't know why the two should smell the same, because they were very different, but they seemed to be inextricably mingled. Where one was, there was the other."

    I wonder if this is tying back to the mysterious Prologue - in the boat. Was Simon tortured, abused, bloody, at sea in the boat? Is that why he associates the smell of the sea with the smell of blood?

    kiwi lady
    June 7, 2005 - 08:08 pm
    This book was written 20 yrs ago or more. It was published in 1984. Polynesian families do use corporal punishment it is part of the culture and the practice is one of the things being addressed. Parents are being given the skills to be able to use other forms of discipline such as time out to deal with their children. Smacking was still in vogue in 1984 for punishment and probably would have been the same in the US. However beating was not the norm amongst most NZ families. We are just like you no different. Our society is made up of many cultures just like yours.

    Keri may have been speaking of Maori families when she says "This is how we do it in Godzone" Today mainstream NZ does not condone beating children. However there is a section of society who still believes a smacked bottom is a last resort punishment when all else fails.

    I think child abuse occurs in all societies. Its hidden in higher income families but it still occurs. I can think of a high income family I knew where the wife beat the children and was also verbally cruel to the children. It was never done except behind closed doors where nobody else would find out. I found out because one of the children told me. The children had holidays to Disneyland, they had a beach cottage and beautiful clothes lots of activities and loads of toys but they were beaten by their mother.

    There is much effort being put in here to break the cycle of abuse. The Maori girl next to me is a brilliant mum and has done parenting courses and I marvel at the way she handles her four children. I believe parenting classes should be compulsory for all high school students.

    At least these problems are out in the open here and we are not in denial. Because people are reported and we talk about it it probably seems to be more of a problem than in other countries where a culture of silence is prevalent.


    June 7, 2005 - 08:35 pm
    Think it may be interesting as another look at the world. There will be much in common with other cultures, and of course differences. Colkot

    June 7, 2005 - 08:52 pm
    My son was born in 1976. The US was in the midst of all kinds of changes in the '70's, including treatment of children and the relationship between children and parents and between children and school teachers. Everybody I knew was into stuff like breast feeding rather than using formula, Dr. Spock, no corporal punishment, the child comes first instead of the old "don't speak unless you are spoken to" that I was raised with.

    I was determined not to hit my son as he grew up because I had been hit a lot and was determined to be a better mother. There seemed to be plenty of other ways to discipline my son UNTIL at age 2 he wouldn't sit in the bathtub when taking his bath. He kept standing up no matter what I did or said. One day he slipped and hit his mouth on the tub and chipped his baby tooth. I was at my wit's end because even that didn't stop him from standing. I read an article about how a parent should whack a child on the butt with a wooden spoon in circumstances like this. The spoon supposedly didn't hurt much but made a huge noise and scared the child. I tried it at bath time. Whack. And my little boy had a huge red welt in the shape of the spoon on his butt. He had a bruise for days. It did work. My son didn't stand up in the tub anymore. But that was the end of corporal punishment in our family.

    June 7, 2005 - 09:06 pm
    On pg 126 paperback when Kerewin is showing Simon things on the beach and naming them, Simon thinks: "....knowing names is nice, but it don't mean much....Names aren't much. The things are. Laughing secretly at himself. BECAUSE YOU CAN'T SAY NAMES, CLARE."

    This makes me think back again to the horrible boat scene in the Prologue and why Simon is mute. It sounds to me as if he were kidnapped and threatened if he told anyone his name.

    He's thinking even though she didn't know his name, he still was important.

    This section of the book - Simon and Kerewin on the beach - was so sad and moving and Simon was so sweet and tragic. He cried when Kerewin cut the oysters (clams?) and Simon thought they were being hurt. We see a very tender, sensitive, weeping, sadly resigned, strangely mature little 6-year old.

    June 7, 2005 - 10:10 pm
    Re above question 1: Why did Kerewin NOT go to the authorities? What was her excuse? Was it realistic?

    I don't think she has a good excuse. She asks herself why doesn't she call Child Welfare and report the situation; she reviews reasons why:

    -The authorities might question why she didn't call them sooner, why she didn't suspect what was going on sooner.

    -She admits to herself that she knew all along, and then she debates with herself about this. She really knew.

    -Then she thinks of the friendship (Joe) she will miss if she reports to the authorities.

    -Joe would be sent to prison and Simon removed from his home.

    Kerewin says: "It's the sick twisted secrecy of it...And by the look of the scars on him, it's all been going on for a long long time...I wouldn't bash a dog in the fashion you've hurt your've managed to make him ashamed of what you've done."

    And still Kerewin doesn't call the authorities. She thinks she'd have to "get involved," "look out for Simon."

    But neither did Joe's relatives, who were sick about the situation. And they knew about it a lot longer than Kerewin.

    June 7, 2005 - 10:29 pm
    I think we see an extremely important aspect of Kerewin when she is taking care of Simon after she discovers his beating by Joe. She's wondering what to do. Then Simon looks "arrogant" and "aloof" and Kerewin gets upset. She says, "What the hell have I done to deserve this coldshoulder carry-on?...I can understand why Joe would have a go at you...." Then Kerewin, in astonishment at herself, feels guilty.

    This amazed me. After the horror she has seen that she would have this reaction to Simon's demeanor - that she felt for a moment that he deserved what he got.

    I'm not sure what a psychiatrist would call this reaction. She is a person with extreme personal problems. But, I have trouble understanding this reaction. She is like a bratty child.

    June 8, 2005 - 04:33 am
    Great points, Marni and Carolyn.

    Carolyn, I agree with you that a course in parenting should be required in every school. Are there countries where people are in denial about battering of children?!?

    Welcome Colkot, you can easily catch up in the book, and we look forward to hearing your points of view.

    Marni, on the "That's how they do it in good old Godzone," or whatever remark she made, I thought that might have been a reference to something in her own past? It sounds bitter, and I thought she might have been saying something there about herself.

    One thing Hulme does do well in this section (Question #5) is to show us intimately the thoughts and feelings of battered (and the incidents here go way beyond spanking or normal corporal punishment, he beats the child into a limp pulp) and batterer and the pitiful defensive (on the part of the battered) relationship. I have read that these batterers are often charming people, sorry later, apologetic, etc., and she sort of shows this, too). I think she does a super job in that aspect, despite our repugnance for the subject and this particular character.

    Also, Everyone, I request that we be careful here on all sides about generalizing, something that is a real hazard in this series, or characterizing incidents in a book as reflective of the practices of a country, anywhere. I don't think we can say the entire country (certainly not in real life and not even in the book) espouses this practice, there are quite a few references to Joe's relatives being disgusted with him, themselves. The cousins, etc., lots of dark sort of warnings. Why these people don't DO something is not clear. Maybe THEY are afraid of Joe, tho I doubt it.

    He's even afraid for Kerewin to eat dinner with the two old folks, lest his secret be let out, so there are plenty of people who don't think much of what he's doing (or him, apparently) and the child's long absences from school may have just been explained also. I assume if the child walked into school when able showing visible marks some authority would be called. I taught school in the late 70's and know intimately what can be done.

    Simon's behavior has also just been illuminated and reminds me of several stories, I'll tell one. We have a SeniorNetter who just retired after 32 years teaching, the last years in Special Ed. She told me once a story about one of her children who was so violent it became a problem, that was his method of solving problems and dealing with anger. He kept hitting the others and was often uncontrolable. She asked the parents to come in for a conference, and when she had explained the problem, the father asked, "Air there no limbs?" She thought he was talking about arms and legs and said why, yes, there are, and he said well just take one (a tree limb) and whup the daylights out of him. So the child learned at home and acted out the way he had been shown.

    So this is a problem, nobody can deny that. It's not endemic to any country or people, or time period. It's not a good thing and the reader can't help feeling antagonistic to Joe. I don't see anything to defend in him, except in his Dr. Jekyl mode he displays love for the child.

    I think, Marni, and I agree, that Kerewin's thoughts were strange, and I think Hulme, in showing us that just gave us in that fleeting glance that you recount so well in your post of her thoughts, what happens when "the beast within" gets a moment or two in the sunlight. In this Hulme has given the character more depth. Some people think all of us have a beast within. If you watch the Sopranos you've heard the song "God help the beast in me." I am not sure that people who have not experienced abuse can have the same understanding or not, supposedly we all do.

    I think the thing to keep reminding ourselves is the battering here is way way WAY beyond any parental chastisement. It's easy to lose sight of that, being engrossed in the plot and Kerewin's thoughts.

    I find it easier to tell who is talking in this section, and am not sure if it's ME and I have just gotten used to how she expresses herself or if she has changed something, did you all feel that way? It's OK to express outrage over what Joe is doing, I think it may have been exaggerated for a reason.

    Joan K, Mippy, wonderful thougths also, back when I have had breakfast!

    Ann Alden
    June 8, 2005 - 09:28 am
    Just coming back in after hospitals and flu happening here in my home.

    Has no one mentioned the poem referral(PPBk-pge 35)

    Frae ghosties an ghoulies

    an longlegged beasties

    an things that gae bump!

    in the night,

    guid God deliver us.....

    Is this a Robert Burns poem? Or does it come from an Indiana writer, like, James Whitcomb Riley or an Ohio poet, Thurber?? I thought that Kerewin had had an extensive education somewhere in her past. She is very intelligent, beyond many. Knows biology, oceanography, poetry. Where does this come from.

    She is in a pickle when she decides not to report Joe's beating of Simon. She has finally let someone into her life and doesn't want to lose them. IMHO, she decides that, alone, she can handle Joe and Simon and stop the beating which is so far out of control that I can't imagine anyone without strong credentials being able to help Joe. His anger at the world is unbelievable! Its is sick!

    I have tried for years to impress anyone with the teaching of 'parenting' in the schools plus 'conflict resolution': from the day they enter school at Kindergarten level. There are schools across the country that do teach 'conflict resolution' but 'parenting' is not offered. We don't seem to have improved much as a civilization, in spite of these courses that are around.

    Traude S
    June 8, 2005 - 10:44 am
    The caveat is well placed.

    And right away I wonder what comparison, basis, standard, precedent, personal judgment (???) we are, or COULD in fact be, applying when asking what the author did well or did poorly. Isn't that a subjective view? HOW could WE possibly know THOSE circumstances ???

    Do we look at every book and wonder half way through what the author did well or what he/she did poorly? If so, it has totally escaped me until now.

    Regarding our assigned place in the book:
    My question of where we are in the text, paperback vs. hardcover (and paperback apparently trumps), remains unanswered.
    I therefore consider myself liberated from the assignments and will proceed at my own speed, or ad libitum .

    June 8, 2005 - 10:50 am
    Traude, I answered you? I believe you are not seeing a lot of prior posts when you come to this discussion.

    Might I ask what path, in what way you come IN to this discussion? You are obviously missing posts.

    I not only answered your question I went into it in some detail.

    As far as this?

    And right away I wonder what standard we are, we COULD, in fact applying when asking what the author did well or did poorly. Isn't that a merely subjective view?

    What conmparison, what standard, what precedent, is used as a basis for this, I wonder? Do we look at every book and wonder half way through what the author did well or what he/she did poorly? If so, it has totally escaped me until now.

    Yes it's totally subjective, that's all we ever do actually in book discussions, isn't it? We give our own subjective opinions. Many people seem to think their opinions are God's law or something but they are, in fact, only subjective opinions.

    As far as do we look at every book and wonder half way through what the author did well or what she did poorly, let me ask YOU something?

    Given the subject matter here, what would have been YOUR question? I don't know about anybody else here but I was totally glad to be able to fall back on less emotional issues (tho I think I asked about those as well) like literary criticism, than the book presents, I know several people are stymied for ANYTHING to say and are trying VERY hard, like the person who just posted above me, (hello Annie!), to say something nice and contributory.

    Therefore please do not attempt to limit the parameters of this discussion. Please see the Guidelines for Book Discussions in the heading here.

    June 8, 2005 - 11:25 am
    Re: Question 2. Why do you think she invited Joe and Simon on a vacation with her after she discovered Joe's secret?

    It seems as though Kerewin's vacation home by the sea is a place of mystical rejuvenation and healing for Kerewin. She says upon arrival "O Thou art beyond all good but truly this land and sea is your dwelling place...."

    Maybe she thinks it can be a place of healing for Joe and Simon.

    I was a little confused about this place being by the sea - being a different and more special sea from where her tower was built. I thought the tower was by the sea. But the vacation spot seems different. Sounds like it's directly on the ocean and maybe the tower is on a smaller body of water?

    Kerewin says, "O sea, you're the blood of me." Hmmm. The sea is on our symbols list. The sea is life blood, healing. Simon associates the smell of the sea with the smell of blood.

    June 8, 2005 - 11:38 am
    Re: 3. Does she continue to refer to the child as a brat or it, or any other disassociated terms?

    She certainly does. She thinks of him in terms like "you unintelligent little creep," "very stupid child," "very surly brat," etc.

    Kerewin certainly is a mystery. She vacillates back and forth thinking of Simon as a brat and as a sweet little boy and as a tortured victim.

    June 8, 2005 - 11:42 am
    When Kerewin finds Simon passed out in her tower (after a terrible beating), she puts him in the shower and turns on the water to wake him up. Simon starts screaming in panic. He screams and screams and sobs. Kerewin asks him, "Did you think that was the sea or something? The same water where you almost drowned?"

    We see the sea as a place of terror and as a place of healing.

    June 8, 2005 - 12:19 pm
    Re: 6. What is meant by Kerewin's dream about teeth?

    This nightmare was so bizarre. I don't know what's going on. But at one point in the dream it seems like a vampire is sucking blood at her neck. I can't help but think of the scar on her neck. Any other thoughts?

    Earlier in the book, when Kerewin was fixing the fire, she was described as having red teeth, from the firelight. The picture made her sound almost like a monster.

    Upon waking from this dream, Kerewin has an "ache in her gut" like "the aftermath to a blow in the stomach." So, she knows how it feels to be hit in the stomach. When did this happen? Was she an abused child, too? Earlier she made a remark about how childhood was not the best time of life, or something to that affect. Maybe that explains why she later took aikodo lessons in Japan - for protection - although it is supposed to be for "reconciling the world," making "human beings one family."

    June 8, 2005 - 01:35 pm
    I'm behind a bit as a I had a very very busy week. However, I wanted to comment now, when it is already too late, as opposed to much much later, about Marni's comment that Simon is a symbol--how obvious! Thanks for sharing this insight. This is the best thing about an on-line book club, all the other brains clueing me in on what I miss WHILE I'm reading.


    June 8, 2005 - 01:58 pm
    One of the most beautiful plants that grows in New Zealand is the Rough or Wooly Tree Fern, called Wheki Ponga in Maori (there is another Maori name for it that I don't know), or Dicksonia fibrosa in Latin. Tree ferns are not really trees, the interior or their trunk is just roots from the frond hanging down inside the exterior of leaves from many prior years. When the new growth appears it is a dense assortment of fiddleheads in the middle of the remaining fronds from last year. The fiddleheads are beautiful green when they first appear, then turn brown, and are curved tightly upon themselves in the center of the new leaves, and the new fronds open up by the unfurling of these fiddleheads followed up the rachis or midrib by the furling out of the blade part of the fern.

    The Wheki Ponga is a particularly beautiful tree fern, if one can imagine amongst a genus of plants so stunning that any one could stand out.

    New Zealand's Wheki-Ponga

    I find this one of the most beautiful spirals in nature that I've ever seen, that of the fiddlehead of a fern before it is unfurled. The fronds of the Wheki Ponga can get up to a few meters long from this small fiddlehead. This is part of why I related so strongly to the beginning of the book, knowing what nature is capable of while looking at her enhances her beauty.

    Thanks, Scrawler, for mentioning these.


    June 8, 2005 - 02:06 pm

    My take on the expression 'heaping coals of fire' is simply that Joe is attempting to melt the heart and mind of his enemy with kindness. These are coals of fire to the recipient only because she is steadfast in retaining her identity as an enemy. This is a double-edged expression, with not responsibility for making what is heaped upon the recipient hot to anyone but the recipient.

    If this were not the case, if Joe's heaping coals of fire was a cruelty on Joe's part, why would the Lord be rewarding Joe? For no reason. Therefore, she herself is casting coals of fire upon her head, not Joe. Kerewin is using it here because she knows she is in the wrong by not responding with kindness to kindness. She is judging herself, not Joe.

    She's being snarky to herself. One can just be tired and decline, or simply decline.


    June 8, 2005 - 02:36 pm
    " I still cannot help thinking that Keri did not CONTRIVE her style of elaborate symbolism more from allowing the Maori part of her take over as she wrote." Carolyn

    Well, after reading the part with the colors and looking it all up I could not agree with you more.

    "Stammel" is from the same Latin root as "stamen," meaning thread. So, this red color is also the male reproductive organ of a flower. "Stammel" may be used to refer to the color, as the dictionary says, but it usually refers to the coarse cloth used to make undergarments (this from Encarta as I couldn't quite think of how to say it). "Murrey" is another name from that one we saw in Kite Runner, the mulberry tree, or the color mulberry--this tree a symbol of fertility in Arab culture? No, that was the pomegranate, wasn't it? Well, the mulberry tree, aute, is a symbol of fertility in Maori culture it seems! "Ruddle" is a mineral dye, and aluminum iron silicate. The dictionary says it was used to dye sheep at one time. Doesn't New Zealand raise huge amounts of sheep? It can also refer to a fish, Scardinius erythrophthalmus, a European freshwater carp. These animals courtesy of Encarta's on-line dictionary, also. We did madder before, also in Kite Runner, as a primary vegetable dye for red in carpets (Rubia tinctorum).

    So, what do we have, male fertility symbols? Maori fertility symbols? Sheep? Fish? Blech.


    June 8, 2005 - 03:58 pm
    Kerewin--her wild delight and joy in being back at a place that means so much to her. Shouting, running. “I am back. I am here!” “O thou art beyond all good, but truly this land and sea is your dwelling place.” Is she speaking to God? She says for herself that this is ‘my real home’.

    Yet after that high exaltation there is a time of mourning for Kerewin, over the estrangement from her family. Her strong sense of being alone; her regret over her temper and the things she said. What could she/they possibly have done/said for which there is no forgiveness? “They started it. I finished it.“ Family is so important; they are our roots, the ground of who we are.

    Kerewin is showing more emotion in this place than she has shown before. This is a place where she was a child, and where she was once happy.

    Kerewin’s astounding strength and agility: Carrying the boy, she “moves faster, faster , until she’s running over the line of rocks, a series of jumps and fast steps from one spur of rock to the next, no step on the same level, until she comes to the strip of sand at the end of the line”.,/i> WOW!

    In so many ways, I see Kerewin as a truly astonishing woman.


    kiwi lady
    June 8, 2005 - 04:25 pm
    Babi - I identify so much with Kerewin when she experiences the joy at being back in a place she loves so much and she feels such a spiritual awakening there.

    When I go to the Ocean out here at our West Coast Wilderness beaches I feel very close to the Creator and feel joy and also peace. It reminds me of a song I love and this is the chorus.

    Shout to the Lord

    All the earth let us sing

    Power and Majesty Praise to our King

    Mountains Bow down and the seas will roar

    At the sound of his name

    Then the line of the next verse starts

    I sing for joy at the work of your hands

    That song immediately comes to mind as I look at the beauty of the coastline and the rock formations. Then I am aware of the immense power of the surf as it comes in straight from the ocean. I suspect Kerewin has much the same feelings.


    Ann Alden
    June 8, 2005 - 05:14 pm
    I know how your feel when you get to the western seas. Your lovely song sounds like the Psalms in the OT. I can't remember the music but I know that I have seen the words and maybe sung them myself. What gorgeous thought!

    When I said that I had missed 100 posts, I didn't mean that I hadn't read all the above posts before commenting and then went back just a bit so that I could be trying to speak on the same subject that ya'al are. I didn't see anyone mentioning the poems so thought I would mention them.

    One of the things thought early on by Kerewin was that she was above average in intelligence. Where did she learn all the things that she knows about the sea, the earth and the skies?? Hmmmm! Her past and the past of Simon and Joe are really mysterious and not much is brought forth about that time in their lives.

    June 8, 2005 - 06:28 pm
    Here is a web page showing pictures of spirals. Allow time for downloading. Scroll about half way down to the picture of the cauliflower. Did you know the cauliflower has the same spiral structure as the chambered nautilus?


    Ann Alden
    June 8, 2005 - 07:03 pm
    Do you think that the spiral that Kerewin looks at is an Archimedian spiral? It can be used as a method of meditation.

    Ginny, you asked about auras and I didn't see anyone answer you. I have several friends plus one daughter, who claim that they can see auras. I believe it was Simon who could see auras. Some folk have something that I don't have, how about you? Here's a site about auras. Auras

    June 8, 2005 - 07:52 pm
    Why doesn't Simon like to have his hair cut? It's VERY important to him. A couple of thoughts go through my mind.

    -Joe (or someone from the past) hurts him with the scissors when he cuts his hair.

    -Since there are so many religious symbols and references in the book, I'm comparing Simon to someone like Samson who couldn't have his hair cut. When Samson's hair was cut, it sapped his strength.

    Info about Samson: "Samson, in the Bible, judge of Israel. His long hair was a symbol of his vows to God, and because of this covenant Samson was strong. The enemies of his people, the Philistines, accomplished his destruction through the woman Delilah. By cutting his hair she forced him to break his vow and thus destroyed his might. Captured and blinded and chained in the temple of the Philistines, he regained his strength as his hair grew long again, and with his bare hands he pulled down the temple, destroying himself along with his enemies. The Samson cycle was probably drawn from popular oral folk tales and may be a myth connected with the cult of sun worship."

    This is cool because we've discussed fire as a symbol and fire on or around heads: "[The name Samson] can also be translated as Little Shamash...Shamash.... is also the name of a semitic sun-god.....Depictions of co-temporal sun-gods (for example, Shamash) from other religions in the region sometimes depict them having streamers, or hair, surrounding their head, representing the rays of the sun. When the sun loses its rays as it descends each night, the earth becomes colder, and the sun has lost its strength. By shearing it of its hair, the door of the night has robbed it of its strength, but as the next day begins, the hair grows back."

    For more interesting info about Samson:

    Now I'm thinking that Simon's blond hair is an aura in the book.

    kiwi lady
    June 8, 2005 - 08:30 pm
    It may be that SP is afraid of sissors. My little gdaughter is coming up five but she is still phobic about hair cutting. We don't know the reason why. She says she is afraid of the sissors but she uses sissors for arts and crafts so that is not all of the reason.


    June 9, 2005 - 03:46 am
    haha That was a LOOONGG breakfast I had, wasn't it?

    WONDERFUL submissions here, how rich you're making this discussion, thank you all very much!!

    Joan K, photos of spirals in nature, you could lose yourself in that, that cauliflower is a miracle I can barely recognize it AS cauliflower, it's closed, I guess? Amazing. I was so struck by it and that blue thing (looks like a Bishop's staff, actually) that I copied out the photos.

    I've got one too, the Double spiral staircase at the Vatican

    This thing is amazing, it's two intertwined spiral staircases, you meet people coming down when you're going up but they are not on YOUR staircase, just amazing.

    Kleo thank you for those lovely botanical notes, I was quite taken with the Wooly Tree Fern whose roots are within the exterior of leaves from prior years, what an amazing thing, and amazing photos, thank you for that link.

    So many great submissions here!

    Carolyn, thank you for that triumphant hymn and thoughts on Kerwein's past. I liked the point that Ann made that we don't seem to know a great deal about ANY of their pasts, I had not noticed that and I like it.

    Ann, so glad to see you here, thank you for the ghosties and things that go bump in the night prayer. I think but am not positive that it's from the Book of Common Prayer, I just saw it recently somewhere, and was struck by it, too, in the book. I am not sure what the inclusion of it meant, what do you think?

    Marni, I noticed the summary, in the beginning of Chapter 3, too, and that (for me) provided some distance, I am capable of making my own summaries, how did that strike you personally?

    Joan K, super thought on Kerewin and SP having sort of a "more than human transcendent side, "and for bringing up the musical towers, loved that line of thought. I was somewhat confused on all of the emphasis on the child's strange constructions. Carolyn, is this type of thing typical OF Maoris? I have not heard of it before now.

    Babi, you're in Kerewin's corner, then, listening to the chatter of her mind. I think once you get used to the style she does that well. And you liked the Ninja stuff, that sure is all the rage now, it may have been before its time in the 80's when this was written (or WAS that a sign of the 80's? (am I supposed to put an apostrophe there or not, I can't remember from our reading of the Eats, Shoots, and Leaves). Every other movie now has people flying thru the air and HAIing all over the place. I saw the last of a new movie called Elektra on the plane back from Europe because it was a long movie and the end was the only thing left playing and it was just ridiculous, again a female Ninja type warrior, just flying and spinning and slicing and cutting down an entire army all by herself or so it seemed. I think Hulme does a MUCH better job describing what happened than I just did.

    Marni, an excellent point on the abuse from Joe also occurring when he is sober. I think you're right about the smell of the sea and why Simon is hysterical over water.

    But I'm not sure on the hair! I love the Samson parallel, and it could be scissors as Carolyn says. A lot of little kids don't want their hair cut, tho, as you all may know, so I'm not thinking this is a major thing (watch it be THE theme of the book), but you never know.

    Ann good points on Kerewin's rationale vis a vis Joe!

    I was also confused, Marni on the place by the sea, I guess this is another sea. OK and you have also noticed (you are SUCH a close reader!) that Kerewin continues to call the child derogatory terms, I find that interesting, under the circumstances. This is a great portrait of a …would you all agree troubled or is disturbed person more accurate?

    Quite frankly, with all her talk about her killer instinct and how dangerous she was, all I could think of was Barney Fife. In other words, not only am I not buying it, I'm beginning (unlike Babi and some of you) to think she's nuts.

    What do you call the syndrome where the person thinks one minute they are powerful and mighty and the next they are lower than a dog? That's what I'm seeing here.

    Marni, thank you for noting the other reference to red teeth. TEETH are not my favorite symbolic topic and we're surely seeing enough of them here, two references so far to red teeth, a dream about rotten awful teeth, teeth knocked out, ugg.

    Did you know the Dentist is the most hated profession in America and that more dentists commit suicide than any other profession? I sure wouldn't want to spend my time looking at TEETH.

    Do teeth symbolize something of their own??

    Oh good point Marni on Kerewin knowing how it felt to be hit in the stomach, and the aftermath. I sort of passed over that as a common expression, I don't know how that feels, what WAS that with her there? What do you all think THAT was, her sudden debilitating pain there?


    Kleo, thank you for wrestling with the conundrum of the coals of fire. "if Joe's heaping coals of fire was a cruelty on Joe's part, why would the Lord be rewarding Joe? For no reason. Therefore, she herself is casting coals of fire on her head, not Joe."

    I think you are right, but I think she is casting the blame on him at the same time with the verb HEAP which is aimed at somebody. I think a better question, now I have read your explanation, might have been, who is the subject of HEAP, do you think?

    Joe could not have done any heaping of coals of fire "as a cruelty" as the act itself, as it's understood, is one of kindness. But I like your interpretation as it's aimed at herself and I think that is right, also. Thank you for explaining all those colors, between you and Maryal and the OED, we're really learning a lot. Sheep dye! Fertility symbols? Wow.

    Ann thank you for that link on Auras, so some people take this really seriously! I seem to remember EF Benson's guru in his first book Lucia in London I think, where the guru sees that some people have "great light." Wouldn't you HATE to ask somebody what light you had? Fascinating! That's an interesting link in which they attempt to teach YOU to see auras, can any of you?

    What else strikes you about this section? We're half way through the book, and we have lots of focus points in the heading and room for more.

    None of you have remarked on the probability of her beating up Joe and what that means to the story. What did you think of that plot twist? !

    What triggered her to do that? Did you expect it? What was your reacition to this incident, do you think she's now all powerful or? What do you think of her speech about her killer instinct? (#4, A, B, and C). By the way, what's going on with the earring?

    Symbol of their friendship? She just beat him up, right? He beats up the child, she beats up him. Circle of friendship?

    what do you want to talk about in this section? What jumped out at YOU??

    June 9, 2005 - 06:49 am
    I suspect that as Kerewin is obsessed with what she sees in nature she is seeing the logarithmic spirals of nature, not Archimedean spirals.

    People who get migraine headaches commonly see auras. I see auras, and everyone in my family subject to migraines sees them. I'm not so certain they're any more useful than my horoscope or a dose of numerology.

    Yes, Ginny, I think to clarify, that Joe is heaping kindness, but Kerewin is receiving coals. This is Kerewin's choice.

    New Zealand is located on the Ring of Fire. I always forget this because I get my Australian/New Zealand/New Guinea geology mixed up since it is in the Western Pacific--I think that since NZ is EAST of Australia it can't be Pacific Ocean.... New Zealand probably has jade because of its subduction processes, the same as you find these minerals in California. More on this if folks are interested.


    June 9, 2005 - 09:04 am
    From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!

    I've read it's an ancient celtic prayer. There seem to be two versions of the source of the phrase: apparently, it's either a Scottish prayer or a Cornish prayer. Most sites I saw on web say Cornish.

    Bartlett's says: Cornish prayer (Anonymous). From "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations," seventeenth edition, by John Barlett and Justin Kaplan, general editor (Little, Brown and Co., Boston, 2002).

    June 9, 2005 - 10:23 am
    People who are abused are individuals and as individuals they all react differently to their abuse. Some can go to the authorities and others can't. The one thing I've learned being physically and mentally abused myself is not to judge other people, but to try and support them as best I can.

    When we think about it the sea can have both a calming affect as well as being a terror and this also is true of human beings. I believe there is a dual nature in all of us and each of us must in our own individual way find a way to reach harmony between the good and evil.

    I can see auras too and I know what you mean when you say you get headaches.

    kiwi lady
    June 9, 2005 - 11:06 am
    The dialect of ghosties and beasties is Scottish. I am sure my grandmother who was a Burns fan used to quote that little poem.

    Kerewins behaviour and thoughts are Kerewin's thoughts and behaviour. You cannot say that they are typical Maori any more than you can say Pakeha behaviour and thoughts are typical because we are Pakeha.

    Maori are a spiritual people and their thoughts and behaviour may reflect that but we all have our own personalities which come into play as well.

    The spirals used in Maori art do come from the Ponga ( the tree fern)


    June 9, 2005 - 11:54 am
    Carolyn, that song/hymn was a favorite of mine; we used to sing it in my church, too.

    Heaping coals of fire is another biblical reference from Proverbs. Prov.25:21-22: "It thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee."

    The idea, obviously, is that the other person has been nasty, but you are being nice, so they are the one left with the red face.

    I can't really buy the idea of those colors Kerewin delighted in being fertility symbols. Her love of colors is apparent throughout the book, in reference to many different things.

    I've never seen an aura personally, but I've photographs of auras taken with Kirlian photography. It was quite fascinating.


    June 9, 2005 - 12:06 pm
    on 22 posts, what a lot of interesting comments ...

    Ginny asked: What do you call the syndrome where the person thinks one minute they are powerful
    and mighty and the next they are lower than a dog?
    Is that bipolar syndrome, or some other neurosis? Is that where the doctors prescribe lithium, to even out the moods? Or is that called another name?
    Anyway, not in the mood to look up mental illness, on such a warm and beautiful, sunny afternoon,
    I'll just suggest that Kerewin is probably no more neurotic than most other people (Keri, no more than other authors). Don't we often read that creative people (Kerewin, artist and Keri, author) need to have some underlying neurosis in order be creative.
    Hahaha , no wonder I cannot write even short stories. Not neurotic enough.

    Auras: Can those of you who wrote you do see them, please explain.
    I have never understood what it would be like to see them.

    June 9, 2005 - 12:26 pm
    I have almost no connection here (something wrong with direct connection which I love--until it got slow as molasses) but I have to speak with the voice of authority about Kerewin's contemplation of her paint box, or box of charcoals, or whatever it is.

    My daughter is a painter--she goes into spasms of ecstasy in a store that sells art supplies. Her best friend from graduate school who is from England sent daughter a postcard last time she went home to visit.

    The postcard is the interior of an art supplies store in London.

    In large print, Susan's friend has printed Hog Heaven!

    kiwi lady
    June 9, 2005 - 01:04 pm
    An art supply shop must be to an artist as a bookshop is to a booklover. I even like to smell books!

    I do not believe Kerewin has a mental illness as such. She is super sensitive therefore feels joy in a greater measure than we might and also feels sorrow more deeply or hurt more deeply than we might.

    We should allow these emotions. I was super sensitive as a child but learned to suppress these emotions as they were frowned on. I then became in later life unable to feel or even express depths of emotions. My grandaughter is exactly like I was as a child but the difference is she is allowed to express her joy and her sorrows as she feels them.

    We are not all the same!


    June 9, 2005 - 02:07 pm
    A neurosis is not a mental illness; a psychosis may be,
    and I never intended to say that either Keri or Kerewin was actually ill,
    but I was answering Ginny's question about mood swings.
    I hope we are not too off track from discussing the book.

    Ann Alden
    June 9, 2005 - 02:15 pm
    I asked about the spirals because I looked at the spirals link that I thought you put in your post and found the Archimedian spiral and remembered from Chap 2-Feelers Kerewin's looking at the spiral on her floor.

    On the floor at her feet was an engraved double-spiral, one of the kind that wound your eyes round and round into the center where surprise you found the beginning of another spiral that led your eyes out again to the nothingness of the outside: she had never quite made her mind up as to what a nothingness was. Whatever way you defined it, it seemed to be something.

    The spiral made a useful thought-focus, a mandala, anyway.

    In many churches there is a meditation spiral on the floor and some of the nuns here in Ohio have made outdoor spirals(another name belongs here) using the flora of the area. These are walked into and out of for meditation.

    Ann Alden
    June 9, 2005 - 02:27 pm
    The word mandala arises from the Sanskrit and means sacred circle. The circle symbolizes the womb of creation; and mandalas are geometric designs that are made through uniform divisions of the circle. The shapes that are formed from these divisions are symbols that embody the mathematical principles found throughout creation. They reveal the inner workings of nature and the inherent order of the universe.

    Mandalas act as a bridge between the higher and lower realms. They are interdimensional gateways linking human consciousness to the realms of archetypes and the infinite. The relationship of form, movement, space and time is evoked by the mandala.

    Mandalas offer a way to engage with the inherent harmony and balance of nature. They bring the principles of nature into our field of awareness. For thousands of years, mandala imagery has served as a means to an expanded way of thinking. The images transcend language and the rational mind. They bring about a certain wisdom of universal knowledge and a deeper understanding of human consciousness.

    June 9, 2005 - 04:47 pm
    CAROLYN writes "I even like to smell books!"

    I thought I was the only one. When I was a child, the books in our library had not only their own smell, but their own feel. The page edges had been worn so with use, that feeling along them would feel like silk. So I have to say I even like to feel books!

    Traude S
    June 9, 2005 - 06:54 pm
    Thank you all for your wonderful messages, the links to spirals and auras, and, CAROLYN, for the hymn. The author herself spoke of auras early on in the book, as ANN said, so we are not really off topic.
    Thank you, ANN, for sharing. Not many people know about auras or can read them; even among the latter not all will readily admit to it.

    I too know about the smell of books, feeling their spines and the pages... Books are the great passion of my life; it hurts me to part with any one of them. On a snowy day in December several years ago I came home from a Christmas Fair with another armful of books and ran smack into my husband. He eyed the books and me and said, with a half smile, "You really MUST stop buying all these books, or I'll have to burn some in the fireplace .." He was joking, of course, but I was more careful after that.

    GINNY, I always read ahead, and I merely wanted to confirm where in the book we are in order that I would NOT bring up anything that had not been revealed.

    re question 2. Kerewin's invitation looks spontaneous- yet it comes right after the child's so-called flu and K.'s discovery that Joe was Simon's batterer (or was he?). If she had any instantaneous motives or reasons for extending the invitation, she does not confide them to the reader.

    For me Joe is the wild card, he has a lot of explaining to do. And it better be good.

    kiwi lady
    June 9, 2005 - 08:52 pm
    Someone was wondering why Keri was so ecstatic when she reached the sea where she had her holiday. She mentions the holiday shack belongs to her family. I would think that its ancestral land, her Turangawaiwai. (sp? asked the girl next door how to spell the word but her baby started crying and she had to run indoors - hope I spelt it right!) (her tribes homeland) Maori have a deep spiritual bond with their ancestral land. There is a lot of ancestral land on the coast of NZ.

    Angela next door is Maori and she has read "The Bone People" and she has the same feelings as I do about Keri, the book and the style.


    June 9, 2005 - 09:09 pm
    Traude: You said something intriguing: "....K.'s discovery that Joe was Simon's batterer (or was he?)..."

    Do you think Joe might NOT be Simon's batterer? If so, what led you to that?

    Thanks, Marni

    June 9, 2005 - 09:37 pm
    I think sexuality is important in the book. (Certainly nothing new in literature!)

    It seems that Joe is bi-sexual and that he had an affair with a man. His cousin teases him about it and makes comments about Simon taking after him. The cousin said something like, "Where did Simon learn to kiss that way?" This whole thing is pretty strange. It adds another dimension to Joe. He doesn't seem to be ashamed of his affair. But, perhaps it is one of the reasons why he is so confused and gets so angry and out of control.

    Also, Joe worries about Simon and his sexuality, I think, and getting abused by a town pedaphile (Binnie?). There was a bizarre scene when Joe beats up Simon to stop him from getting hurt by Binnie.

    There was another scene that we see only briefly where Simon was out and about skipping school and was stopped by someone who possibly molested him. (Was Simon stealing something from him and got caught? I wish I could remember where it was.)

    And it certainly seems that Simon was molested in a variety of ways before he washed ashore. The fact that the doctors found damage to his pelvic area suggests something horrifying like the rape of a small boy. Then to hear Joe's cousin ask, "Where did he learn to kiss like that?" suggests something awful.

    Kerewin seems assexual, rather masculine, in a number of ways - like being able to beat up men. That she learned to do this so skillfully and enjoys it. Does this suggest that possibly she was abused when she was younger? Maybe she seems assexual because she has an ugly picture of herself; it seems often that she hates herself. I think when you hate yourself, you don't expect others to be able to love you.

    Traude S
    June 9, 2005 - 10:02 pm
    CAROLYN, thank you for your post.

    Could Kerewin's trip perhaps also be understood as a true home-coming, finding an original part of herself again, after years of voluntary absence and emotional alienation? Wouldn't that explain the exuberance? When Joe wonders about the possibility of a family member dropping by, she tells him she informed the family when and for how long she'd be there.

    As for the writing style, I think it is uniquely Keri Hulme's own.
    The author, we know, lived, self-sufficient, in isolation for a long time, wrote, and must have wrestled with whatever memories of demons, built a home from scratch, like Kerewin in the book, perhaps not a tower, but then, who knows?

    At his juncture in the book, it is my impression that we hear/read the author's genuine feelings- startlingly intimate as they may be. But I cannot believe she would set out to deliberately manipulate the reader in any way, or why.

    I agree that the author's wide knowledge is stupendous. Can't remember who said it here first, hence not give proper vredit. Sorry.

    Traude S
    June 9, 2005 - 10:40 pm

    no, no. There is no doubt. Joe IS the batterer.
    But does Kerewin fully realize that at that point in the story ? More important, is Joe the only batterer? Could there be another?

    What about the role of the Tainui cousin, Piri, is it? (no, NOT the oily cousin Luce who's leaked about Binny). And why did Simon just stare him (Piri?) down without acknowledging him?
    What exactly is the business about a dog (!) between Joe and Piri? A ruse, only?

    Sexuality simmered under the surface and abruptly emerged with Binny. Thank you for your timely hint. What then IS the dreadful secret Joe is keeping from Kerewin? His bisexuality?

    But what about Kerewin herself? What to make of a few brief veiled references about virginity?

    Too late to find the references now.

    June 9, 2005 - 11:13 pm
    Traude: Re "What about the role of the Tainui cousin, Piri, is it? (no, NOT the oily cousin Luce who's leaked about Binny). And why did Simon just stare him (Piri?) down without acknowledging him?"

    I was wondering about this, also. It did seem as though someone of Joe's relatives had abused Simon and Joe didn't want Simon to go there. I don't know what happened.

    Re: "What then IS the dreadful secret Joe is keeping from Kerewin?"

    I think the dreadful secret is that Joe is a vicious out of control child batterer. He knows it. All of his relatives know it. It's like they don't really come out and talk about it, but they all know what is going on and DISAPPROVE. I put disapprove in capitals because disapproval isn't enough. I think they should be more actively involved in stopping the battering. All anyone has to do is just look at Simon and they can see the extent that Joe's beatings have gone - it's beyond battering. Even Joe worries that he'll kill Simon. How can the various people in town not get it? Teachers. Other children's parents. Police who are involved with Simon periodically. Everybody is just looking the other way.

    Joe knows that eventually Kerewin will find out, so he must tell her himself somehow. Either that or Piri and his wife will have take on the family responsibility to let Kerewin in on the dirty little family secret. Joe knows it will probably impact their relationship, break up the little threesome family. It seems it has happened before. Joe and Simon seem to have been involved in other "affairs" where the woman left. Joe needs Kerewin. Both he and Simon understand they need Kerewin to protect Simon from Joe. It's like Joe is building some fantasy story in his mind about how everything will be hunky dory if Kerewin becomes part of their family. She'll make everything better.

    June 10, 2005 - 12:06 am
    Re Joe's homosexual encounter. In the movie the Piano it was mentioned that the Maori had few sexual taboos and laughed at how prudish the English were.

    kiwi lady
    June 10, 2005 - 01:42 am
    Maori in general frown on Homosexual activity. They are likely to be more anti gay than the general population. I don't think the quote you give included homosexuality as an accepted practice amongst Maori.

    Regarding the child absuse. Rightly or wrongly Maori try to deal with issues like child abuse within the whanau ( extended family) this may explain why the relations encourage SP to spend a lot of time with them. This is their way of perhaps protecting him as much as they can and defusing tensions at home. When the authorities do get involved they try to bring the whanau in via family conferences to sort out the future of the child regardless of whether there is a prosecution or not.

    In fact here any problem with a child brought to the notice of the authorities is likely to result in family conferences being called where members of the extended family receive invitations to attend and take part in the arrangements for the future of that child. I do not know whether this is unique to NZ. This process involves Pakeha families as well as Maori families and is in fact an official way of duplicating what would have happened before European law within the Maori culture.


    Ann Alden
    June 10, 2005 - 05:56 am
    Somewhere in here, I remember reading Simon's thoughts about a young man trapping him and pushing him agains the upright of the fence, saying, "this time". Was that a sexual encounter??

    Also, when Simon first meets Kerewin, he thinks about her while resting on the floor as she and Joe play Chess, referring to her as "it" and hoping that their relationship is a beginning of better things for him. This is in Chp 2-Feelers on ppbk page 72.

    Carolyn, I think we do similar things about children who are battered here, having conferences with the parents(not the extended family), offering them 'anger management' classes and in many cases, removing the child from the home. We also have the problem of wife beating which is handled in a similar way. Do the Maori have this problem?

    June 10, 2005 - 08:03 am
    Ann: Yes, that is the incident I was thinking of. Thanks.


    June 10, 2005 - 10:38 am
    It's a little hard to explain, but "auras" are an energy field that surrounds or extends beyond the physical body. Auras surround not only living things like humans, plants and animals, but also inanimate things such as rocks etc. The human layers have various layers of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. These layers are connected to a human being's emotions. For example, if a person is in a bad mood; his/her aura will be darker than if he/she were in a good mood. The color of human auras change as the emotions of a particular person changes his/her thoughts and emotions.Persons who can see auras do so because they are sensitive to the energy fields that surround all things. I realized early on that this was a gift that I had, but even gifts can give you a headache sometime. I can see auras because I'm just more sensitive to energy levels. I might add I don't know why I can do this - I just know that I can. I hope this helps.

    June 10, 2005 - 10:38 am
    The incident where Joe and Kerewin fight is disturbing. He not only batters Sim, but when Kerewin tries to stop it, he tries to batter her. The author defuses this by having her turn out to be an aikido expert who can easily defeat Joe. How likely is this? It makes you wonder about the relationship of Joe with his supposedly beloved wife Hana (and baby). He says in one of his musings that he has never been violent before. How likely is that?

    Some things in this story remind me of a TV special I saw about a battered wife. She said the tension would build and build until he beat her. Then afterwords, he would be sorry, and there would be a "honeymoon" period, when he would be very loving. Sometimes, she would see the tension building up, and provoke the beating, to get it over with and get to the "honeymoon". That's exactly what Simon did, can't find the reference, but he thinks something like: OK, I'll make him hit me and then everything will be all right. he's dismayed when Kerewin hits Joe instead.

    June 10, 2005 - 11:02 am
    Joan: Oh, my lord. You just opened my eyes to something! Joe said his wife and baby died of the FLU!!!

    That's the excuse he gives when Simon has been beaten up and can't go to school!!!!

    There was a very strange thought that Joe had. Something about Hana was always sexually willing with him, EVEN THE NIGHT THEY TOOK HER AWAY when she died, apparently. My reaction was - how can someone be interested in sex when they're on the verge of dying from the flu???

    Do you think he killed his family?


    June 10, 2005 - 11:11 am
    That passed through my mind, too.

    June 10, 2005 - 11:25 am
    JoanK--very interesting thoughts about Joe. He claims to have not done it before, he says he won't do it again (every time). And then there's his dead wife and child. One certainly begins to wonder--or at least I did.

    The other thing is the whole aikido business. OK, I said to myself--Kerewin has some terrible secret about her break with her family and in order to get over whatever happened she had to go to Japan and study a martial art. I was glad when she gave Joe a thorough trouncing but I found the whole explanation of her training a little over the top.

    There are a lot of strangenesses about this novel which have nothing to do with the issue of child abuse and the "trinity" of Kerewin, Joe, Simon.

    June 10, 2005 - 12:01 pm
    I found nothing in any reference to Joe's wife and baby, or their deaths, that would suggest to me that Joe beat his wife or caused her death. He says he was not violent before; I believe that is possible. With the death of his wife and son, he lost what he most wanted and valued. He has major issues of grief, frustration and anger that have not been dealt with. Simon is receiving the brunt of all that submerged anger and frustration.

    Joe is dealing with an undeniably difficult and troubled child, He feels he must keep the child under control, and he tries to use this to justify the beatings to himself. The extreme beatings take place when he is drunk and out of control himself. When sober, his 'discipline' is just as quick, but less severe. Both are in need of extensive professional help, but the only help Joe knows to seek is family.

    Simon is desperate to preserve his little circle of people who care about him. Remember this scene?:

    "Joe: Thank you for not holding grudges, “ his voice lower still, husky and shaking a little, “God knows I deserve your hate...but you don’t hate.” he says wonderingly, “you don’t hate.” The boy looks at him, saying nothing, then he smiles, leans over and bites Joes hand, hard as he can. “Shit”, the man gasps, hissing with pain, and pulls his hand to his mouth. “Bloody brat, what’s that for?’ 'Aroha',[love] mouths the child, grinning, 'aroha', and his smile is wickedly broad.

    It's chilling; Simon is willing to accept the abuse for the love that accompanies it. He belongs to someone who shows him some love and caring, and will endure anything to keep that bond.


    Ann Alden
    June 10, 2005 - 12:06 pm
    I feel left out because I can't see auras. I've always been fascinated with the idea. According that link that I left here for Ginny, you can teach yourself to see auras. Hmmmmmm, how likely is that and wouldn't you be just imagining you saw them?? Oh well, we all have our gifts and blessings; some are just not as obvious as others.

    June 10, 2005 - 12:39 pm
    Babi--I agree that there isn't any evidence. What is wrong for me is the whole psychology of the thing. Is it reasonable to think that anyone, Joe or anyone, would suddenly begin beating a child? Out of nowhere? It just doesn't make good sense to me.

    And Joe is really beating this child, not just spanking him or giving him a slap. The worse the beating gets, the more Simon does something to call on a beating. Simon's life is in danger.

    June 10, 2005 - 12:40 pm
    I've never seen an aura and never wanted to. Probably means that someday I will see one.

    June 10, 2005 - 12:41 pm
    Babi: re "It's chilling; Simon is willing to accept the abuse for the love that accompanies it. He belongs to someone who shows him some love and caring, and will endure anything to keep that bond."

    It IS chilling. I'm also thinking of the thoughts Simon reveals when he deliberately forces smiles when inside he is hating.

    Simon thinks he is a bad person. He reveals a terrible thing that abused children feel, from what I have read: They think that because they are abused that they are bad and that they deserve all the abuse they get.

    I believe this abuse syndrome is passed down to successive generations, from what I have read about abuse to children. Those abused when they were young turn around and abuse their own children. I have also read that those abused when young seek out partners that will continue to abuse them because they feel they should continue to be abused.

    I wonder if Joe was abused as a child. It's interesting and horrible to see how he lies to himself about his actions. He beats Simon to within an inch of his life, then turns around and hugs, kisses and loves him, tells him he's sorry [that really takes care of it!] then asks Simon not to tell anyone, to lie about what happened. Their life is one big horrible lie.

    The only time Simon lets out the truth is when he, a wee boy, gets passed out drunk, is weak, beaten, and too tired to make up a lie, and Kerewin sees his scars and bruises and cuts. Only then does Simon admit the truth.

    kiwi lady
    June 10, 2005 - 02:21 pm
    I doubt whether Joe would have got away with battering his wife to death let alone his baby in our society. Legislation was in place for mandatory reporting for any suspicious injuries found by doctors or any other professional person in the course of their work. We are not a primitive society far from it.

    Ann Alden
    June 10, 2005 - 06:01 pm
    Your final paragraph about how Simon lies about the beatings and the hoping that it will end and Joe will love him, reminds of the many stories we hear about battered wives and how they become trapped in their homes believing that this beating will be the last one. Why, why, why are so many people so angry??

    June 10, 2005 - 08:36 pm
    I don't think Joe killed his wife and child. My only point is that the novel itself seems to hint at a potential dark secret in his past. I also think that it presents Joe's terrible beatings of Simon as grounded in his grief. I just don't buy that psychologically. It doesn't fit.

    There's also a dark secret more than hinted at to explain Kerewin's estrangement from her family.

    And then there's her losing her artistic ability (at least that is her evaluation)--there should be reasons given for that as well.


    June 11, 2005 - 08:51 am
    Have you ever seen a child throw a temper tantrum? Usually a parent can ignore a normal child when he does this, but Simon takes it to the extreme. Biting Joe's hand is a good example. He's trying to get the attention of the adults and unfortuantely its working in a negative way both for Joe and Kerwin. I think there is more than meets the eye with Simon. It's almost like he's not only trying to get Joe's attention and in that way get his love, but that he wants to see how far he can go before Joe reacts violently. Remember Simon can see auras and he KNOWS the emotions of the adults as their emotions and thoughts change.

    Ann Alden
    June 11, 2005 - 09:13 am
    Good point! I had not thought of him seeing auras and deciding when to push these people too far. But, he may not have known how to use the auras.

    June 11, 2005 - 10:37 am
    Marni, Traude -- Several posts ago you both asked "what is the role of PIri, why does Simon just stare him down?" Could it be because Piri knows of the abuse ("Tell Joe I want to talk to him about a dog") and has tried to talk to Simon about it. And Simon is afraid that if Piri interferes he will lose Joe?

    Marni asks why townspeople (aside from the family) don't get involved. I think it is because they have already marked Simon as strange, odd, weird, someone not to be involved with. They have already crossed him off their lists. They don't care.

    Simon keeps the secret of abuse from Kerewin because he doesn't want her to know how bad he is. As many of you have mentioned, Simon is much like the battered women who feel they have done something to deserve their beatings.

    Marni and JoanK, I was horrified when you expressed thoughts that Joe had beaten his wife and baby. I think it's a possibility. And it doesn't make sense to me that Simon's beatings started after Joe's wife and child had died. Unless it was because Simon sat on Joe's lap not showing any grief over their deaths.

    Traude S
    June 11, 2005 - 11:28 am
    PEDLN, my question about Piri answers itself later on. Many questions will be similarly answered by subsequent events. The revelations, such as they are, come gradually, albeit too slowly.

    No I don't think Joe abused Hana or the baby in any way. Nor should we misunderstand him when he mentioned her "readiness". It was not meant in the sexual sense, that too becomes apparent later. I apologize for saying so now.

    When Kerewin hits Joe, anticipating an assault on the child, it is her own rage that explodes, rage at her previous inaction, her passivity, acting now because her suspicions so recently confirmed.

    Immediately after that "explosion" as I call it, when Joe is still reeling, Kerewin has a knife-sharp attack of pain that fells her, the first such attack, and it bears watching.

    When Joe marvels at her strength and capability Kerewin mentions the Aikido training she had whe she was in Japan. But ahe is only answering his question, quite understandably with some pride (and why not?), she is not posturing, not IMHO. I really don't believe the author (or Kerewin) is trying to "impress" readers.

    PEDLN, oh I think the people know, the relatives, the town folks, the local barkeepers, and the telephone operator(s), ALL know, and some of them really DO care. The closest relatives are in agony, but none of them can bring him/herself to cast the first stone and point the finger. Kerewin is the last to know.

    From her deliberations with herself we know precisely what is at stake and what happens when authorities are informed. And she, clearly, is NOT going to inform on Joe, which places a heavy burden on her, a very heavy burden indeed. Her "explosion" is a manifestation.

    So I think we must go on reading to the end, hoping and praying for the characters' redemption. After all, we HAVE tackled Dante's Inferno here recently, and surely we realize that even in our own "enlightened" times there are many circles of hell for people to traverse before they are "purified". Tragically, it is too often the innocents who are hurt each and every day.

    One must have a heart of stone not to be moved by the human suffering, past and present, and by this book. I believe Keri Hulme is writing with her heart's blood, and mine bleeds for her.

    Traude S
    June 11, 2005 - 12:06 pm
    Here's one webside for Aikido, The Art of Peace :

    June 11, 2005 - 01:05 pm
    Did anyone besides me have trouble accessing this site? I tried to get in a number of times from our books and discussions menu site and I get the following message:

    The item ".862068df" does not exist, it may have been deleted.

    I was finally able to access our discussion in a round about way.


    June 11, 2005 - 01:40 pm
    Thank you, Marni, the chart in the heading led to the old Pre Discussion, I have edited it, you are right, it was not working.

    What GREAT speculations and conversation here, I am so enjoying every word. Maryal, welcome back, so glad to see you again.

    Am working against a storm to get a whole ill timed car load of plants in the ground before it lets loose, hopefully later on I can rejoin you, boy you all are electric! I can NOT pass by a blooming plant sitting sadly on the sidewalk, all abandoned, I just can't do it.

    (hahah Ann, not only can I not see auras, I do well to see anybody), back later tonight, love what all you are saying!

    June 11, 2005 - 10:25 pm
    In his dream Simon refers to himself as Clare?? What about the music/hutches he builds???

    June 12, 2005 - 06:30 am
    Wow! One of the real joys of our book discussions, is just to sit back and enjoy the wonderful conversation, just as if we were all sitting here in person, hearing all the points! Love it!

    Reminding everybody that one click on the top right of your screen where it says Printer Friendly will bring you the last 100 or so thoughts of different people and you can glory in all the points raised and debated!

    Where to even START!?! Whooo, electric idea, Marni, did Joe kill his wife and child? I have loved all of your responses! It occurred to some of you, it doesn't seem likely for many reasons to others.

    I never saw that one coming!

    I posted SHRIEK but unfortunately our storms here took it off hahahaha

    You know what jumped in MY mind? I thought what time period is this in? Remember our reading of the book about the great Flu epidemic when so many died? I wondered if this book has a time period, or setting. Deems earlier mentioned it was typical of the 80's I think, but when is it SET? Do any of you know?

    Fire Again!

    Babi mentions the Biblical reference of coals of fire again, and I found out yesterday when reading Deems' incredible posts 544 and 545 (if you have not read them run over there) in the Mini Poetry Course, and in following her link, that there ARE tons of copies of the Vulgate in Latin on the internet! Who KNEW??!!?? Very exciting, of course the issue is whose Latin is that, but will leave that for another day, still the structure is quite interesting.

    Thank you Kleo for that notice, which I did not know, that New Zealand is "located on the Ring of Fire!

    I'm beginning to hear Johnny Cash singing here, "I fell in to the burning ring of fire…"

    Electric moment, another shriek! Good job!

    Great analogy Scrawler between the sea and humans! Thank you for telling us what it's like to see an aura. Do you think animals see auras?
    Mippy, hahaha no that can't be the reason you can't write, I can't either and I'm not unfortunately free from neurosis. Hahaha

    Ann good point on the spirals in churches, I guess the most famous type of this thing might be…would you consider the maze a spiral of sorts? The one at Chartres, of course, springs to mind as well as the one at Hampton Court and a lot of other places? Thank you for the definition of mandala, Hulme is quite literate, isn't she, and makes quite a few references to arcane (at least to me,) things.

    Joan and Carolyn, and Traude, hahaha Book Sniffers Arise, me too. I like to examine the bindings. I love to look at bindings. See, Mippy? Hahaaha

    The librarians of our Prison Library Project report many prisoners actually steal the books from the libraries. There is nowhere they can take them so they hide them and read them over and over. When they finally get them back the pages are soft and worn thin from constant reading.

    Traude, thank you for saying you'd not reveal what's coming. I am loving the give and take of our Giant Brain here as we can SEE in print what we really THINK when we read, pro and con. I think this process is unique to book discussions online. Joe the Wild Card bears watching, thank you. In fact to me they are all Wild Cards, how would you all stack this deck?

    I don't have a feeling of substance from any of them. Do you?

    June 12, 2005 - 06:40 am

    And now Marni sees bi sexuality in Joe, how interesting. I must admit that I had the same feeling when he went after the pederast, Binnie?

    Carolyn thank you for the explanation of the whanau that was quite interesting and informative, I am glad you are here, we're having a really fabulous discussion on all sides!

    Oh GOOD point Joan K on the fact that Joe nearly batters K. I was wondering where I was picking that up, and you've pinpointed it.

    I agree, Deems, that the Aikido bit was over the top. I am not sure what that says about this character.

    And I do agree with the "strangenesses" you see in this and all the mysteries. Do you think this is deliberate on the part of the author?

    If it's not, then how can we account for it?

    So you think there are even MORE dark secrets to come? What can they be?

    Good point Pedln on how the child has interpreted these beatings. And I agree with you and the others that Joe's starting to beat after the death of his wife doesn't make sense. It sounds to me like an excuse of an alcoholic.

    Traude made an interesting point. She said

    One must have a heart of stone not to be moved by the human suffering, past and present, and by this book.

    Well I hate to tell you all but in order to be moved I think first you have to tie into, be part of, the characters IN a book. Am I wrong?

    I am not sure that I am moved by the suffering here. Are you? I am disgusted at reading about it. But I am not moved, because these people do not exist, and I am always always aware of that. And I am somewhat irritated at the extremes and the detail we're having to read about.

    I guess I am saying, as ONE reader, with ONE reader's opinion, that I am not only not moved, I am irritated because I have never sold into the book in the first place.

    In other words I remain on the outside. Any sympathy I had for Kerewin evaporated with her King Fu "killer instinct, I am dangerous, but don't worry, just keep on my good side, " stuff, underlying threats, and HER beating up of HIM, hello?

    Oh lovely, best way to handle abuse is to pile more on the abuser, good job. I'm sure we were all supposed to shout hooray. Is that what YOU shouted?

    Or did you sigh, oh PLEASE.

    Yes a pitiful child, yes, the descriptions are awful and horrid and yes unfortunately remind me of the instances I have read and heard about in real life that I DO empathize with, but as far as a reaction to THESE characters, it only makes me angry that I have to read it. I keep thinking a tree was killed for this. Kerwein is not real to me. Neither is Joe, but his type is abundant enough. Simon is not real to me, he seems an amalgam of a million ages and abilities and strange accoutrements: to me, he's a symbol, Joe's a symbol. I'm not sure WHAT Kerewin is. The fact that they are not real is what keeps me from empathizing with them.

    The definition of empathy from Websters Online, is:

  • 1 : the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it

  • 2 : the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

  • I think that is an EXCELLENT point and will put it in the heading, thank you Traude, I'd like to hear from each of you what YOUR own take, to which you are equally entitled, is? Will put that in the heading.

    I'm not saying I dislike the Maori!!!!! Or New Zealand!!!!!! Or Keri Hulme!!!!! OR Carolyn!!!! I'm simply saying that for me this book so far had NOT jelled and the characters are not only not real they are beginning to be…caricatures, and unpleasant ones, just like Sideways, at that. I have not yet entered the place where I care about them.

    I don't think I have a heart of stone, I still have nightmares about the details of a real monster, Joel Steinberg, who was just released from prison. If you want to be moved, you really must read that true story which exceeds this one in every way, for violence, for victims, for excuses. How about the mother who cut off the arms of her baby? How about Andrea Yates? Drowning all 6 was it of her little boys? That one gave me nightmares also.

    This, however IS a book of fiction. So let's take a litmus test here. How moved ARE you, how much have you tied INTO the characters? Are they real for you? Do you care about them? I think that's a legitimate question to ask half way thru the book.

    Kidsal, welcome! Great minds run together, so glad to have you here, what did YOU make of those strange things? Have you ever seen that before? What do the rest of you make of them? Carolyn, are those part of any Maori symbolism?

    Let's hear YOUR thoughts on anything raised here or the new thoughts in the heading (give me a mo) today. Any other points you'd like to bring up?

    By the way, have you considered what the titles of the Chapters might mean?

    Penny for your thoughts!

    June 12, 2005 - 08:00 am
    We're missing Kevin and Jackie, (Mrs. Sherlock) who suggested this book in the first place, haven't seen her in a while, hope she is OK. Hope Kevin is OK. We miss you when you are absent. I'd love to hear their opinions, too, as well as those of you holding back, let's hear from all of you today. We're a Giant Reading Brain Chorus here and we need to hear all the parts: tenor, alto, first and second soprano, bass, whether or not you agree with anything ANYBODY has said, chirp right on in!

    June 12, 2005 - 08:33 am
    I agree with you, Ginny. The people are not real to me either. That is, in part, what I meant when quite a while ago I wrote that the book is plot-driven. And I think it does plot-driven well. That is--it's a page turner. In order to be a good page-turner, you don't have to have "real" people, you just have to have various plot elements that keep the reader moving--momentum is all.

    And I agree especially on Simon who seems the least real character of all, an amalgam as you suggested of many different ages and abilities.

    Joe could be anyone and Kerewin, well Kerewin is a lot of things, none of them very "real" to me either.

    I do admire much of the writing in the book as well as its energy. But that's about it. For me even all the symbols just hang around and jingle at each other; they don't add up to much. The symbols that do add up to something are way overdone. But like Traude, I've read the whole book and won't give any specifics.

    Sorry to be so critical, but I do give the book some credit for its energy and its strong (although sometimes incoherent) plot.


    June 12, 2005 - 10:07 am
    I don't think it's to early to talk about the "theme" of this book. Theme is the central concern around which a story is structured. Almost every story contains the major elements of storytelling such as plot, character, style, idea, and mood, or emotional effect. But these elements are not the same in all stories.

    Sometimes a story is a plot story - where the story is centered around a specific plot, but we know little or nothing about the characters of the story. And at other times the story is centered around the characters and the plot becomes just secondary. But what about a story that is centered on "emotional effect"?

    I, personally, feel that this novel is centered around "emotional effect." In other words the author wants to get a rise out of us. She wants us to be angry and this may also explain why the characters don't seem real. She is not emphasing the "characters" as such. She is only using them "to prick us - so we might bleed!"

    Now combine this emotional effect with a social comment. Our society has its problems, and writers like to address these issues in the hopes we will pay attention to them and perhaps even do something to make the world a better place. I am sure we are all familiar with such works as "The Grapes of Wrath," "Elmer Gantry," and "The Octopus". At various times in our history these books opened our eyes to the problems of the world.

    We didn't always appreciate what was being said, but adventually we listened. I think this is exactly what Keri Hulme is trying to tell us. She is warning us that in all societies in all countries we can fine some people who have been abused.

    kiwi lady
    June 12, 2005 - 11:32 am
    Keri Hulme is a writer who does focus on social ills in her other books too. She is trying to bring our attention to issues which need addressing in our society.


    Ann Alden
    June 12, 2005 - 11:57 am
    Driven by the need for folks to pay attention to what is happening in societies in every country--New Zealand and the Maoris being the author's focus?? Yes, that helps me make a connection with this plot.

    kiwi lady
    June 12, 2005 - 02:44 pm
    Keri is trying to bring a bit of New Zealand into her book and her culture but her book is directed against all child abuse. She brings her culture into the book because she essentially is proud of her culture and loves her country but she wants us to look beyond the beauty and see there is also ugliness.

    Constantly throughout the book there is that contrast between beauty and ugliness.

    If she was resident in a very wealthy country I am sure she would show there is poverty as well as wealth in that country. She is a powerful social commentator as well as a wonderful author.

    If we are to stamp out the ugliness of our societies we need to be brave and to admit that these things exist. When we are willing to do this then there is hope for change.


    June 12, 2005 - 08:57 pm
    I'm having a struggle with this book.And it's not the language either Don't much care about the characters. Years back I read a book I picked up in Australia called Tears of the Moon by Di Morrissey to do with a gal who found out she was part Aboriginal. Of course that's no criteria for the Bone People. My girl friend in England, who emigrated to New Zealand for a few years,did not care for this book when she read it in England some time ago. But I passed on the Kite Runner to her and she is in the middle of it now and likes that one. It's all according to taste, I'll carry on though Colkot.

    June 13, 2005 - 04:59 am
    Thank you all, your thoughts have raised even more points and questions!

    Deems, thank you for that explanation of "plot driven," and this one too: "And I agree especially on Simon who seems the least real character of all." I think I will ask everybody who IS the least realistic character, and see what we all think?

    THIS is a super quote! "For me even all the symbols just hang around and jingle at each other; they don't add up to much." Exactly, that's what they do exactly, they jingle and jangle at each other and us, great remark!

    Scrawler, thank YOU for the mention of themes and social commentary and The Grapes of Wrath. I agree with Ann that that puts a new understanding on the book, and Carolyn has mentioned that also. Fiction as Commentary, we've seen a lot of that also, Mary Alice Monroe does it, Upton Sinclair did it in The Jungle, and as you say Steinbeck, well done.

    Scrawler, you said I, personally, feel that this novel is centered around "emotional effect." Interesting point, let's put that in the heading too, what do YOU all think the novel is centered around?

    Carolyn (did you see the question I asked you in my post yesterday?), you mentioned Keri is trying to bring a bit of New Zealand into her book and her culture but her book is directed against all child abuse.

    OK and here I think it's time for some comparative literature, for all of us, thank you for making that comparison: which author, if you read Kite Runner, succeeds the most in making you feel you understand a particular culture? If you did not read Kite Runner, do you feel you know more about New Zealand than you did before you read this book?

    Carolyn , you mention "If we are to stamp out the ugliness of our societies we need to be brave and to admit that these things exist. When we are willing to do this then there is hope for change."

    I wonder as I read this statement if the newspapers and magazines of New Zealand perhaps do not mention in quite so much frequency and detail as they do in America these instances, the ugliness of our societies? It's kind of hard to pick up a newspaper in America and not find some horrifying instance of something of the sort. I guess I'm asking something more?

    I guess I'm asking IF the author here IS attempting something more than a mere recitation or innumeration of the fact of child abuse? And IF she is, what might it BE?

    Nobody is unaware of child abuse? How could you be? So therefore perhaps I am wondering if the author is trying to touch on something a bit….hate to use the word…deeper…in writing this book?

    What do you think?

    Colkot, welcome! "But I passed on the Kite Runner to her and she is in the middle of it now and likes that one." Ask your friend what the difference is she sees in Kite and in Bone? I would be interested to know what engages her in Kite and left her cold in Bone? And for that matter in your thoughts, too!

    We have two days left in this section, you've done a bang up job so far, so now's the time to try to address these new questions or any other theme you'd like up till now?

    June 13, 2005 - 05:02 am
    While I will admit that we must address concerns such as these, I feel this writer is "way over the top." This is the one reason that I have not joined in on this discussion. I hate to keep implying that I don't like a novel but this one --(although I reluctantly did finish it) I did not like! The issues are presented but the characters are too implausible for my taste.

    June 13, 2005 - 05:04 am
    I'd like to invite all of you into a new discussion somewhere around the 24th of July, it will be the PBS discussion of Whale Rider. The themes are germane to what we've discussed here, the Maori traditions, New Zealand and they will show lots of interviews and history and behind the scenes making of the film:

    The Whale Rider PBS show is a showing of the movie Whale Rider, which takes place in New Zealand and is apparently about...well here, here's the tie in with the Women discussion Barbara is leading and the Bone People, a discussion touching on New Zealand and the Maori. Here's a bit about it:

    BROADCAST PREMIERE OF "WHALE RIDER" THIS SUMMER ON PBS PBS Presentation Plans to Include Never-Before-Seen "Making of" Footage and Behind-the-Scenes Stories. WHALE RIDER airs on Sunday, July 24, 2005. Check local listings.

    The award-winning, critically acclaimed WHALE RIDER, a cinematic re-telling of a Maori legend, comes to PBS in summer 2005. The film stars Keisha Castle-Hughes as Pai, with three of New Zealand's most distinguished actors: Rawiri Paratene as Koro, Vicky Haughton as Nanny Flowers and Cliff Curtis as Porourangi, Pai's father. Adapted by Niki Caro from the much-loved, best-selling 1986 book by Witi Ihimaera, the first Maori novelist to be published in New Zealand, WHALE RIDER was shot entirely in Whangara, a coastal village on the east cost of New Zealand's North Island. In the film, Pai, a 12-year-old girl, dares to challenge the ancient traditions of her people, despite opposition from her grandfather, Koro, chief of their village.

    Set in the present, WHALE RIDER re-interprets a 1,000-year-old legend about Paikea, the founder of the Ngati Konohi, a native tribe of New Zealand. They believe Paikea arrived in their village on the back of a whale after his canoe capsized.

    Who will become the Ngati Konohi's leader after Koro? By tradition, it should be the eldest son. A crisis occurs when the hereditary male child dies at birth, survived by his twin sister, whom their father names Paikea. The name should be given only to a male, and the fiercely traditional Koro immediately shortens the girl's name to Pai.

    And here's where we can read more, The Whale Rider on PBS

    So the themes seem to fit right in. I must confess it's the behind the scenes never shown and the interviews that interest me the most.

    You all already know so much about New Zealand this seems a perfect coda for our discussion! We'll have a link to the discussion up in July, just please pencil it in for July!

    June 13, 2005 - 05:05 am
    THERE'S our Andy, so it's the "over the top" that causes you pause, what one thing in the book do you feel she does well?

    June 13, 2005 - 05:08 am
    GINNY: "I wonder as I read this statement if the newspapers and magazines of New Zealand perhaps do not mention in quite so much frequency and detail as they do in America these instances, the ugliness of our societies?"

    Bone People was published in 1985 and written in the 12 years before that. That's only 20-30 years ago. But correct me if I'm wrong: as I remember, in this country there was much less awareness of child abuse then than there is now. Now I believe, as Carolyn says about NZ, teachers here are trained to look for signs of abuse, and intervention is much more likely. But I'm not sure that was true yet when this story was written.

    June 13, 2005 - 05:11 am
    The one thing that she did well was urge me to return the book to the local library. Even though I didn't care for the story, I did enjoy her "Maorian" insight and stories of old.

    June 13, 2005 - 05:14 am
    Good point, Joan! Actually tho the Joel Steinberg case I referred to earlier occured 16 years ago and it was impossible to escape the lurid details, in fact articles have been written on the excessive coverage, such as this one (which touches actually ON the very subjects we are discussing here): Excesses in Reporting Social Commentary

    It's quite interesting.

    Actually I hate to say this but recently for some discussion, I no longer remember what, it became necessary to read the headines of this country's newspapers in the 1800's. THERE one was shocked to see the unending flood of sensationalist abuse reported, husband to wife, to children, it was unbelievable, almost every day.

    Do any of you remember that discussion? I was totally floored. The things we think of as modern social commentary were luridly explained in great detail in the 1800's. There IS nothing new under the sun, but that's this country, as you say, it may not have been common then in other countries. Does anybody know if Hulme is considered a pioneer in this area in New Zealand? (Are there any articles or criticism stating so we could read?)

    June 13, 2005 - 05:19 am
    Thank you Andrea. See the thing on the "loved, it/ hated it" syndrome is trying to figure out WHY, and that usually is something in the actual writer's approach or literary techniques.

    And it's hard to tie it down.

    I THINK, myself, Hulme is trying to do something here OTHER than just exposing abuse, which of course she is doing and exaggerating, for a reason. Physically, Andrea, you're a nurse, how realistic is Simon's condition here?

    I think she is trying to DO something, yes in connection with exposing abuse but MORE MORE MORE, am I the only one who sees that?

    June 13, 2005 - 05:25 am
    Clearly, she's trying to do more -- there is that transcendant quality in Kerewin and Simon. I don't see yet what she is doing, but the book is only part social commentary and part mystical.

    Ann Alden
    June 13, 2005 - 07:50 am
    Mystical or spiritual, those words do fit in that description of this book. We have to see that as we go along.


    I left a post #229 in Non-fiction for you about the PBS program on the Erie Canal.

    June 13, 2005 - 08:09 am
    "Advice from all quarters emphasized the neccessity of discipline in childraising; the following is typical: 'It requires only a little firmness in the make children conform to the dictates of their parents, and to render them entirely obedient to their wills; for it is only ncessary to commence sufficiently early, to make the child know it is not to think for itself.'" - W.P. Dewees, 1838 "Godey's Lady Book"

    "Morphine was frist used extensively during the Civil War to control the pain of the wounded. Morphine was also found in Winslow's Baby Syrup and Kopp's Baby Friend, medicines used to lull a child to sleep, with addictive side effects that sometimes lasted a lifetime." - "The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s"

    "Families often hid away or shunned their mentally ill relatives out of shame. Through much of the century, the mentally ill were thought to be utterly incurable, being possessed by evil and/or punished by God. They were confined in asylums and usually left to languish for life. Often they were beaten, ill-fed and neglected. In the 1870s, the "North American Review" wrote that these insititutions 'would disgrace Turkey with their filth, vermin, contagious disease and food hard less fatal than starvation.'" - "The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s"

    "In general, nineteenth-century medicine saw woman as biologically radically different from man, smaller and weaker, but it laid special emphasis on her nervous system. It was at once more dominant and more prone to dysfunction. In social terms, women seemed more emotional and less rational. Male doctors focused obsessively on female sexuality, seeing the woman's reproductive system in control of her physical (and social) destiny. Thus sexuality was the underlying key to women's health, and her nervous system was at best in delicate balance - with these basic biological assumptions it is little wonder that the judgments on Mary Todd Lincoln by nineteenth-century men of medicine might not inspire confidcence in modern readers. Several of the doctors concluded Mrs. Lincoln was insane without examining her personally." - "The Insanity File - The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln"

    You might wonder why I included the information on mental illness. Mental and physical illness were treated very similar in the 1800s. I think it isn't a very large jump from the way women and children were treated in the 1800s to see how "abuse" might be used to ensure that women and children accept the male attitude of how they should behave. Even as late as the 1950s there was a saying - "A child should be seen but not heard."

    June 13, 2005 - 05:30 pm
    I chanced to hear a discussion on Oprah recently about physical abuse. A woman abused by her husband was talking about the cycles of abuse. She said tension would build up, until her husband exploded and beat her. He would then be remorseful, and very tender and loving with her. (Sound like Joe?) She stated that sometimes when the cycle of tension began to build, she would deliberately antagonize her husband into blowing up 'to get it over with and get on to the honeymoon part'.

    I have to wonder if that was not what Simon was doing in some instances. Provoking the beatings for the sake of the tenderness that followed. What a horrible thing, that a child should be so terribly in need of love and tenderness!

    In other cases, as in his attack on Kerewin, he simply began to fight because she wouldn't 'listen' to what he needed to tell her. As Joe had said, Simon would fight violently to get people to pay attention to what he was trying to tell him. Joe is not the only one dealing with deep frustrations here. In a child, this is understandable; Joe, however, is a grown man. There is no excuse for his behavior.


    Kevin Freeman
    June 14, 2005 - 02:47 am
    I've had a rough rider past week and this week ain't any prettier. Next week, the schedule weather should brighten a bit. All of which is by way of saying I haven't read much. Alarmingly, that hasn't bothered me. When I leave a book midway for a week and don't get lonely for at least one of the characters, that's not a good sign. And I am NOT of the school that all books must be finished. In fact, I hold the New England record for put-downs in medias res. All of which is by way of saying, "Uh-oh."

    I disagree with the above notion (forgot who mentioned it, sorry) that this is a plot-driven book. I don't find the plot particularly engaging. Certainly if it's driven, it's by a Go-Kart engine, not a Hemi. I thought Hulme was more after a character-driven book, and, for a first-time novelist, she deserves points for such moxie. Plot would have been a safer harbor. But except for the mystery of Simon's origins, there's not much motivation to turn pages, is there?

    I also felt early on that Hulme had some ability for description, something many readers dislike but I like, but I think as the book's gone on she's definitely set that back in the orchestra (next to the triangles and the glockenspiel) in favor of other literary instruments.

    BaBi mentions Oprah. Early on I feared Dr. Phil. If this 80s novel has one albatross to carry, it's the then brave new world and now weak old cliché matter of talk-show-style social woes. We have become a nation (world?) of armchair psychologists and social workers in many ways, small thanks to talk-show television and radio. Hulme's art seems compromised by it through no fault of its own. Obviously to criticize this is to attack the heart of the book, for one, and to show my own subjective prejudices, for another, so take it with a grain of Morton's.

    Mea culpa on the reading, then. I may pick The Bone People up again next week. Meantime, I've been reading bits of other books... sampling before I buy (into reading the whole book, not buying -- I bought long ago).

    June 14, 2005 - 05:29 am
    Thank you all for tackling some of the questions in the heading, I think this is a more complex book than it first may appear. Was the author too ambitious? We'll decide that for ourselves, at the end, but there IS a lot here to talk about.

    I like the focus Deems originally brought up on "plot driven," and Kevin's reaction. That's actually a great focus point, what IS the driving force of this book (I don't know how to put that?) We can see what she's talking about, if we had to make a list, just for the heck of it, what would it look like?

  • abuse
  • self sufficiency
  • secrets from the past
  • plot
  • characters
  • emotions
  • symbolism

    etc. There are a lot more.

    Would you add "New Zealand" to that list? One of the questions in the heading talks about which author, the author of Kite Runner or this one, succeeded the most in bringing to you the feeling of the country they were writing about?

    What would you say to that? Do you feel you are reading about New Zealand or not?

    Some people think it's emotion driven, and then there's the spirituality over it all. She's undertaken a complex task, and out of all of the elements we have to decide what the message we're getting is.

    Joan K, I think this is a good point, "I don't see yet what she is doing, but the book is only part social commentary and part mystical…" and Ann agrees. I am not on very sure footing with the mystical elements here and will have to rely on you all for assistance in translating them into the plot, and figuring out how they mesh, if they do.

    Scrawler, thank you for that look at normal child raising practices in the 1800's, that's another good point, things really HAVE changed, or so we hope. As a writer, how do the symbols work for you in this book?

    BaBi, you've said something that I was thinking also. In talking about the Oprah show you mentioned a " woman abused by her husband was talking about the cycles of abuse," and "deliberately antagonize her husband…" and here, of course, we can see the same thing in Simon, sort of anything to get it over with, kind of thinking. And that rising tension in abuse and release suggests perhaps something else may be going on, too.

    But this book was written before 2005, and Oprah, and ONE thing I think that Hulme is doing here is effectively showing us the inner feelings, dependencies and rationalizations of the batterer and battered. This might be news in 2005, imagine what it was when this was written, and it was 12 years in the making. As such it's a monumental work, in that no matter how you feel about the characters, you can't help getting drawn IN to the point that you understand where they are coming from. You actually feel the tension, that's good writing. I am not aware of another book which has managed to do this?

    For instance, one can read, if one can stomach it, former Attorney Steinberg's excuses, and poor Hedda Nussbaum (his former wife, a children's book author whom he permanently disfigured facially) testimony and thoughts, and of course the death of the poor Lisa Steinberg, their child. What a horror. What a horror.

    At no time in reading any of their testimony do you feel anything but horror and revulsion and pity and fear for the victims and for us as a human race. The Monster Steinberg was just released after 16 years. 16 years!

    Here I believe one thing the author is doing is trying valiantly to get us into the heads of these characters who almost stand as symbols themselves , to admire and like Kerewin, to think of Simon as almost ethereal, a being almost from outer space, but a pitiable child as well, lots of little touches, in contrast, as I think Carolyn said earlier, the pretty and the ugly, and also to get in the head of Joe, who, one is surprised to learn, having somewhat bonded with him, despite his alcoholism, is a serious serious SERIOUS batterer.

    The reader's feeling of shock is probably the same thing the battered feels, and again, this is good writing. And I think perhaps could not have been written by a person who had not experienced it personally.

    I believe she is trying to make these people human and, in each, somebody we can understand. In the case of Joe, that we should not abhor him personally. In the case of Kerewin's that we might admire her, for her strength in spite of her flaws and background, and in so doing Hulme is, I believe , trying to humanize this awful stuff, rather than just blow it off as a listing of society's ills. In other words it's not just social commentary, I think she's trying to do more.

    She's trying to, I believe, as strange as it sounds, make us, despite our deepest horror, realize we're all flawed and make us show compassion for all the types of flawed creatures that we all are. Even the Ethereal Simon has flaws.

    It's like somebody wrote a book explaining Andrea Yates's inner feelings and motivations….the trick is…has Hulme succeeded? I don’t think we're ready to answer that at this stage, I'm not.

    I wish, personally, that Joe's battering were not quite so overdone. I am not sure how the child could live, given these excesses, and that seems a flaw, (maybe the more hurdle for the reader TO forgive) so does the ridiculous extremes she goes to with the Aikido stuff, don't worry I have a killer instinct, you just (threat) stay on my good side….faugh. But that's there also for a reason, that posturing, is it fake?

    No matter what you might think of the subject matter OR the characters, we do have to respect, I think, what I think the author is trying to do, and I do think she IS trying and does have a message.

    The question in the heading about the nature of their friendship, also, I think is a good one.

    I think we'll move on tomorrow to the next section, as we've pretty much talked this section out, is there anything anybody would like to add here that they noticed and would like to comment on that we might have missed?

    Are you seeing New Zealand in this book? You can't miss the Maori language, but other than that, are you feeling New Zealand or could this be Arizona and the Navahos?

    Penny for your thoughts?
  • Deems
    June 14, 2005 - 07:22 am
    Kevin--I'm the one who suggested that the book was plot-driven. However, I completely agree with you that it moves at a slow pace, especially the first half. Then momentum picks up (without managing to salvage the book) and it moves to its inevitable conclusion. The distinction I was making is one between a book that is plot-driven and one that is character-driven, where one truly gets to know some of the characters and "misses them" as you suggest if one has to put down the book for a week or so. I don't miss any of these characters. I think Kerewin is more developed than the others. Joe is unbelieveable for me. Ditton on Simon. The other characters are only props.

    Ginny--you mention that the book was 12 years in the making. I think those years might have been used to reshape and refine instead of what probably happened--the writer just kept writing. It grew and grew, like Topsy. Thus it is hard to find an overall theme or subject. For me. Kerewin's first section breaks from the remainder of the novel for me. It is better written and more intriguing than the remainder (with some exceptions). I'd say the most consistent, sustained writing is in the first third.

    Doesn't the introduction of aikido date the time of the novel to the seventies? Isn't that when aikido became known and celebrated (outside of Japan), along with a number of other martial arts, as well as the roots of all the New Age stuff that is in the novel?

    Carolyn-- I understand that Hulmes is writing about social problems--and that's fine. However, I don't think it's enough to hold a novel together. If an author really wants to throw a spotlight on social problems, it's a good idea to create characters the reader will care about.

    The one part of New Zealand that I take from the novel is some of the history and some of the customs of the Maori. I found that very interesting.

    June 14, 2005 - 07:22 am
    "Are you seeing New Zealand in this book? You can't miss the Maori language, but other than that, are you feeling New Zealand or could this be Arizona and the Navahos?

    Penny for your thoughts? "

    You can keep your penny. If I hadn't been told this story was about Maoris in New Zealand, I wouldn't have known. The feeling I continually get about the setting is that it is a remote location near the sea, perhaps in the Southern Hemisphere because it is mid-year and it is cold. Perhaps an island, but that's not really spelled out. But it could just as easily be a remote Inuit village in Alaska. The town where Joe and Simon live is not too distant, but small, one where everyone knows everyone's business (and also judges them.) I find the use of the Maori language to be overdone, and it does little to express the Maori culture.

    I find the lack of sympathy for Simon and his situation appalling. To be sure, the "at risk" phrase is a fairly recent one (my kids might have been so designated 25-30 years ago, but we didn't know that then, so they were considered normal), but good grief, here's a child who has lost his family and everything familiar and is mute to boot. Of course he's difficult and acts strange and has problems and wants lots of love and attention. But none of the characters seem to take the into consideration. That seems unreal.

    kiwi lady
    June 14, 2005 - 07:50 am
    I am a New Zealander and to me the book is representative of NZ in the language Keri uses, the imagery and is a refreshing change to have familiarity in the dialogue etc.

    We are a tiny nation and we have to constantly read books written by authors from other cultures. Our culture is very different from that of the USA although many of you may not realise this. We have a blended culture which is quite unusual and two official languages.

    If you have never visited NZ you could not visualise for instance the holiday shack or the landscape as described.

    I believe Keri has used shock tactics in this book and some may find it unpleasant. The characters of Joe and Simon are exaggerated characters.

    I think for a first novel which I believe it was it ranks amongst one of the best I have read. It is to me a NZ novel and feels like a NZ novel. That is a good thing from my perspective as a kiwi,

    Pedln the use of the Maori language is not overdone. If you watch our news you will see many Maori words in the reports. As I said we have two official languages and every year more and more Maori words come into common usage by both Maori and Pakeha. For instance the greeting Kia Ora is commonly used and the word Whanau is used every day. Language is the most important part of Maori culture and is treated as such. Te Reo Maori keeps the culture alive.

    We have to also keep in mind this book was published in 1984 and was a few years in the writing. We have a more enlightened society regarding the psyche of the child today. We also have to bear in mind the book is fiction!


    June 14, 2005 - 09:24 am
    I consider the "characters" symbols. The author is trying to get a point across to the reader about her feelings in regards to abuse. But it is if she is hitting the reader over the head with a 2 x 4 and there is a nail protruding from it. I get it!Let's move on.

    I still say that this is neither a character or a plot driven book, but is a novel that is primarily written to raise our emotional level. The author wants us not only to see and hear the abuse,but "feel" the abuse.

    At the beginning of this discussion I wrote that this book reminded me of my Cajun background in regards to religion, art, music, and cooking.

    I do love the land of NZ as described in the novel. I have always loved the sea and can understand Kerwin's feeling at living near it.

    Traude S
    June 14, 2005 - 10:05 am
    SCRAWler, your post is sooo welcome! I don't thnk the boiok is neither plot-driven nor character-driven. The book is truly sui generis, in a class of its own.

    It may impenetrable to some of us here, even though we did have a pre-discussion. I'm not sure we had a map up at that time to show the North Island and the Sout Island of NZ and its proximity from Australia.

    Being busy elsewhere, I don't recall whether the SIZE of NZ was mentioned or its location on the Southern Hemisphere shown. Well, NZ is approximately the size of Coloradoand surrounded by oceans --- the Pacific on the right, looking straight at the map, and the Tasman Sea on the left.

    June 14, 2005 - 10:53 am
    Thanks for the map, Traude.

    Carolyn: Can you point out for us where on the map Kerewin's tower might be located and where her vacation home might be located? I have forgotten the towns mentioned in the book.



    June 14, 2005 - 12:33 pm
    I've found the posts insightful and of great help. And yes, I did know that there was a dual language. Did anyone else pick up the thought that our heroine is chronically ill? It seems to me that when one is sick, even though one might not know exactly what is wrong, everyday life is just plain difficult. Everything is too much for you. Everyday tasks and the creative flame seem to be on hold. The boy and the man have intruded on her introspection. Colkot

    kiwi lady
    June 14, 2005 - 12:43 pm
    From much I have read about Keri she writes a lot about herself. Much of Kerewin is Keri.

    Whangaroa is not to my knowledge a South Island Beach settlement. Whangaroa is a famous game fishing harbour in the North Of the North Island therefore Keri has fictionalised her South Island home. Bearing that in mind the real setting of the book is likely to be in the Upper South Island.

    The beach bach is supposed to be set at Moerangi where in reality Moerangi is in the Whirinaki Valley and is a river settlement it is the spiritual home of the Ngati Whare iwi ( tribe). I think she may have used the name of her tribal home to conceal the true whereabouts of her true home which is maybe where the bach she writes about is set. She is reclusive and private in real life and loves the sea and fishing so I bet she lives by the beach.

    My conclusion therefore is that the settings are real but with ficticious names. Therefore as we are two islands its almost impossible for me to speculate where these two places are in fact. There are thousands of beaches in my country.

    Colkot your assessment is true. I have a chronic illness ( with pain) and there are times when if the world were falling round about me I would be just too tired to do anything about it. Even simple problems seem unsolvable at these times.


    June 14, 2005 - 02:08 pm
    who hit the nail on the head!

    I had been reluctant to say this until you did, but I think
    we readers have been inundated with the author's feelings about
    abuse... "hitting the reader over the head" is right.

    My appreciation for the book began to wan with the repetition.
    I hope in the upcoming section we will discuss other topics.
    This is not to minimize the horror of child abuse, but enough is enough.

    The problem of domestic abuse is universal, and I think our appreciation for
    the positive aspects of the New Zealand culture is being lost in the author's emphasis
    on the unpleasant and frightening story of the life of this child.

    June 14, 2005 - 03:46 pm
    I have to agree with GINNY. Keri isn't just focusing on a problem; it's the peple she wants us to see. She is refusing to let us draw lines of good/bad, black/white. People are a mixture, and she presents us with a trio with serious problems, much that offends, yet also much that draws us to understanding, liking, forgiving, without condoning. When these three begin to heal, to leave the violence and isolation behind, we can only be glad. Isn't salvation better than judgment? That, I believe, is what Hulme wanted to do here.


    Kevin Freeman
    June 14, 2005 - 06:41 pm
    I like it when authors go for shades of gray. It's a gray life, afterall (I need only look in the mirror). Seriously, though. It was a gray life when I was a kid, too. That old song from the 70s: "The Earth is black; the Earth is white" had it all wrong. Very little is black and white, or good and evil. Would it were so easy!

    And pedln, please don't doubt our compassion! It's not a reflection of feelings for an abused child readers are sharing, it's a reflection of Hulme's ability to realistically bring such a child to life, to make us believe and care.

    It's like the movies, in that sense. Some movies you go to and you become aware of your surroundings -- the fact that you're sitting in a cavernous, black room with people munching on popcorn, slurping on Super-Size Cokes, whispering to each other, and coughing. Other times you're so caught up in the fictional world created on screen that you're oblivious to your surroundings and, for all intents and purposes, sucked into the world of the screen.

    Ditto The Bone People and all books. To varying degrees, readers are lost in the book, wrapped up in the characters, OR aware that they are reading a book in a room with all manner of physical stimuli around them (and/or, mental stimuli in their mind -- places to go, people to see, jobs to do, chores to run, other books to get to, etc., etc.).

    That's no statement on poor little Simon or his lot. That's simply a statement on Hulme and the awesome task she's taken on here.

    In in any event, it's one heck of a book -- especially for a first-time novelist. You can't take THAT away from her, no matter WHAT your take on the book's plot, characterization, and topic.

    June 15, 2005 - 04:51 am
    Thank you all for your wonderful comments! As you have noticed in the heading here, we're moving on today to Part III, and since the book is written in such a unique style, I thought we'd continue our own approach a bit differently?

    In Week I we tried out the One Focus Question per day

    In Week II we put up 17 Focus Questions, some of them quite good and still unaddressed

    In Week III we'll say anything we like about the first three sections or the third section ONLY PLEASE, in any way we'd like.

    The floor is OPEN, what do you want to talk about? And how do you want to talk about it? I wrote a poem actually about it somewhat in her style but I think I'll wait and see what you all say and do and what you'd like to say. What struck YOU in this section?

    I'm not ready to give my final assessment of the book, but from the remarks of several of you it must have a heck of an ending.

    Those of you who see it as "wonderful" and a "heck of a book," please tell us WHY you think that? Inquiring minds want to know, that's why we're here, to talk about the things in the book.

    So let's begin today, the floor is open, will YOU take the plunge and ask one question on this section and will YOU say something that has not been said already about the book or the third section?

    You're doing an absolutely splendid job, let's see what we can do today!

    June 15, 2005 - 05:20 am
    Thank you Deems for explaining plot driven, I agree with you, in all aspects.

    Interesting you should mention Kerewin's first section breaks from the novel. I felt the same jolt in this third section which has become SO……(Carolyn says it's New Zealandish, I know it's different and is about a culture) but it suddenly becomes markedly so. Everybody is "mate" and so forth, from the very first page, she says, "There's still a few of them round…" That's new and different, sort of exotic sounding . I thought the scenes in the bar were terrifically atmospheric, I kept expecting to see Crocodile Dundee enter, but I have no way of knowing how authentic this is.

    THIS , Pedln, for me, is the first time the book has seemed Other Than Navaho, I agree with you on the first two sections.

    Oh good point Deems on the Aikido. I am concerned and confused with her constant need to be seen as the Big Bad Mama, and again we have the veiled threats in the bar. It's been a long time since somebody swaggered up to me with that type of threat, and even longer since I myself did it (have I ever?)

    I am wondering when the last time was any of YOU threatened anybody like that?

    So yes, that does seem a little dated.

    Pedln you say you find the lack of sympathy for Simon and his situation appalling. I must say your words were ringing in my ears when he got ill in the boat and Kerewin to herself refers to him as an urchin who messes up the trip, and then again with the Fish Hook Incident, let's see now, the nearest doctor who can do a good job is 300 miles away, did I read that correctly? Ok so we get him all drunk and do it ourselves, along with musings by Joe of how he could just rip it out from the bone and all or whatnot? Is that the place you started skimming? Have a cheroot, kid.

    I think again we're all familiar with emergency medicine when there are no doctors about (is 300 miles really an impossibility?). My own great grandmother sewed back on the kitchen table a toe which was cut off one of her sons, (the doctor when he did get there said she had wasted her time, the toe would turn black and fall off). The toe did discolor, but remained there all his days, but this is something else again, perhaps?

    Skip skip skip, if you have little boys and they have ever been fishing, you know about fish hooks, skip skip skip.

    Scrawler, thank you for the characters AS symbols, and I agree, we all get it, and in Part III we do move on, but again we need to remember, we didn't write this book and if ABUSE is what the author takes UP in Part II, we can't ignore the elephant in the living room.

    Unfortunately there's not much to talk ABOUT in part II except abuse, Mippy, (other than the 17 questions on other subjects I put in the heading ahahhaa), but now we've (thankfully) left that and lots of new plot devices have sprung up, the rings, the part about Kerewin admitting that perhaps she IS holding up a front, even to her, did you all catch the part where she says almost slipped? She's holding up a front even to her.

    We get some notion of her family history, more mystery, her brother comes and leaves, (interestingly this narration, too, is at a distance, told by Simon), the bit about the dead bird, the singing, this section is well done and interesting.

    I have no clue what the chapter titles mean and I am beginning to think they are meaningless, what do you all think? There must be SOME reason for them?

    Thank you Traude for your thoughts on what drives the book and the link, yes I mentioned Colorado I think in my first or second post, but it's always good to be reminded of it again.

    Colkot, what do you see that is making you think Kerewin might have a chronic illness? I am not seeing anything in the first three parts, but she sure has a drinking problem, or would you say so? Is a quart of whiskey with no hangover normal? I truly don't know?

    I liked the part about getting out the paintings and her thinking of doing more work.

    I did not understand her reaction to Joe's invitation to come to the bar, tho, did any of you?

    Thank you Carolyn for that inside look at the actual locations!

    Mippy, up until now I have not seen anything about the positive aspects of New Zealand culture, as stated before, to me this could be in Alaska, but this section III has a lot of stuff in it, so let's hear from you all about what you'd like to talk about!

    Good perspective Babi on the trinity, I keep looking at the blurb in the heading, and wondering about their friendship and where it's going to take us.

    Kevin, I took it that Pedln was questioning the compassion of those around Simon but I could be wrong. Do most of you really think Simon has been realistically brought to life? I think he's more lifelike in Part III, but to me he sure has not been lifelike till now.

    Please tell us why you think it's a "heck of a book."

    Let's see, if you all were leading this discussion, what you think about the BOOK is what we need to talk about today!! I'm excited about what you will bring to the table here in our mid 90's weather here in the south. Lots of new secrets slowly revealed here, was Joe's wife unfaithful? What's the wire Simon dreams about? More mysteries, more secrets slowly revealed.

    The floor is now open for your own thoughts (is Gillayley spelled like that? I keep looking at it, it's Irish, isn't it?) Does it mean something? Hardly the name for Lord of the Realm, right? Did Simon just call HIMSELF "Clare?" That's what it says in Part III. Why?

    I am wondering here about titles and names. I note that Kerwein sometimes refers to herself as Keri, is that why you think, Carolyn, that Kerewin is Keri and Hulme is writing about herself? Or was it the interview? The strange little trinity, one called Joseph, one called Simon Peter and one called Keri.

    June 15, 2005 - 07:40 am
    Could anyone explain this dream (p. 267, Penguin paperback) or
    would you like to bring up another dream or daydream K. has?

    She dreamed that night she was sitting in front of a table, its
    edges defined by shadows. There were cards on the table, but they
    had nothing on them. She picked them up ... where is the message? ...
    And at once brightly coloured pictures appeared ...

    The author's use of dreams and daydreams is incredible! What do you think they mean?

    June 15, 2005 - 10:06 am
    When Joe looks at one of Kerewin's self-portraits, she explains:

    "These are the only things in my life that are real to me now. NOT PEOPLE, Joe. Not relationships. Not families. That remind me I could."

    She is sliding them back behind the desk, screamers and mysteries and weeping loving pieces of her sea and land. She holds out her hand for the self-portrait.

    "But something. Something has died. Isn't there now. I can't paint." There are tears in her voice, but none in her eyes. "I am dead inside." (p. 264, Part III Penguin paperback)

    Question: Does Kerewin's status as an artist render her more or less isolated? And if she can't paint what will that do to her?

    I know for me I need the quiet to do my craft. When I'm in the clutches of creativity I tend to ignore everything around me - even the people I love.

    June 15, 2005 - 03:54 pm
    There is some commentary in this section that caught my attention:

    Kerewin: “Philosophy while partially embalmed in whiskey never does produce much more than a whining little tribe of cliches.”

    Beautiful, poetic thoughts: “Left bereft, go sift the wide expanse of wind...take issue with any straw that blows across your path and conjure hopes from sticks that lie in the sand. Soul, your hopes are my hopes and my hopes are insane. So the meaning and signpost for the journey is Hope Obscure. And the sign is a ghost, still whining and bound in a cart.”

    " hopes are insane..." Nevertheless, hopes are there, and Kerewin is unable to truly believe in them and not quite able to let them go.


    Kevin Freeman
    June 15, 2005 - 05:19 pm
    Thanks, Ginny, for putting me on to my possible misinterpretation of pedln's post (#277, I think). I went back and looked again. Yep. I misread it. Pedln opened her paragraph with the "appalled" line and then, many sentences later when the paragraph closed, clarified that she was addressing other characters' lack of caring about Simon's abuse, not the readers'.

    My bad, as they say. Sorry, pedln! You'll forgive me this time, won't you? (Hoping I get THREE "forgives" before I get what's coming to me.)

    I will make like Simon and become mute here for awhile as I am behind on Part III.

    Carry on!

    June 15, 2005 - 05:40 pm
    Ginny, I thought that she was suffering from a bi-polar disorder which explains to me the mood swings. There are periods when this illness causes lethargy(no inspiration to paint etc) and other times extreme energy when the subject feels they can do anything( eg.building the tower) The manner in which she treats the boy and her partner and allows them to use her is also a symptom. Add to this the excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco, cirhrosis or cancer maybe later on. They are all dysfucntional characters who complement one another. Colkot

    June 15, 2005 - 09:47 pm
    The book is filled with intriguing dreams that seem to signify important things or that help to explain, piece by piece, mysteries in the story.

    Kerewin dreams of cards where the cards keep changing until they run together in a rainbow that turns white except for one card that draws Kerewin into the card. She falls "wailing in final despair from the lightning struck tower" which she thinks, upon waking, is the Tower of Babel. "She didn't, then, think at all of her Tower."

    Is there a comparison between Kerewin's tower and the Tower of Babel?

    I looked up the Tower of Babel and it's another Genesis reference. "...the Tower of Babel was a tower built by a united humanity in order to reach the heavens. To prevent the project from succeeding, God confused their languages so that each spoke a different language, they couldn't communicate with one another and the work could not proceed. After that time, people moved away to different parts of Earth. The story is used to explain the existence of many different languages and races."

    The biblical ziggurat, called the Tower of Babel, symbolized humanity in rebellion against God in their attempt to ascend to heaven. The Tower of Babel story has come to symbolize human sin.

    June 15, 2005 - 09:51 pm
    Simon has an intriguing dream or vision.

    Who is the little brown man from the floor, the ghost, that Simon sees?

    June 15, 2005 - 09:56 pm
    We learn much more about the characters in this section of the book. We learn the following about Joe and discover he had a very difficult youth:

    He was an only child. His mother left him to live with his grandmother when he was 3. His father died when he was 4. Joe’s mother spent 6 years in the “bin” [loony bin, I think] after his father died. She was sent to “some South Island hutch” when Joe was 7. Joe had polio when he was about 7. He couldn’t walk for 4 years. That’s why his legs are thin.

    His grandmother said about his father: "I hated his guts from the day he was born, he was born bad...I’m not having you turn out wrong like him.... that’s why I’ve got you.” Joe said: “I used to go round feeling like some kind of leper for having a father so bad, so rotten, that his own mother wouldn’t go to his burying...he always seemed good, and kind.”

    Joe’s grandfather was secretly ashamed of his wife and her Maoriness. Joe said: “I think he took it out on me for being like her, for being dark, and speaking Maori first....he always gave me a reason, but he was hard on me. And my Nana wasn’t one for letting kids take it easy. On pg 231 there are “veiled hints he [Joe] dropped of violence done to him…”

    June 15, 2005 - 10:14 pm
    I'm sort of groping here. I think an important theme in the book has to do with facing Maoriness - those who are part Maori must accept their Maoriness to be whole healthy people. We see the impact of the white colonization on the Maori people and on their culture - we see resulting drunkenness, child abuse, loss of self, families broken up, people searching for help, angry, sick, confused and lost.

    I think these things are more important than the child abuse that prevails so heavily throughout the book. I think the child abuse as shown in the book depicts a symptom of the ruination of the Maori culture, of the need for the people to get back to their roots and beliefs.

    Maybe this theme also has to do with the need for the Maori and "European" cultures to merge together, to keep healthy aspects of each culture. As I've said before, I think Simon, the horribly beaten child, is portrayed as a blond, blue-eyed child deliberately - he's the "Viking." He could have been an abused Maori child with dark hair and dark skin. But, he's not.

    June 16, 2005 - 09:38 am
    I see two more symbols in this section of the book:

    1. Hair – it seems to represent a living part of the person – perhaps a cultural belief? When Kerewin’s hair is accidentally burned (she's drunk), she cuts her hair short. Kerewin thinks of burying her hair, but then burns it. She thinks: “A little more of me gone forever.” Simon is frightened to have his hair cut. Maybe he feels the same as Kerewin, that he is losing part of himself. (Again, this reminds me of the Samson story, where Samson lost his strength when his hair was cut.)

    Joe makes Kerewin a plait of Simon’s cut hair for her to keep. I know Americans used to do this in the 19th century - save a special person's hair inside jewelry - even make jewelry (like bracelets, for example) out of hair.

    2. Rings with semi-precious stones – Kerewin always wears so many rings. She thinks the semi-precious stones have qualities that affect a person. She thinks: “Each ring feeds my fingers with its particular virtue.” She wears certain stones and avoids certain stones.

    June 16, 2005 - 09:53 am
    It seems that the author makes a point to show how the 3 characters have qualities in common, particularly Simon and Kerewin. All 3 have scars, drink alcohol too much have/had an infirmity (polio, muteness, can’t paint), need help, are suffering, are sick.

    Simon and Kerewin both have stolen things, can’t stand watching anything get hurt, are unusually sensitive to others, are terrified by things and have nightmares (e.g. Simon terrified if someone catches him singing; Kerewin terrified if someone holds her hand). Both Simon and Kerewin cut their hair.

    June 16, 2005 - 10:04 am
    We learn more about Kerewin in this section, as we do about the other characters.

    Kerewin can't stand to see others' pain (for example when she can't help Joe with Simon's thumb). There was some sort of "family debacle." What Kerewin wants most is a family reunion without recriminations, and especially to be able to paint again as she could before.

    We learn more about why Kerewin hates contact with others. She says to Joe: “...ever since I can remember, I’ve disliked close contact...charged contact, emotional contact, as well as any overtly sexual contact. I veer away from it, because it always feels like the other peron is draining something out of me…I think I am a neuter.” Joe says, “Maybe you have so much energy tied up in this, [painting] you have none left for sex.” [Is Joe right?]

    After the vacation, Kerewin seems to be spiraling downward towards madness. At one point, looking into a mirror, she recalls she used to get afraid that she’d look into mirror and "see nothing" – or "somebody else would be looking back our of her face." Later, as she goes down the spiral staircase, she says “What if I’ve stepped out of my retreat and this downward spiral goes on and on in the black forever? Steep deep, deep where light suffocates and people become tiny creeping shades unseen ever except by horrible…” She’s relieved to reach the living room.

    This reminds me again of the book I read years ago, The Spiral Staircase, about a person who descended into madness.

    June 16, 2005 - 10:10 am
    Does Kerwin's status as an artist and her isolationism make her more or less a Maori?

    As mentioned before my background was Cajun which in many ways is common with Maori. I was almost an adult before I realized that I had this background. The Irish part of my family on the west coast used to ignore the Cajun side in the south as well as the French side ignored both the Cajun and the Irish. But all of these races run through my veins including Greek from my mother's side. At times they tend to mix and match or is that "mesh" and match within my body - makes me have lots of arguments with myself. But I am who I am and I'm proud of all of me. Oddly enough it was my Cajun ancestors who gave me my maiden name and then to complicate matters I married an American who had an English background.

    But I can understand how Joe and Kerwin felt about being Maori. And I think in Kerewi's self-portraits she was drawing her Maori self out of her and to her these self-portraits were the only things that made her life real. Not the people or the families - only her paintings! Perhaps the pain in her body was really stress because she thinks that she can't paint any more and therefore she does not feel Maori anymore. "But something. Something has died. Isn't there now. I can't paint - [I'm not Maori]!"

    June 16, 2005 - 10:30 am
    We learn more about the mystery of Simon in this section, also. We see Simon doesn't play with toys like other children; but he builds unusual creative structures. Simon is terrified of doctors. Joe says as soon as Simon sees a doctor’s bag, he starts screaming. He’s terrified of shots/needles.

    In chpt 5 pg 203 after Simon saw the dead rabbits, he dreamed: “He can feel the wire round his wrists again. There isn’t any room to move, and there isn’t enough air to breathe, and the voice, rich warm powerful voice, is questioning, questions he can never answer, and laughing when he struggles. The voice grows and echoes. And the pain intensifies, and he tries to cry out against it, and no sound comes. A bitter sting in his arm, and then the fingers bite him, pushing into the places where it hurts worst, and sending him down into the blackness where he cannot breathe. The lid coses over against his silent screaming, and the blackness floods everything.”

    It seems to me like Simon has been kidnapped, is being drugged (needle) into unconsciousness, and is being kept in some sort of container that is closed and dark.

    On a fishing trip Kerewin calls Simon a “bloody pauvre petit en souffrant.” Simon’s “eyes snap open. They’re black and blank and his face has twisted in terror.” He throws up. Kerewin thinks “Pidgin French, M C de V, Saint Clare beach, Citroen cars...worldly peregrinations...” Kerewin is putting pieces together of Simon's mysterious background. We know Simon calls himself Clare and may be the son of the wayward grandson of a British earl. (earl?)

    After Simon kills the wounded bird on the beach, he sings to it – singing is “as secret as his name.” When he senses Kerewin, he cowers in the sand and his bowels loosen, his body “jerking spasmodically.” “His mouth drawn down in a rictus of fear, he waits. For lightning, blows, the darkness. Nothing happens…He shivers again, but this time from fiery exultation…Nothing! She heard me singing! But nothing!...Any time, I can sing!"..."IcansingIcansingIcansing.” Simon is jubilant that he is allowed to sing. From then on he sings a lot in front of Joe and Kerewin and Joe's relatives. It seems Simon must have been beaten for singing and for speaking - maybe if he had been kidnapped, the kidnappers were trying to keep him silent?

    Simon's joy of singing reminds me of the first lines of the Prologue: "He walks down the street. The asphalt reels by him. It is all silence. The silence is music. He is the singer..."

    Last item: Simon writes something in stones just before they leave the vacation spot. It seems very important. "He croons to himself, They won't know, They won't know, making the letters good and big. But he hasn't enough stones, and the last two letters of the third word have to be left off. He looks at his message for quite a time, wondering whether it would be better, safer, to kick the phrase into disarray. It looks vaguely threatening as it is. He shrugs. It's too late. WHATEVER IS GOING TO HAPPEN, WILL HAPPEN, AND THERE IS NOTHING AT ALL HE CAN DO ABOUT IT NOW. He leaves the message as it is."

    What the heck did he say??


    June 16, 2005 - 10:57 am
    I just thought of another biblical reference. I had earlier compared little Simon P. to Simon Peter in the bible (St. Peter).

    Simon Peter was a fisherman before he turned disciple and preacher. It was little Simon who caught the big fish on the fishing expedition.

    June 16, 2005 - 11:35 am
    About the 'cards' dream: I thought of 'playing the cards you are dealt', and that the cards are changing for Kerewin. This, I believe, is what she was seeing in the first part of her dream. With one exception they become blank, meaning she doesn't know what lies ahead.

    One card remains, and the dream emphasis shifts to that one card, the 'Tower'. Kerewin didn't associate that card with her tower, but I certainly did. Her refuge has been breached and the security, safety and isolation it represented is tumbling down.

    Marni, you commented on how much this trio has in common. All three are injured...damaged... on multiple levels. Yet they may find their healing in each other.


    kiwi lady
    June 16, 2005 - 11:42 am
    My grandaughter is one eighth Maori. However she has inherited a coffee au lait complexion or more like coffee and cream. She has dark brown eyes like milk chocolate and dark very thick coarse hair. She has the Maori bone structure -very solid. She has almost a sixth sense and dreams a lot. She has dreamt of things which have come true. She is mad on art. Art is the biggest thing in her life. She will sometimes get up in the night and draw at her desk in her bedroom. She is not a good sleeper like me.

    What I am trying to say is the Maori gene seems to be quite strong and there are things which are inherited even if like my grandaughter being maori is only a small part of her makeup, Her Maoriness is recognisable and she was asked on her first day at school if she had Maori heritage.

    My grandaughter at school is drawn to other children who have Maori heritage although she gets on very well with any of the other children. My daughter and I find all these things we notice fascinating.

    I have read that Keri Hulme is also one eighth Maori. She obviously feels Maori however.


    June 16, 2005 - 04:19 pm
    Gosh what an explosion of great ideas and points, this is super! I've got the two new symbols in the heading and will put up the new questions you all are asking in the heading in the morning, we've got bad storms here.

    We have been sent two links for your interest from a new reader, Barbara, who I hope will drop by and join right in, thank you, Barbara, but I found the first one quite interesting, it's from New and is about the Haka. I am enjoying hearing the man talk, actually, and apparently the Haka is a Maori dance? It's quite interesting, and you can click and watch it sort of performed, I don't know anything else except it's quite exotic and interesting: Haka .

    kiwi lady
    June 16, 2005 - 04:35 pm
    The Haka is unofficially our national dance. Its performed by all sports teams in international competition. Overseas at sports events where our teams feature you can see impromptu hakas being performed by kiwis of all colours in the stands. I think our hearts are stirred by the haka just as much as you are by the Stars and Stripes. Its hard to explain. Its just so much part of who we are, all of us.


    June 17, 2005 - 02:18 pm
    I tried the HAKA link, but the video square was quite small and rather dark. The movements of the intro. icon were something I recognised, however, so I believe I have seen the Haka performed. I suspect it must have been in a movie. It was a stirring thing to watch.


    kiwi lady
    June 17, 2005 - 03:50 pm
    Babi you have to download Macro media Flash 7 to see it properly. You would need Windows 2000 or XP I think to download it. I got full screen viewing.


    June 17, 2005 - 09:46 pm
    I'm still reading, however, I have a monster busy beginning of June with close up on clients for the school year, new job, major projects due, the last one this week, and now the last of the graduations, my cousin, with honors, from high school in a class of 819 I think. It's supposed to rain tomorrow.

    I have not dropped out, merely momentarily pooped out.


    June 18, 2005 - 03:03 am
    Thanks for letting us know where you are, Kleo, sounds quite busy and productive! I also have a horrendous schedule (summer time is supposed to find the living easy, right?) hahaaha coming up, so will just say here that on June 21, that's this coming Tuesday, we'll be starting on the last part of the book. I can't wait to see all the ends ( I hope) tied up and explanations rampPANT as Strom Thurmond used to say, or at least I hope so, and the explanations of all the questions we have all had throughout.

    I'll be gone from the 22-27th, but will look in from the road on the 27th with laptop until we conclude our discussion here. The nominations and voting will take place as noted in the Read Around the World discussion, please see that area for more details.

    As most of you know we don't have any unattended discussions in the Books, but we have so many Books Discussion Leaders IN here that we're well covered and I'll ask our Books Tech Team to please put up in the heading here any question you ask, so we're good to go.

    I'm half afraid to read the end of the book. Will she succeed in tying up all the loose ends or not? Will I ever know what all these references ARE to the musings or will they remain a mystery. Will the chapter titles explain selves (and the title for that matter) or will I leave the book in the same state I entered it? Confused. Hahahaa

    I was thinking yesterday in one of my long drives when stuff popped into my own head as it does with everybody that THAT is what she's doing, as so many of you have pointed out, so well. I just read an interview with a Japanese film maker who said, "you mean YOU don't hear voices in your head?" which made me think of course that we all do. But it may be what these voices are SAYING or maybe the little snatches of whatever which make a difference, I'm not sure, not being a psychiatrist, (I may be in NEED of one, especially after yesterday, but I'm not one). And so we continue our floating in her head.

    I also want to go back and reread as Marni suggested quite a bit earlier, the Prologue, which I believe, (or do you?) must have been written after the book was finished, (or do you think so?)

    At any rate, we'll leave up your questions and on Tuesday we'll ask more and ask YOU to have more, I like yours better than mine! Hahahaa


    June 18, 2005 - 03:05 am

    I thought Mippy had a great point on all the dreams and day dreams of the protagonist (I'm STILL not sure about that narrator stuff). She seems…would you say she IS the stuff of daydreams?

    Scrawler has pointed out that she feels alienated from relationships and that they are not "real" to her now. I am trying to figure out WHAT the rising tension is in this story, there are so many of them it's confusing. IS it her own story or is her own story here told thru the corresponding stories of the other two?

    Babi you make a good point on the element of HOPE in the story, I had missed that, they all have hopes, right? But to me, only one of them is proactively doing something about it, or am I wrong?

    Kevin, I expect a lot of us are behind on this part, hopefully we can all catch up here in a bit, I know I was pushed to finish that last section, it's more poetry, perhaps than prose, as per Babi's quote.

    Good point, Colkot on the possible bi polar disorder, something's wrong, and as you say the massive consumption of alcohol is not helping. I thought this one section was interesting where we find she is one of a huge family! That stunned me. Here she goes off to the beach house, which she feels at home in, "somebody" has been keeping up the boat, boy what on earth has she done to alienate herself from an entire pack of brothers and sisters? I guess we'll find out here soon.

    Good point Marni on the Tower, this time the Tower of Babel, I sure hope she ties this stuff up in the end, I feel like I'm in a tornado watching this or that piece of flotsam whiz by, we're not in Kansas any more, Toto, but where ARE we? I just hope we land.

    Another excellent point, Marni on Simon's deliberately being Viking looking instead of Maori looking, that seems significant. I think I need to finish up the book this weekend and see what's explained and what's not. I liked your take on the parallels between the characters, that can't be an accident and your pointing out that descent thru the spiral staircase.

    I thought you had an excellent question about the message in stones in the sand too, and I was struck by the total improbability of the entire scene. The child spells out a message in the sand, but leaves off the last three letters of the third word because he doesn't have enough stones And what's the message? . WHATEVER IS GOING TO HAPPEN, WILL HAPPEN, AND THERE IS NOTHING AT ALL HE CAN DO ABOUT IT NOW.

    So he left off "ing" from going because he ran OUT OF STONES? Wouldn't you run out at the end of the line? That kind of thing just makes me move on, I'm sure there's something deep there but it doesn't make any rational sense, to me, does it you?

    Oh and yes, what DID he say?

    Good point, Babi, on the Tower of Cards coming apart, quite a mélange of mixed metaphors here, isn't there?

    The problem with writing in symbols is that the reader, with his own voices in his own head, is going to attach his own meanings to them, as well. You might really get a TOWER of Babel, then, I have.

    Thank you for explaining about the Haka, Carolyn, what's the tongue thing? I did not have time to read more than a couple of the sub pages, but I love to hear the guy talk!

    Of course at the end of this section, in the chapter Nightfall, the entire chapter, again, we again have, I just read it again, another savage beating, (for the windows? For Kerewin's guitar? For?) We are supposed to take these now in our stride or ignore them or? If the character suddenly stripped naked and ran thru the streets would we ignore that? OK, it's ok with me.

    Joe screams? Why? What's happening at the end? Hopefully Joe got some back?

    What did you make of that last chapter?

    I see the new chapter title of the section coming up is "Candles in the Wind," reminding me of Elton John, and his famous song, I wonder if that's deliberate.

    It seems to me that we've divided the book in just the right places. I see Kerewin packing on the first page of our last bit, and I'm packing too, it's time for me and her to move on, so I think I'll read on now and see what's going on, but let's hear from YOU, what are the voices in YOUR head saying about this book today? You're doing SUCH an incredible job with this, I am SOO impressed!

    Tell us all, up until now, some of you already have, but for the rest of us, what is this book ABOUT?

    June 18, 2005 - 05:23 am
    I don't know if I should tell Ginny this, but I stayed up last night and finished the book, and I'm more confused than ever. I think I'll have to read the whole last part over again.

    I think this is more than one book. She wrote it over 12 years, which is a long time, and I think it grew and changed in her hands as it went ( I see some sort of vegetable growth, moving over time. AAAAAAAK. When you find your psychiatrist, Ginny, tell me his name). See what you all think.

    June 18, 2005 - 08:30 am
    JoanK, we agree once again!
    I think the book is distressingly disjointed, now that I have also finished it.
    Supposedly, authors don't like their editors to suggest alterations, but our author, IMO, could have used
    the right editor, someone who would have read the book and said, Keri, you are confusing your readers.

    Actually, then Keri would have said: I want the readers to be confused!

    But I value the book as an insight into the NZ culture about which I had been quite ignorant.

    June 18, 2005 - 08:38 am
    Joan K and Mippy--Put me in your tent. Confusion abounds. But let's not tell Ginny. It will put her into a distemper. I said earlier that I thought the book did not benefit from being twelve years in the writing. Hulme herself says that the book was originally a short story that just kept growing. "Vegetable growth" indeed, Joan K, I agree.

    June 18, 2005 - 08:39 am
    Oh dear, you all do not sound promising, hahaah I am expecting ends neatly tied up in a bow and a satisfying ending, but I came in to say this.

    I think we deserve the other side of the coin, this book is a little one sided. On July 24 in the USA, PBS Program Clubs as I've mentioned, will present The Whale Rider and a LOT of interviews with the people who produced it, etc.

    My little foray into the land of the Haka makes me want to exit this experience a little more positively. I am not seeing anything positive at this point, and I would like to.

    This is one book by one author.

    Let me ask you a HARD question?

    If this book instead of Maori, featured instead American Navaho Indians, what would be your reaction?

    I really want to know that?

    I very much want to invite all of you to join us in viewing The Whale Rider, and you too Carolyn, I know you've seen the movie and the internet site will have lots of new stuff on it about the movie and a chance to talk with the Producers if I'm not mistaken, they always have interviews, right here in the PBS Program Club discussion on SeniorNet on July 24, and let's SEE with our own eyes and hear New Zealand and let's see something uplifting and positive (if this book is not, when it ends....I don't know whether it is or not, but I'm about to find out!).

    June 18, 2005 - 08:40 am
    Whoop! ANOTHER vote for vegetable matter, is that like a Fungus Among Us?

    Et tu, Deems?

    I must go read this thing! What IF we started the END early?

    June 18, 2005 - 08:44 am
    Well, how about the Lakota? I'm learning a bit about them in the miniseries "Into the West" which goes back and forth between a Virginian's adventures in the West and the Lakota (also the Crow and the Cheyenne). If you haven't seen it, you might wait for TNT to begin it all again. It started last week (two hours) and the second two hours were this weekend. There are four more installments, I think. I think that Crazy Horse was a Lakota, but he hasn't come into the story yet. I'm trying to figure out if the young Lakota boy might grow up to be Crazy Horse.

    I don't think that the disjointedness of this novel has anything to do with New Zealand. Disjointed novels have no country of origin. Or rather, they exist in all countries.

    June 18, 2005 - 08:56 am
    I would have to agree that there are several plots and thus several stories in this book. And I agree that a better editor would have helped, but than you have to remember that she "shopped" this book around for awhile until someone said yes they'd publish it. Because it started out as a "short story" probably gives us a clue as to why we are confused. You would write a short story differently than you would a novel.

    In a novel you would start out slowly and give more of the background material of the characters, location etc. But a "short story" plunges right into the story and sometimes you don't get everything you need to understand the story. Hemmingway used to write this way, but F. Scott Fitzgerald, even though he wrote short stories, wrote a complete story even if they were very short.

    I think too that the style of this book might contribute to the confusion of this tale. But when all that is said and done I love what I'm learning about Maori and NZ.

    June 18, 2005 - 10:26 am
    Tho' Kerewin undoubtedly has a lot of emotional pain from the past, I don't see her as suffering from some mental disorder. She has a physical problem. That bout of excruciating abdominal pain is not something that can be dismissed and forgotten. Maybe she just passed some kind of stone---that would explain the pain---but I think is must be explained. Surely Hulme didn't just throw that in there for no good reason.

    There is confusion at many points in this book, but I believe it is resolved as one continues reading. Maybe its a deliberate writing technique; ie., raise questions, so the reader will be searching for answers.


    June 18, 2005 - 11:22 am
    Scrawler, I wish I could say that I'm learning about Maoris and New Zealand, but so far I don't see a unique ethnic identity. They drink a lot, but, unfortunately, so do a lot of others.

    June 18, 2005 - 11:54 am
    I went into the PBS program club, but they didn't have Whale Riders yet. I hope I don't forget to check again. Ever since they took it off of the book discussion page, I have been missing them.

    June 18, 2005 - 12:00 pm
    It seems that authors can't satisfy us. We didn't like the fact that The Kite Runner was too tightly, obviously plotted. Now we don't like the fact that The Bone People is too loose. I agree that Hulme needed an editor, but so did Tolstoy. (I had understood that one reason it took so long to publish the book is that she would only publish if the publisher agreed not to edit it). I think if we read it as an unfinished book, we'll do better.

    June 18, 2005 - 12:07 pm
    hahaah are you saying we're PICKY? Or maybe we're just seasoned readers.

    It's OK with me to think of it as unfinished, but it did win a prize. I need to go back also and reread the Prologue, I'm sure it will make sense now.

    We'll try to keep these PBS and Curious Minds things in the public eye better, I agree we need work on that.

    That is NOT what I did not like about The Kite Runner, however, the tightness of plot! No siree, besides I thought you all "liked" it?

    The subject matter here in our current book is repulsive to me, and I think it would be to anybody. I know people are holding back their opinions. The writing...well...let me finish it before I say, I don't mind all the flying symbols if there is a reason for them, and even if there is not, I love william carlos williams (was the one with the Emperor of Ice Cream? Loved that. I love things like that), NO! It was Wallace Stevens let me finish it, let us all finish it, and again and again and AGAIN I echo Deems, what we think of the BOOK, and the confusion in the book, or the truly repugant subject matter, has nothing to do with New Zealand!

    I wish this WERE about Lakotas, but it's not. At any rate, I think we would not be amiss to ramp up the schedule a bit and go ahead and sally forth into the next section, just gimme a day here.

    June 18, 2005 - 12:14 pm
    here you go, some more spiraling symbolism:
    The Emperor of Ice Cream

    Call the roller of big cigars,
    The muscular one, and bid him whip
    In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
    Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
    As they are used to wear, and let the boys
    Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
    Let be be finale of seem.
    The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

    Take from the dresser of deal,
    Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
    On which she embroidered fantails once
    And spread it so as to cover her face.
    If her horny feet protrude, they come
    To show how cold she is, and dumb.
    Let the lamp affix its beam.
    The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

    ---Wallace Stevens

    June 18, 2005 - 02:20 pm
    I agree with you, Deems; disorganization is not to be applauded, and confusion only leaves the reader asking:
    is it my fault I do not understand the author's message? Is there a message? I do think that, to some extent, Hulme lost her way in the 12 years of creating the novel. There is more than one novel in these pages.

    Ginny, you asked what if the culture were (not) "Maori ... instead (was) American Navaho Indians" but I ask why that choice? The Navaho's were inland people, not linked to the sea as the Maori, right? Doesn't that make a very great cultural difference?

    Were you thinking, perhaps, of the problem with alcoholism the American Indians are known to have?
    I believe that has turned out to be a genetic predisposition.

    And may I note, regarding the Kite Runner: "like" is not my choice of how I feel about it. It taught me a lot, but the unpleasant parts of the book stick with me too much for "like" and that is, obviously, happening with Bone People, too.

    kiwi lady
    June 18, 2005 - 02:30 pm
    Here are a couple of truths about Keri Hulme as disclosed in a rare interview.

    Keri Hulme said the most important things in her life are Family, friends and fishing in that order.

    She also disclosed the fact that she dreams a lot.

    Keri lives by the sea, is a very private person and does not seek publicity. She is not driven to write. She says writing is not a compulsion with her.

    I think I understand Keri as she thinks a lot like me about many things. I write but only write when I have something to say. My writing is for me and to an extent I think Keri is like that and if she puts a book up for publication its because she has something she wants to share.

    I am currently reading her collection of stories "Stone Fish." This book also has something to say about the future of our world and our planet. The stories are very futuristic and very scary. However I have the same sentiments as she does regarding the fate of our planet if we do not take stock now.

    Keri is also an artist but I don't know if she has ever exhibited her work. I would bet she has some talent.

    Keri once said she put more of herself into Kerewin than she had intended.

    Keri enjoys nature and had a window put in her house especially to watch the sunsets and to be able to get the best view of the sun as it sets.


    June 18, 2005 - 03:31 pm
    Carolyn, I was just about to ask if anybody had read any of her other or newer books, how does the style correspond to the one we're reading? Is it the same...or? Thank you for those insights from her interview.

    Mippy, you asked, Were you thinking, perhaps, of the problem with alcoholism the American Indians are known to have? I believe that has turned out to be a genetic predisposition.

    No actually I did not know that, I just wanted to pick an indigenous people of America to try to see if we could explore some of the issues from another perspective. I didn't think about the sea side dwelling aspect? At all, actually. I am not sure what that would bring to bear on the major themes in the book?

    Or is there one I missed, there are so many.

    To sea or not to sea? I am not seeing anybody wedded to the sea but Kerewin and her tower and her boat? Joe does not fish for a living, or does he?

    I have actually read some of the books written by and about American Indians, there's a searing one from the POV OF the wife of one of them, maybe we should consider reading some of those, for another look. Not sure.

    I've read my last one on child abuse for a long time, I can tell you that.

    kiwi lady
    June 18, 2005 - 07:55 pm
    Just think about this.

    I have read many books on child abuse but none have been as realistic as this one. Does it not say something for Keri Hulme that she made us really feel for this child? It was as if we too were present when the abuse took place.


    kiwi lady
    June 18, 2005 - 07:59 pm
    Joe works in a factory ( or plant). He is well paid and has managed to clear the mortgage on his house. He would not be on the bread line as far as finances go.


    June 18, 2005 - 09:49 pm
    Ginny: I perked up when I saw your posting of the Wallace Stevens poem. I worked at The Hartford (Life Insurance Company) for 23 years before I "retired." Wallace Stevens was an executive at The Hartford years ago. Their corporate theater is named after him. I remember being so surprised when I found out. I didn't associate a Hartford, CT insurance executive with the person who wrote the Emperor of Ice Cream.

    June 18, 2005 - 10:32 pm
    I just re-read the chapter "Nightfall" to get caught up. We really saw Simon looking for BIG trouble here. He won't return Kerewin's special knife that he stole. He gets into a physical fight with her. (Kerewin punches 6-year old Simon hard in the chest. She could be a child beater like Joe.) Simon deliberately breaks Kerewin's special guitar and is asked to leave. He breaks 30 plate glass windows in town and is picked up by the constable.

    There are several things going on here that I hadn't seen before:

    1. Joe sticks to his promise of not beating Simon unless Kerewin gives him the go-ahead.

    2. Kerewin, in her fury, tells Joe to go ahead and beat Simon, knowing how Joe can't control himself when he gets started and knowing the terrible damage done to Simon in the past.

    3. Simon knows ahead of time he's going to get the beating of his life and he prepares for it. He has a weapon to protect himself, a piece of plate glass as sharp as a knife. He stabs Joe.

    This whole episode was bizarre for me. It's like all 3 are at fault for what resulted. Simon instigated the terrible beating. (WHY?) Kerewin gave the go ahead. Joe and Simon tried to kill each other in the giant battle.

    To me Simon was the catalyst to bring about the cataclysm. The 3 main characters had been performing sort of a strange dance leading up to this cataclysmic event that would change each of their lives.

    (Is this why Simon (Simon Peter/St. Peter) appears like a haloed martyred saint early in the story?)

    It is at this point for me that the story really moves away from reality and into a mystical fantasy.


    June 19, 2005 - 05:45 am
    Oh for heaven's sake, Marni, Wallace Stevens an executive? A suit? That makes him even more interesting, to me! Thank you for that, amazing. Did you meet him or was he before your time there?

    Carolyn, thank you for that background on Joe, you said, Does it not say something for Keri Hulme that she made us really feel for this child? It was as if we too were present when the abuse took place. Yes indeed, I agree, and as I think I said earlier at some length that's something, a look into the mind of the abused and the abuser, that I am not sure has been done before, so in that I do agree she has attempted (and succeeded) in something quite good.

    Were this about Navajos, however, we would have no problem pointing out its faults. We would not excuse Joe's behavior and we would not associate it with the US in any way, save that he lived there and participated in some Indian customs. We are afraid to say anything about a book from another country lest we appear critical or lest we appear not sympathetic to the people and culture involved. This is a major danger in a Read Around the World Book Club. . But a book is a book, regardless of the country it's from, that's my opinion, what's everybody elses?

    I agree that she did a job there. And she does one in the last section, too.

    I came in to say WAIT WAIT, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, wait? I am almost thru the last section and holy smoke!

    I am seeing ends tied up. I am seeing symbolism explained. And I AM seeing, whether or not we want to admit it, structure. Serious attempts at structure. I am seeing direct parallels, nearly fell off my chair last night, direct quotes REPEATED, even, in case you missed the point, in the Prologue and the last of the book. Those are NOT there by accident or some kind of stream of consciousness writing. I am not sure which was written first, but they DO, as Marni said much earlier, coincide.

    I am seeing, for the first time, really, New Zealand, in the elder in the woods. I am seeing atmosphere and mysticism and culture.

    I wish I had read the last part first, if I ever read another book of hers I will, and I think she knows that and put the Prologue first in an attempt to finally finish the book and indicate there is structure. This is the first time I am really SEEING Maori and culture. The bar could have been in Australia, couldn't it?

    This, to me, might be the real thing, is it? The cave? The Watcher? Note how long Joe "watches?" Very romantic notion, love that bit.

    What's that rock? What do you suppose the glowing rock is? What's the ship here?

    SINCLAIR! Clare explained at last!

    And as Marni says, how much guilt DOES Kerewin share in this last horrendous beating episode? It seems to bother HER, maybe we should talk about IT?

    I'm not finished yet, but I'm seeing parallels in the characters, two with stomach pains and problems and it appears Colkot was right, she does have a serious medical problem.

    Simon makes his way back to the tower in the last part. Things seem to be moving toward a reunion. It will remain for the reader (that's YOU Gentle Reader) to conclude whether or not it all works. For YOU, because YOU are the ones we do this for. The Elephant in the Living Room is, however, something, at least for me, that we canNOT allow ourselves to brush over OR reconcile, unless we ourselves become part of the problem by our willingness to focus on something, anything, other than the issue, for any reason. That in itself becomes part of the problem.

    I had problems, for instance, in her conversations with Joe before his incarceration? Would YOU have wanted anything to do with him? But here they are, talking as if the truck has broken down and needs repair, probably a year in jail, oh ok. Is this Kerewin's guilt working here, her own feeling she is equally (as is explained later) at fault? Or is it something else? I am wary of traps in this book, traps for the reader, too.

    One thing that stands out for me in this last section is the narration. I am going to go back and pay attention but we're in all three heads, Joe's, Simon's and Kerewin's in this last section. This section is powerfully written, I myself ALMOST teared up at Simon the pitiful and his dogged quest (is that paralleled in Biblical scriptures, I know Paul wandered, did Peter??), and I am the most unsympathetic of the readers here at this point, so you have to give her that, too.

    What's that glowing rock? Why did Kerewin tear down her tower? It's amazing that two of the characters are rising like the Phoenix here. I note the doctor identifying Simon's age as 7 and referring to "milk teeth," so even the teeth will regenerate. A 7 year old child. I have to wonder about the third character, will SHE also rise like the Phoenix? Or not? I'm about to find out.

    Let's all read to the end now and discuss the whole book?

    One question that occurred to me early on was why did she leave? Where is she going, why did she tear down the tower and, as Marni has said above, how much joint guilt does she feel here?

    So are YOU thinking Kerewin is a tragic figure here? Are any of these, Joe, Kerewin or Simon, tragic figures? Here is a link to symbolism in the Maori culture that our new reader Barbara has sent, since we're beginning this last section today (or whenever you catch up) it bears reading, I think?

    This link is presented by a student and may not be accurate but it's interesting reading, nonetheless. Thank you, Barbara.

    I'm not quite to the end, but I think the questions mentioned here are worth tackling. IS this a tragedy? I note Joe here, reborn, is considered a "hell of a man." Is Joe a tragic figure? Is Kerewin? What portion of the guilt does she realistically bear here? Is her own tragic flaw projection? What's that glowing rock? Why did she tear down the tower? LOTS and LOTS of questions for this last section.

    Let's start on some of them, I'd like to hear your thoughts on these, particularly! (Because I don't know the answers) haahaha

    June 19, 2005 - 07:21 am
    Just a word about Navajo Indians. My husband was born and raised on a Navajo reservation although he is white not Navajo. His father was a butcher who worked for the U.S. Army. At any rate the myth about alcolism among the Navajo Indians is NOT true. Just like any race there are those who drink and those who do not drink. Think about the Navajo code talkers - where they alcolics?

    June 19, 2005 - 11:01 am
    Had an email from my friend in England who is just reading the Kite Runner which I passed on to her last month. She's absolutely absorbed and fascinated with it. (Good for us Seniornetters!) She had immigrated to New Zealand with her late husband and family when the children were small, but returned and toured the USin a RV with them for about 6 months before returning to England. Jean is a much travelled lady and has been all over the world. Keri Hulmes's book was NOT one of her favorites however. Although the imagery is superb and one gets the feeling of this life & kultura, it really didn't grab me either. I much preferred Tears of the Moon by Di Morrisey which I picked up in Australia some years back.. Colkot

    June 19, 2005 - 11:06 am
    MARNI: "To me Simon was the catalyst to bring about the cataclysm. The 3 main characters had been performing sort of a strange dance leading up to this cataclysmic event that would change each of their lives. "

    Maybe it is my pohanka prejudice, and far from the author's intention, but I keep seeing Simon not as representing Peter, but Christ. As such, he has to die and be reborn for the people to be saved. Thus, they all three conspire, unwittingly for this to happen.

    Again, since there are three of them, I keep trying to make them into the Christian trinity. If Simon is Christ, Joe is the God of the Old Testament, the one who loved but meted out terrible punishments, the one who destroyed humanity and then promised Noah that he would never do it again. After he sacrifices his son, he is transformed into the New Testament God, watching and guarding over.

    This leaves Keri as the Holy Spirit. I can't make that fit: maybe because I don't understand or maybe because I'm making all of this up.

    kiwi lady
    June 19, 2005 - 12:02 pm
    Joan as I read and reread the book you may be right in your overall conclusion. However I cast Kerewin in the role of betrayer.

    You are at liberty to express any opinion you like about child abuse.

    I should point out that my son fell out of a tree ( after being told not to climb any trees) at a Sunday school picnic. He was showing off and playing Tarzan in front of a group of admiring little girls. He was about 9 at the time.

    If we had not had so many witnesses we may have found ourselves in trouble as we were grilled at the hospital about the nature of the injury and how it had happened by a social worker.

    We had a recent fatality as the result of child abuse by the live in boyfriend of a young mother and I have written to the Minister of Child Youth and Family about the negligence of her department in not taking concerns by the natural father seriously, It appears the mother of the child had taken out a protection order against the natural father ( often used maliciously by some women) so they did not believe him when he contacted them about some bruising he had seen on the child on two visits to his mothers home by the child. I am waiting for the reply - I have had an interim reply saying I would get a full reply.

    I believe there is a world wide shortage of social workers. Because of the low tolerance of society to child abuse the case loads are enormous in developed countries. I think this is causing huge problems in weeding out the genuine cases from all the cases reported. This leaves the problem of a child being seriously at risk while all cases are being investigated.

    Education is the key to stamping out child abuse. I personally think that every couple should be made to undertake parenting courses after they make their first antenatal appointment. You could easily do this if the couple are taking State funds for the delivery.

    Another alternative is to have parenting classes as a compulsory subject in the senior high school classes.


    June 19, 2005 - 12:23 pm
    I've noticed a few comments that The Bone People needed tighter editing. Apparently they tried. Hulme writes in her preface (I think it was there), that she persuaded her editors to let her use the language and words she wanted. The sometimes meandering style is, I think, integral to what she is portraying. People are more often 'meandering' in their thoughts than precise.

    WHY DID KEREWIN TEAR DOWN HER TOWER? It seemed quite appropriate to me. Kerewin's tower was the concrete symbol of her withdrawal from people, her chosen isolation. That isolation was deeply invaded, and she accepted a responsibility for the invaders. Now the trio is scattered, and she must make a choice. Return to her isolation...or knock down her tower.


    June 19, 2005 - 12:27 pm
    CAROLYN: I sure didn't mean anything I said to imply that I condone child abuse in any way. This book is clearly operating on at least two levels: a discussion of child abuse on one and a symbolic level. On the ordinary, everyday level, I think we might feel sorry for Joe, and wish him well and recovered, but he should never, never be in charge of a child again. Supervised visits, yes, but no more. If this book is taken as a plea to return abused children to their abusers, then NO!! I hope the book was not taken in that way.

    I just meant that if I'm right about the symbolism, then all of them participated in the "crucification".

    I like the idea of Kerewin as the betrayer, the Judas. Not throughout the book, but here.

    Hulme does make the point throughout that all of us have a streak of violence in us. We can understand Joe better that way. I think we can both sympathize with Joe, and want Simon protected from him.

    kiwi lady
    June 19, 2005 - 01:02 pm
    In a proportion of child abuse cases we see parents totally unable to cope with a difficult child or a child who has disablities such as severe autism. Severe autism is a terrible condition.

    My fix on cases like this is that in a money saving exercise parents have been cut loose and have little support. A person can only take so much and its easy for those who have never experienced 24/7 care of one of these children to sit back and sermonize. Often the father ( yes the father!) will leave and then we have the mother left to cope on her own. Men I am sorry to say have a poor record for stickability in the case of spousal or child severe disablity. Some cases of child abuse are directly related to a caregiver totally breaking down. Parents who are caregivers for these children should get at least two days a week where the child is taken into a care facility to enable the caregiver to have some sort of social interaction with others and to be able to recharge their batteries.

    It all comes down to money. Govts are not willing to spend the money to give poor parents adequate support. Wealthy parents can afford to hire caregivers so that they can get their time out or they can place their children in expensive facilities during the week and only have the children on weekends.

    Nobody knows if they are liable to have an autistic or ADHD child so you are landed with one.

    My eldest son was hyperactive and its very fortunate I had a patient disposition but he did put great stress on me until I was able to get respite when he began school. He is still hyperactive but has been able to channel his boundless energy into business and he is a very successful businessman. His siblings still talk about the things he did as a child and believe me we did not have a permissive household!

    We desperately need to give parents with chronically ill or children with mental disabilities more support. There for the grace of God go you or I and we should never begrudge the money needed to support them.

    I had both a chronically ill and a hyperactive child. It was very very HARD! My daughter has two chronically ill children and luckily she is able to call on me when things get too tough.


    Ann Alden
    June 19, 2005 - 01:06 pm
    Sorry not to be commenting lately but I'm trying to run another topic in Curious Minds plus have one friend and one husband, in the hospital, in the last two weeks. All home and recovering now.

    What is causing all the anger in Joe? What is causing all the anger in anyone who nearly beats a child to death?

    We have had several deaths or comas happen here in Columbus, in the last year. Why?

    I think parenting(which should be called education) and anger management classes should be taught in all schools from K thru 12. Another good course taught in some schools is called conflict resolution. This would seem to be a course that most of us could use and what better place than schools?

    June 19, 2005 - 02:28 pm
    If the next book to win the vote in this book group turns out to have child abuse
    as one of the main themes, I'm out of here.
    Ann, I just saw your post on anger management, above; hasn't it been found that violent people often have been treated violently as children, and that the key is to stop the continuity through generations. But how can classes help?

    It helped me to read Ginny's post. I thought I was the only one who found the book's violence to be so severe. Usually I review in order to enhance my comments, but I cannot stand to reread the sections where Joe is so violent.
    I would not suggest anyone I love should read this book, as some parts really gave me nightmares.
    Now I think I understand, Ginny, about your comment on American Indians. Perhaps, you were trying to defuse any anti-New Zealand sentiment, right?

    I think of the Maori culture as sea-linked, not just Kerewin loving the sea. Am I wrong in remembering their ancestry to be Polynesian? or similarly sea-faring?

    June 19, 2005 - 03:19 pm
    CAROLYN: I can really relate to what you're saying. My son is hyperactive too, and there were times when he was little when I thought I'd go crazy. But we bumbled through somehow.

    I can feel very sorry for Joe, and even understand him. But it's not doing either him or the child a favor to let the situation continue.

    June 19, 2005 - 03:25 pm
    The pohanka in the book:

    It occurred to me this morning that (if you exclude Simon and Kerewin) the pohenka in the book appear as authority figures or gatekeepers that control access to things the Maori need (police, judges, school officials, doctors, even bartenders). At there worst, they punish, or take away what our three need: at their best, they allow our family to do what it wanted to do. They never contribute positively -- when they try, it is either misguided or futile.

    June 19, 2005 - 03:25 pm
    I don't need to read about child abuse either. I'm just preparing piece about being a child in WW2 for Marcie, there are just too many memories being stirred up at present and this book was NOT helping. Colkot

    kiwi lady
    June 19, 2005 - 03:29 pm
    In an ideal world, the difficult behaviour of Simon P would have been more aggressively dealt with by the authorities with therapy that continued regardless of his initial refusal to cooperate and the child would have been removed from the home where there was a single guardian.

    This case is quite hypothetical because from what I remember Joe is a legal guardian only and with the case of a foster child it would be unusual for the child to be left in a one parent home. Joe works for instance and is unable to supervise SP during the day. It is a ficticious and artificial scenario according to the current law of the land and children in foster care.

    I think it does us good to be shocked and to see what is happening in our society and through shock tactics people are more moved to get involved. Its very easy to sit back and not want to get involved and to not want to know about the nasty things of life. If we bury our heads in the sand and do not confront this issue aggressively nothing changes. IMHO


    June 19, 2005 - 04:36 pm
    I just heard that a Maori has won the US Open Golf Tournament (our biggest tournament, beating Tiger Woods. I asked if he had done a haka, and my husband said yes. I'm sorry I didn't see it -- usually I watch but this year I didn't for some reason.

    kiwi lady
    June 19, 2005 - 04:42 pm
    Joan I was just coming in to brag. Michael Campbell is one quarter Maori and I am sure our Maoris are bursting with pride. He cried! He is a lovely man from all accounts. Described by the morning host on Radio NZ as being one of our NICE sporting heros. I did not see him haka but I am sure we will see him on the mid day news. In fact we will be inundated with reports. Today is a great day for our little islands of four million souls! If you get to see him haka you will see then how the haka as well as being a war dance is our expression of joy and victory.


    Kevin Freeman
    June 19, 2005 - 04:59 pm
    As it has been dormant for a while, the RAW (Read Around the World) thread may not be getting visits from some of you posting here.

    Down in that thread, we are trying to iron out when to nominate and then vote on our next book, the AUGUST selection. The problem is Jane, our wonderful election czar, is vacationing at a key, June to July crossover time. We're seeing if folks have nominations in mind already, and whether they mind expediting the process (OR if they prefer backing the process up into mid-July).

    I hope participants can get down there to read Ginny's and Jane's posts from earlier today!

    Pedln's post #831 is a good place to start.

    Sorry about the interruption. Carry on.

    June 19, 2005 - 06:26 pm
    Joan: Re "Maybe it is my pohanka prejudice, and far from the author's intention, but I keep seeing Simon not as representing Peter, but Christ. As such, he has to die and be reborn for the people to be saved. Thus, they all three conspire, unwittingly for this to happen."

    I've been seeing the same thing! Kerewin even makes a comment about Simon being entombed alive (in the hospital and possibly to be blind and deaf as well as mute) - which made me think about Jesus in the tomb and then arising from the dead.

    But I've been stuck on the names. It seems the author chose them for a reason. Simon Peter's name wasn't even really Simon Peter. It was Sinclair. So the whole Simon Peter thing really forced St. Peter onto me. He, too, was crucified for being Christian when he was the head of the Christian movement after Jesus died. I don't know.

    But then there is Joe - Joseph, father of Jesus.??

    I like the idea of Kerewin as Judas. She certainly did betray him. I don't know. I'm probably reading too much into this or trying to fit too much into biblical terms. But, these biblical images were thrust on us! There's too much to just ignore.

    June 19, 2005 - 06:33 pm
    Ginny: Stevens was not only an insurance executive in a suit. He had been a lawyer!

    "After working for several New York law firms from 1904 to 1907, he had been hired as a bonding lawyer for an insurance firm in 1908, and by 1914 was hired as the vice-president of the New York Office of the Equitable Surety Co. of St. Louis. When this job was abolished as a result of mergers in 1916, he joined the home office of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity [one of The Hartford's several insurance companies] and left New York City to live in Hartford, where he would remain the rest of his life. By 1934, he had been named Vice President of his company."

    June 19, 2005 - 09:36 pm
    My husband watched the US Open today. I didn't find out til I caught up on the book club that the winner was a kiwi. Then I actually watched the GOLF CHANNEL (Yes, there actually is a golf channel!) in order to see if Michael Campbell did the Haka. Nope, not on any footage shown. I read on the web that he did the Haka at the 2000 President's Cup. But it was fun to see a Maori from New Zealand win just at the time we're discussing The Bone People!

    After he won, Campbell hugged Tiger Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, a fellow New Zealander.

    I checked out Joan's link and it was fun! I listened to the audio of Campbell's interview. He said some interesting things about the Maori and about his family. I had wondered about the interesting design on his golf shirt. The interviewer asked Campbell: "Is there any significance to the design on the back of your shirt? Is that any kind of symbol or is it just a design?" Michael Campbell: "Well, this is my own clothing, it's called It's an insignia in New Zealand, Kikikaha, in the back of my shirt, means inner strength, be strong."

    Campbell also mentioned something about how many sheep there are in New Zealand. I hadn't even thought about that. We import so much New Zealand lamb in the US. It's less expensive than US lamb in our grocery stores in CT.

    kiwi lady
    June 19, 2005 - 10:16 pm
    The cheap export lamb has us furious over here too. We pay more for our lamb in the stores than overseas consumers. It seems to be that is the way the global market works. Once upon a time in NZ chicken was very expensive and we ate lamb til it came out of our ears! Nowdays chicken is the cheapest meat in the store meat cabinets and we eat chicken til it comes out of our ears! Crazy isn't it?

    A leg of lamb is reserved for the affluent these days and us poh folks eat chicken. I tell a bit of a fib I do buy lamb shoulder chops and cutlets if they are on special. We do about once a month or so get lamb chop specials. I usually buy enough for four or five meals and freeze it.

    The insignia on Michael Campbells shirt is a Maori insignia. I noticed today Michaels parents were wearing zip up jackets which looked like they were from his range of sportswear.

    I definately think now that Keri's new book of short stories has quite a few stories which are similar to The Bone People with those strange incantations I call them of kind of made up phonetic words and dreams she relates in the story.

    She also has some more conventional stories but they do have magical, futuristic and mythical componants. There are quite a few comments on the environment and one story which focuses on discrimination against a mentally disabled child. The child only has a father also in the story. Makes me wonder if Keri has someone close to her who is being brought up by their father.

    One story is bizarre. It features a child who has a childs head and the body of a spider but is human sized. It hinted at some global catastrophe that had maimed and changed inhabitants of our world. Everthing in the story was synthetic including a Mac Shake that the child/spider was addicted to and an artifically constructed burger.

    Bet you are all squirming at the thought!

    The stories are again written to shock and make us think about our world and how it may change in the future if we do not take care of it.

    June 20, 2005 - 05:36 am
    Great thoughts here, great perspectives, Everyone, I love all the different directions your thoughts take.

    You are probably right about the sea connection, Mippy, that one escaped me but my motivation in trying to make us think about American Indians did not escape you, good work.

    We now enter into the last section, a bit ahead of schedule, so it's OK for you to be a bit behind. Please note the focus questions in the heading as well as in the posts of others here? They are ALL good and all worthy of your attention.

    Joe's revealing that he actually wanted to kill Simon was somewhat bizarre to me, was it to you?

    What are your thoughts on this last section? The whole book? How does it compare in any way to the first one in the series, The Kite Runner, in any aspect?

    I still lack a few pages and hope to be finished tomorrow, my last day here till the 27th.

    June 20, 2005 - 09:38 am
    Joan, you might not be far off with your trinity theory. Remember earlier that Simon saw "a flame of fire" in Kerwin's aura.

    Traude S
    June 20, 2005 - 02:31 pm
    A dear friend from our local book group died last week and I have been mostly off line for that reason. Hard as it is, I am trying to catch up.

    I'd like to begin with a question for CAROLYN: Is Keri Hulme considered a Maori novelist ?

    I am asking because the PBS information given for the Whale Rider states in the third paragraph "Adapted by Niki Caro from the much-loved, best-selling 1986 book by Witi Ihimaera, the first Maori novelist published in New Zealand ..."

    BUT my hardcover of The Bone People, by Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London, states that
    The Bone People was originally produced and published in February, 1984 , in New Zealand (reprinted May 1984) by a SPIRAL collective ..."

    Hulme's book antedates The Whale Rider by two years, and the question therefore is whether she is considered a MAORI writer.

    The Publisher's Note in my library hardcover says that

    "The Pegasus Prize for Literature has been established by Mobil Corporation to introduce American readers to distinguished work from countries whose literature too rarely receives international recognition. in the case of New Zealand, the literature of the Maori people was singled out for this recognition. The Prize for Maori Literature was awarded to The Bone People, by Keri Hulme, in July, 1984 ..."

    It follows therefore that Keri Hulme was in fact the first Maori novelist published in New Zealand ----- (perhaps not as much-loved or best-selling...?) Or were the PBS researchers unaware of Keri Hulme's book? I am sorry if I sound fussy, but I believe these things are important.

    The book is demanding because it defies description and pays no heed to, say, conventional plot development for example. The cryptic Prologue is a serious first test. And it is difficult to fully sense and feel the deep underlying meaning of loss, alienation, and centuries-old pain without some knowledge of history - especially in the face of the graphically described incidents of chld beatings. son just walked in and I will continue later.

    June 20, 2005 - 02:56 pm
    Traude--Your question got me thinking. I decided it must have something to do with how the novel was published, that is, was it published by a "real" publisher. From this website

    I found the following information:

    "Throughout these years, Hulme continued to work on the material which had its origins in the dreams, gradually shaping it into a novel. Linked to the figure of the child, other characters appeared in her dreams and writing, notably Kerewin Holmes and Joe Gillayley, who, together with Simon form the triad at the centre of the bone people. Hulme has said of Kerewin that although she ‘has always been a bit of an off-shoot of me—a sort of wish-fulfilment character for what she owned, a shallow alter ego’, nonetheless ‘she escaped out of my control and developed a life of her own’. Eventually a first draft of the novel was completed and submitted. The first publisher’s response was to prove characteristic, suggesting that the manuscript be trimmed by about half. Hulme’s mother helped edit out unnecessary material from the first three chapters and Hulme continued to rework the manuscript, offering it to a variety of publishers and eventually rewriting it seven times. (Some of this manuscript material has been deposited at the Hight Library, University of Canterbury; two further draft manuscripts are in the possession of Hulme’s mother and another three have been kept by the writer.) Four publishers refused the novel in its submitted form, apparently for different reasons. It was not only the intrinsic Maori elements of the novel and its stylistic experimentation that were a problem. Several more publishers recommended severe editing but Hulme adamantly refused to allow anyone to ‘go through [her] work with shears’ or be ‘a silent partner’ in her work. The novel was finally accepted by the Spiral Collective and published with the assistance of two Literary Fund grants. Typeset by members of the Victoria University Students’ Association, and proofread and pasted up by members of the collective, the first edition of the novel is striking for, if flawed by, a remarkable lack of editorial intrusion and the idiosyncrasies of its many typographic errors. It was launched with a *hui at Wellington Teachers’ Training College in February 1984. Extremely well reviewed, copies of the small first print run, and the second, sold out very quickly. The novel was awarded the Mobil Pegasus Award, allocated that year to Maori fiction (1984) and the New Zealand Book Award for Fiction (1984). A new edition, jointly published by Spiral and Hodder and Stoughton, appeared in 1985 and went through several print runs; Louisiana State University Press published the first American edition. That year the bone people was awarded the prestigious international Booker Prize."

    I think that the novel would not be considered the first novel published in New Zealand because it was supported by grants. What I don't understand is why the second edition wouldn't make the novel eligible?


    Traude S
    June 20, 2005 - 04:56 pm
    Thank you, MARYAL. The information is most revealing. Yes, we have noted, haven't we, the "stylistic experimentation", the switching of tenses, the indented asides and successive interior monologues by different protagonists.
    Speaking of the writing, it is coarse (almost unbearable in many instances), but there is incredible lyrical beauty in many others.

    To continue my train of thought, the entire book is "different" from the "norm", whatever we perceive the norm to be. The author makes no concessions to the readers.
    An aside, I really don't see stream of consciousness in the book, which would be a continuous flow of thought of carying length and stretch over many pages, without paragraphs or punctuation (as in ULYSSES, for example). What we have h ere is more interior monologue, I believe.

    The abominable beating of the child is not the only societal ill the author addresses, nor the alcoholism of the two main protagonits. They are parts of a much larger picture Keri Hulme is painting. From straightforward narrative, the story becomes mythological.

    I submit, and I'm climbing far out on a limb here, that the three characters (indeed, a trinity) are actually prototypes. But I have to think about that some more.

    Bones and spirals are key symbols throughout the book.
    Early on we read about "secrets in the marrow of the bones"-- never explained. Perhaps it's an allusion to the break with her family, never detailed either. Have you ever heard people saying, "I can feel it in my bones ..." ? I have. It describes knowledge derived indirectly, felt instinctively.

    Another prominent symbol is the spiral; it can turn into itself and also open up. Early on we read that Kerewin has a double spiral engraved in her tower, " an old symbol of rebirth and the outward- inward nature of things". She uses it to focus on, as in meditation?

    And there is the moth symbol, not mentioned before.

    The three main characters take separate journeys that bring them the realization of their past (in Simon's case it is more limited because he still cannot remember the meaning of the dark) and ultimately their reunion.
    But can we take this literally as the real conclusion of this strange story, a sort of "happy end"?
    Or is this merely the author's utopian projection of an ideal future?

    Gosh, I hope AOL hasn't disconected me. I'll post now and will add some thoughts about Kerewin's destroying the tower.

    June 20, 2005 - 06:19 pm
    I am somewhat puzzled by the idea that the three main characters are 'symbols' of the Trinity, or St. Peter, or Judas. The reader can, of course, draw any parallels he/she wishes. But did Hulme intend any such symbolism? I see nothing to indicate that she did, unless naming two of the main characters Simon and Joseph is considered evidence of that. A bit thin, tho', don't you think?

    There is a lot of poetic prose in this book. I've noticed that poetry seems especially prone to 'meaningful' interpretations that the poet never intended at all.


    Maribeth D.
    June 20, 2005 - 06:29 pm
    Hi, everyone.. I'm just joining the discussion as a new member of SN. Have finished the book and have been enjoying tremendously reading all of your great thoughts and ideas...

    I can't say I really "like" the book a whole lot, but it certainly is thought-provoking. A bit too mystical/magical towards the end, esp. in Joe's journey.

    Traude, your comment on whether the conclusion - the "happy end"-- can be taken literally or whether it is a utopian projection is something I also wonder about. It just somehow seems too weird. And how do you explain the mention of Joe's little son Timote (who we know is dead)... brought into the narrative as if he is alive??

    Interesting that "Timon" and "Simon" rhyme... and Joe discovers that Timon (who is referred to as "Timon the singer" was most likely Simon's real father. Hulme obviously enjoyed choosing her characters' names.

    I can't really like these people much as characters. Is there a protagonist? Kerewin? She is not very likeable. And her casual acceptance of Joe after his nearly-fatal beating of Simon is unbelievable! As someone else said in earlier postings, this guy Joe should never, ever be allowed to be in charge of a child again!


    June 20, 2005 - 06:46 pm
    Welcome, MARIBETH (Italy !)!! We are pleased to have you with us especially since we are nearing the end of the discussion and are allowed to discuss what we think of the ending.

    June 20, 2005 - 06:46 pm
    But the welcome, Maribeth is genuine. I too have finished the novel and am almost confounded to summarize my responses to it. Joe's spiritual journey at the end especially bothers me. In the link I put above apparently some of the people who objected to this novel were Maori who argued that Hulme didn't get some of the customs and traditions right.

    By the way, Traude, I wonder if that helps to explain why Hulme is not credited with the first Maori novel published in New Zealand. She is only part Maori (from what I've read only on one side of her family and only 1/. Mostly she is Pahenka. Reminds me of how popular it was--perhaps still is--in America to have a Cherokee grandmother or a Lakota great grandfather.

    I don't mean to sound as cynical as that comment seems when I read it to myself, but I get uneasy when people start claiming an inheritance that they only discover later in life.


    June 20, 2005 - 07:15 pm
    I noticed something interesting on pg 313 (paperback) about Kerewin's jade. She gave Joe the only piece she had inherited. "All the rest of her collection she had bought."

    Didn't someone - Carolyn? or a character in the book? - say that to the Maori jade was supposed to be a gift, not something bought?

    Does it show us something about Kerewin that she bought her large collection and covets it through much of the book?

    June 20, 2005 - 07:29 pm
    What happened to her jade collection when she burned things down? I don't remember her mentioning it.

    June 20, 2005 - 08:23 pm
    Well, I think I missed something about Simon's father, who apparently was Timon. (And I agree it is strange his name rhymes with Simon.) Joe recognizes Simon in Timon's picture in the old keeper's hut. Timon was apparently a down and out drug addict hippy singer. (The singing certainly ties in with what Simon remembers about singing. And of course the needles. And Simon had remembered golden hair.) Apparently, Timon's wife left him. His wife and child supposedly were killed in a car accident.

    So what's going on here? What really happened? When the boat that sank was raised, it contained heroin. We don't ever find out the whole story, as far as I can tell. Was Timon the batterer? (Simon remembered at one point that a singer was the hated cruel torturer.) Was Timon a drug dealer as well as a drug addict? Was he the one who was seen swimming away from the sinking craft?

    And why does Timon end up with the old keeper to die? Was he another tortured soul, like Joe, who was saved by the old man? Timon had had his picture taken before he died to send to someone. Simon?

    Do we ever get a difinitive answer on what happened? I'm feeling very thick about this.

    June 20, 2005 - 08:29 pm
    Joan: On pg 313 (paperback) Kerewin is in her stripped home, shortly before she leaves. Her stuff is packed up. "The chest of jade and the drawers of shells are locked and sealed into three tin trunks."

    I don't know what she did with the packed stuff, though, before she tore the Tower down and burned it.

    June 20, 2005 - 08:31 pm
    It seems like the little old man who saves Joe and then dies is very much like the little old brown man who saves Kerewin. Are they supposed to be the same person - some sort of spiritual being? Is this the same little brown man that Simon saw in the bache?

    June 20, 2005 - 08:44 pm
    Well, folks, the ending just doesn't do it for me. There is a quote by Alice Walker on the cover of my paperback: "This book is just amazingly, wondrously great." Hmmmmm.

    I DID love some of the imagery. And for a long time the story had me going. I wanted to see the mysteries solved. Nope.

    So, OK, the story moves into mythology at the end. (I liked the mythology in The King Must Die better.) At the big let's-everybody-hug-and-be-happy party at the end - or is it the beginning? - Joe says to Liz, a relative (who punched Joe in the stomach): "I am very sorry for it, but it's past. It's all over now." Sure it is. For him, maybe. Simon gets to go around deaf, mute, scarred, with one of his eyes looking in the wrong direction (that touch really did it for me!) But Simon's happy because he's with his family of Joe and Kerewin, who has "given the two of them her name." (I guess that means she marries Joe and adopts Simon??) And they all lived happily ever after. The End. The Beginning.

    June 20, 2005 - 08:46 pm
    By the way, Kerewin does refer to their threesome as "the trinity," whatever it means here.

    kiwi lady
    June 20, 2005 - 09:14 pm
    I think the little brown man is a Tohunga Maori mystic or spiritual leader.

    Keri has always known of her Maori heritage. I do take exception to the claim that one person has made here that part Maori is not Maori. There are few full blooded Maori left in NZ but you can identify Maori heritage very easily. In my grandaughters family she is brown and her sister is white. My brown grandaughter identifies with Maori and likes to play with Maori children at school. She is very spiritual and dreams a lot. She has had vivid dreams which have come true and at three claimed to have played with her dead grandfather in her dreams at night. She had never met her grandfather and never knew one of his greatest loves was to play ball games with our kids and all the other kids in the neighbourhood.

    I once upon a time believed that people mostly Pakeha could not feel Maori but after observing my grandaughter feeling Maori is definately there for some people. My SIL has never bothered much with his Maori heritage so its not something Brooke has absorbed from him. My little grandaughter has made me eat my words. She also has a totally different bone structure from her mother, sister and myself. (Big boned) and she has the Polynesian fat storing gene. She cannot eat as much as the normal Pakeha child without putting on weight although she is an extremely active child playing netball and also doing swimming.

    I think Keri is trying to say that there is redemption in the last part of the book even for someone like Joe. After all in the Christian religion even a murderer can be forgiven if he repents. Joes repentance I think is symbolised by his caring for the little brown man.

    Simon Peter appears to have forgiven Joe even if we haven't.


    June 21, 2005 - 03:08 am
    I agree, Maryal, in every way, large and small, Welcome, Maribeth!!

    We are so glad to have you here and I loved your post! And you work at Land's End! I love Land's End!!! Welcome!!

    Like Marni, I had not caught the pronunciation of Simon/ Timon, and for some reason have always mispronounced Timon of Athens and the Philosopher Timon's name so that was great, many thanks. Have learned a lot in this discussion. The original Timon was not a singer, I have no idea what that name might mean or allude to.

    I also will put your question on who is the Protagonist in the heading here, we touched on that earlier but now that we're through we should be able to say, right?

    One of our volunteers wrote me about a particularly nasty piece of child abuse in her local paper this morning and reading Marni's post makes me think of another possible effect of this book. As Marni says, all ends happily, Joe is risen and forgiven, (of course Joe is constantly forgiven, by Kerewin and Simon, isn't he?)After this last horrendous thing as Maribeth says, Kerewin acts as if possibly the refrigerator is broken and they chat on amiably enough. Joe has been forgiven before, over and over. I don't think the reader has the burden to "forgive" Joe, since Joe is a figment of the author's apparently quite vivid imagination, and for my view, need not have been brought to light at all.

    So at the end Kerewin is healed, Joe is reborn, Simon like the Phoenix is risen, and Simon is….splay eyed and has a dent in his skull. The fact that he continued to get up and be OK like the road runner cartoon MIGHT give the impression to SOME people that their similar behavior is redeemable: it COULD have the opposite effect on the reading public that some of us might have hoped.

    All three rise from the ashes. I know she has likened this to the Trinity, I am hard pressed to see it, despite the Biblical allusions (Joseph of Joseph and Mary? Joseph of Arimathea?) er… Simon Peter? And who might Kerewin be? And somehow her naming herself or her doppelganger as one of the Trinity is somewhat off-putting, to me.

    Am I the only one who spent the entire last 10th of the book wondering what that lump was? Was she pregnant? I thought so. Would the doctors not know? Was it a "wind egg?" She did ask at one point about the physical manifestations of nervousness and one doctor asked her had she been hit in the stomach (like Joe) and one assumes like Simon because of the kicks?

    So what was THAT?

    Great discussion Traude and Deems on the publication of the book, I am bemused by reading the reviews of the readers on commercial book sites, apparently you either really love it or really hate it , not too much in between, and I have to thank our readers here who have done such a super job of discussing it!

    What was that bit about the legal surprise Kerewin had planned for them all? Again I thought it was a baby, there are lots of references to hens and eggs and other such things. It might have been her own adoption of the child, apparently the officials came to HER with the information of the child's parentage and then something was legal?

    Didn't understand the bit about Piri at the end? Did you?

    I thought the officials who told her about the heroin closed the book on the Gillayley child, by identifying the father, etc. But then is this the same wreck the old guy has been watching for eons? Then how old IS this child? The doctor said 7?

    Maybe it's two wrecks?

    Thank you Carolyn for identifying the identity of the little brown person as being Maori myth. Traude also mentions the moth, I read somewhere on the internet a huge thing about the importance of the MOTH in Maori legend, note the moth comes, she's half dead and the tumor or whatever it was, is gone. I kept waiting for the baby to be mentioned. I am wondering what the MOTH had to do with anything here.

    What IS the significance of the moth here?

    We've talked a bit about jade, and Joan K is asking again, great point, Marni on she only had one piece as a gift, we've not talked on the opal, which is a strange jewel and is not really a stone, at all. It's ephemeral and can even change with moisture, like the book maybe.

    So lots of unanswered questions, which is fine. The reader reads along, noting the clues and then we've come I think to expect them to be all tied up, but they need not be, they can just SEEM to be. The bit about the dying I thought was well done, I have just watched Citizen Cohn again yesterday and it seemed to describe what he was shown going thru, but to what end?

    I wonder.

    If the book is full of hints but no solutions, then the reader has to make his own, right?
    What is actually happening at the very end of the book? She's playing the guitar, where is Joe? What's going on with the relatives, I am not understanding that part? They are together again, I simply don't see the Trinity, the connection, other than they are 3 people, and she mentions the allusion, help!

    See you all on the 27th! Great job, you've really outdone yourselves this time and don't forget the PBS Program Club on The Whale Rider somewhere around the last of July, we'll write you so you don't miss it!

    June 21, 2005 - 03:18 am
    By the way, I did see something about BONE in one of her dreams while being quite ill (why do you think she was ill in the first place?) fever? drugs? OR?? But do any of you know what The Bone People means? I saw a fire and bones at the bottom of it, but am not sure what the title means?

    June 21, 2005 - 05:00 am
    Oh and I also wanted to say Carolyn, that's a good point about what symbolizes Joe's turn around or repentance or change, in that he does care for the little brown man. I noticed a similar change in Kerewin, strangely enough with another little brown figure, when she thought of this strange little gap toothed figure as "it," and corrected herself, I thought that was positive, and also shows the author knew that calling the child "it" was not positive.

    This being a "trinity" we might expect some indication of some change in the third person, did we see it?

    June 21, 2005 - 07:17 am
    For me the trinity here means simply the group of three, Mother, Father, Son. The only one of the three who seems like a real person to me is Kerewin. Joe is an abomination. Yes, he could be forgiven by Simon and Kerewin and then be murdered in prison. I'd like to see that.

    Simon never was real to me, too many snatches of this and snatches of that. He sees auras and then that idea is dropped. He builds little wind huts on the beach and then that's dropped. I still got angry when Joe almost killed him. And he is damaged for life from that beating. He has that dent in his skull and the eye problem and he's deaf in one ear (and I think has to wear a hearing aid in the other).

    If I were the author (can't quite imagine that), I'd kill Joe off after a final hug from Simon. One of the only things I understand is Simon's continuing love for Joe. It's one of the characteristics of the one who is beaten, almost like humans are turned into dogs who love even the master who abuses them. Abuse creates "love" and dependency. But it's a sick love.

    Here's what bothers me. I thought Joe was supposed to stay there, on that particular swatch of beach and WATCH until he was given some sort of sign that another watcher had come to take his place. How come he just walks away from his job (for life) and ambles off to spend Christmas with Kerewin?

    It's all just too cozy and unbelieveable in the end. They are all together singing and being happy, with extended family even.

    Maybe they all died? If this is mythology, let's follow that idea through. Kerewin dies of that cancer. Simon dies of the beating. Joe dies from jumping off the cliff. He meets the little brown man in the after life. Ditto Kerewin. Ditto Simon. And they are all together in some kind of spiral afterlife. That would explain the aunts (who belong to Kerewin although they've never been in the book before) who are there in the spiral. They must have predeceased our trio.

    I think I'd like it better if the above were true, but I don't think it is.

    The end of a book doesn't have to solve all the mysteries, tie up all the ends, but I think it does owe the reader something more than this.

    For example, Kerewin's terrible riff with her family which has kept her in self-imposed isolation was apparently no more than a disagreement of some sort. Did anyone find an explanation for this estrangement? I didn't.


    June 21, 2005 - 08:08 am
    Maryal: I'm laughing so hard from reading your post - the part about Joe: "Yes, he could be forgiven by Simon and Kerewin and then be murdered in prison. I'd like to see that." I agree. I think in the US child abusers are supposed to be the most hated inmates in prisons, the most likely to be murdered by other inmates.

    Joe was at the party in the end. There was something about Simon being so happy to see him. (I don't have my book anymore so I can't quote.)

    Someone earlier asked why Timote was in the book at the end - that he had died. There seem to be 2 Timotes in the book. Joe's nephew was named Timote, as well as Joe's son by Hanna.

    Maribeth D.
    June 21, 2005 - 08:12 am
    Ginny- your question about the meaning of bones and bone people.. I think this is answered on p. 395 (penguin)..Simon is in hospital, he muses about why the 3 of them must stay together, then in his mind, Joe says a Maori phrase meaning "O the bones of the people"--bones standing for ancestors or relations. He is trying to figure out how he fits together with Kerewin and Joe.

    Deems- I am in sync with your thought on "maybe they all died" and this ending is some kind of spiritual afterlife. That was my first thought when I began reading the Epilogue. Especially when the dead child Timote appears (p.442- Timote is there, Marama picks him up.)

    What do you rest of you think about that idea?


    June 21, 2005 - 08:19 am
    Can anyone help me out here? With all of the miracles at the end (unless they are really dead as Maryal questioned - interesting!!), with Joe healing physically and psychologically, same with Kerewin, why can't Simon be healed physically, too? Everything turns out hunky dory for Joe and Kerewin, but Simon has to go around still mute, plus deaf and with ruined features. Yes, ok, he recovered from Joe's attempted murder. But, for me, that's not enough. I'd be happier with all of the miracles if Simon were back to his beautiful appearance, plus he recovers his hearing and is so happy and healthy that he can now finally talk and sing again.

    Why not? Wouldn't that be fitting? Or is he supposed to be like he is as a reminder?

    June 21, 2005 - 08:23 am
    Marybeth: Isn't the Timote at the end Piri's son, Joe's nephew. There are 2 Timotes. The nephew was mentioned earlier in the book.


    June 21, 2005 - 08:34 am
    marni--That is one wonderful question about what with all those miracles in the end, why can there be some for Simon too? Excellent. Exactly my thinking on this ending. I suppose it's more "realistic" to have Simon permanently injured but what with the miraculous healings of both Kerewin and Joe, it seems that Simon should have a little healing too, especially since he is the one who has been most injured.

    Sure, the little boy is happy to be reunited with Kerewin and then Joe, but what about the ADULT Simon? He's going to be irrevocably scarred then as well. Boo.

    Unless they're all dead.


    June 21, 2005 - 08:57 am
    I read this book a month and a half ago. Now reading each post only leaves me with more questions than I had when I ran with haste to return it to the library.
    An afterlife! I love it and is the only good thought that I can relish or enjoy about this novel.

    Maribeth D.
    June 21, 2005 - 09:17 am
    Marni- I was not aware there were two boys named Timote--sorry, can't come up with a notation for the nephew. Anyone??

    June 21, 2005 - 09:35 am
    Still working on the trinity thing. I don't have to be consistant, since I don't think Hulme was. I think the same people stand for more than one thing in the book.

    If the trinity is the holy family, then indeed, Keri's illness is a mock pregnancy. She is delivered of her "tumor" when Simon comes back fron the dead.

    June 21, 2005 - 09:38 am
    "How long does the Broken Man keep the charge?

    Why does he release it?"

    I didn't think the broken man did release his charge. I thought the glowing stone was the spirit of the land transformed into a new form, and he took it with him to watch and guard. But there is nothing in the later text to confirm that.

    June 21, 2005 - 09:43 am
    I noticed when Campbell was being interviewed after winning the US Open, he mentioned his grandmother as being very important to him. There are several instances in the Bone People of grandmothers having been important to the characters: most notable the hermit's grandmother who sets the tasks (and returns as a moth?).

    CAROLYN: is this part of the Maori culture: are grandmothers seen as having special roles?

    (Does little Grace see you that way? You are obviously special to her, as you should be)

    Another grandmother

    kiwi lady
    June 21, 2005 - 11:06 am
    Traditionally grandmothers are very important to Maori families. There is a tradition that when Maori become older the first grandson is given to them to raise. The grandson still has contact with his birth parents but lives with his grandparents to take care of them as they become frail. This does not mean the grandchild gives up his life, he lives as he would in his parents home but is there to mow lawns etc. Its not as common as it once was but it still happens, If there is no grandson the first grandaughter will substitute

    The Maori elders are given an important place in the tribe. They are the guardians of protocol and culture and it is they who pass on tribal traditions to the young ones.

    Tohunga are not mythical they are real like Indian Medicine men. Sorry if I did not make that clear. They deal with medicine and spirits. The little brown man in the story may have invoked spirits but he was real.

    We have an older Maori woman in our street who is mentor to another Maori family who have no elders left. One of the daughters lives with the older woman and is like an adopted daughter ( Martha was childless and is now widowed) When Martha dies Shirlene will inherit. Martha is quite well off. Shirlene takes care of the lawns and Martha if she is ill. Shirlene is an early childhood educator and works at our Large Childrens hospital in the preschool and creche attached to the hospital.Martha paid for her education. When my kids were little they spent a lot of time with Martha and John her late husband. They were great with kids and would play board games with them for hours. In fact they had open house to all the kids in the neighbourhood!

    It seems to me that Grandparents are taking more importance in the lives of our new generation kids. Possibly because grandparents are taking their roles more seriously.

    I determined I would be the type of grandmother I was lucky enough to have. My grandmother was Scottish. To the Scots - the family is everything and still is as my daughter found out when she visited Scotland two years ago and was treated like Royalty by the clan.

    My grands love to talk to me. Listening to kids is a role that grandparents can easily adopt. Grace yesterday talked to me non stop for two hours. They will often confide in me. If Nikolas has been punished he will phone me to talk. I never take sides.

    I think grandparents have an important role in all cultures but many grandparents are not willing these days to step into the role.


    June 21, 2005 - 01:34 pm
    Carolyn, thank you for your posts. I am learning more about New Zealand from your posts than I did from reading the novel.

    I think it makes good sense to honor grandmothers, since in most cases, the grandmother will be the last of the old family to survive. Women live longer than men, on average. Look at the next nursing home you go to visit for proof. Twenty women, one man. OK, maybe two.

    Joan K Thanks for that partial answer to my question. So Joe is still "keeping watch" sort of? That's good.

    Guys, I was kidding about the afterlife. I don't think any of these people are dead. It's just that I can make better sense of the ending by reading it that way.


    June 21, 2005 - 01:36 pm
    Carolyn--I understand that tohunga are real and not mythical. They are shaman of some sort. What do you make of the "little brown man" that Simon sees in the floor by his bed while they are all on vacation?

    Maribeth D.
    June 21, 2005 - 01:56 pm
    Stones are important to all 3 of the main characters. Simon collects many special stones at the bach when they are on vacation. Joe is given the charge to watch over the mauri, which is a special, glowing stone. Kerewin, of course, has a whole collection of (semi-precious) stones. And then her illness/pregnancy--whatever that was--I am thinking she may have had a gallstone. Anyway,the "stone" if it was that, magically disappeared.

    Joan K, your "trinity" thing sort of fits into this--it does seem that K. is delivered of her tumor (mock/pregnancy) when Simon comes back from the dead.


    Ann Alden
    June 21, 2005 - 02:06 pm
    Deems!! Works for me and makes the idea of being forgiven by all in heaven a working idea also. I love it and now maybe I can stand to admit that I read this book. Redemption is what we all are wanting and these three received it at the end.

    June 21, 2005 - 02:08 pm
    Maribeth--A gallstone! I never thought of that. Can they just be absorbed, maybe? I've never had one though my mother-in-law and my sister had to have their gallbladders removed.

    Ann--Thank you for the chuckle: maybe you can admit you read the book. Heh.

    kiwi lady
    June 21, 2005 - 02:10 pm
    From my small knowledge of myths and legends the little brown man could be a dead ancestor. Many Maori claim they see or hear ancestors. Or I can remember hearing about a kind of maori fairy but I am not sure that my latter memory is 100% accurate.

    One thing I am sure about we must not allow our first peoples customs and culture to die out. Its when we do this our first people lose their sense of self and their pride. This leads to all sorts of other problems including alcohol and drug dependance. Kids here who embrace their culture do better than those who have no tribal support. There is a code of self discipline in the culture.

    When you think about African Americans - they have lost their tribal roots and customs. This must be sad because the culture they do have and remember is a slave culture its not their true culture. If you are lurking Hats I would like to know if you feel that there is a sense of this loss of culture amongst African Americans. I never really thought about it until the other day when I was listening to some politicians here who really would like our Maori to become Pakeha. I thought how appalling that was.

    Also we have the Indian tribes in South America where the Govt would like to stamp out their cultures and they are terribly discriminated against. Although my ancestors were colonial settlers I have great sympathy for our native peoples and I think how arrogant we were in the beginning of the last century when we attempted to wipe out Maori by fair or foul means. One of the ideas was to breed out the race. There has been a lot of intermarriage here but thanks to some very determined Maori the culture never died but it was a close call. Now as we look at the culture we have today its the blending of two cultures that gives us a unique national identity. That cannot be bad. There is not one kiwi whose breast does not swell with pride as our Sports teams peform the haka on the International stage. We can always do better but we have come a long way since the 1940's and 1950's.

    Our Maori authors also help to keep the culture alive. I know you will all love Whale Rider. I have not met anyone who did not like it.


    kiwi lady
    June 21, 2005 - 02:12 pm
    My take on Kerewin's illness was that she either had liver cancer or ovarian/uterine cancer. My take was that she had some sort of spiritual healing later on in the book. That is just the impression I got from my reading.


    June 21, 2005 - 02:17 pm
    Carolyn--Only problem I have with Simon seeing a dead ancestor is that he isn't a Maori. He's Pakeha (I think that's the word for people from elsewhere).

    June 21, 2005 - 03:03 pm
    Kerewin could feel a hardness in her abdomen. Does that happen when you have a gallstone?

    I, too, thought she had some sort of cancer for a time. Kerewin thought she had cancer. False pregnancy never entered my mind. Kerewin said she thought she was a neuter. She had no interest in sex. I got the impression that she was terribly sick - dying - and was saved in a miraculous way.

    I have heard stories of people who are so depressed that they get terribly sick because they think they are sick. Psychopsomatic illnesses can be real illnesses. State of mind can do amazing things.

    kiwi lady
    June 21, 2005 - 04:23 pm
    Wasn't Simon of Celtic origin (Irish). Celts believe in something they call second sight. I find it interesting that Simon is drawn as a character with Irish roots. My granny and great granny used to talk about second sight and they were Scottish also a Celtic race.


    PS today I have borrowed a book called Must have NZ Poetry. Its contemporary work most of it and from the quick read I had in the library I am going to enjoy it. One thing the Bone People has done for me is to jolt me into the realisation I have not read enough NZ literature. Time for me to remedy this.

    June 21, 2005 - 04:35 pm
    I also believe Kerewin had a tumor. It would appear she starved the cancer, which I believe is possible, provided the patient can survive it. Then there is the spiritual aspect, when the healer came to sort of finish the job.

    The closing scenes with the relatives had to have been at least a year later. Kerewin, Joe and Simon have been together as a family during this time and all are healing. I took the appearance of a baby 'Timote' to be Joe and Kerewin's baby, named after the son he lost. All is not perfect sweetness and light, but the division in Kerewin's is being carefully and cautiously mended, thru' Joe's itervention.

    Maybe this is too much of a 'happy ending', considering all that went before. But I believe if you are of a people who believe strongly in getting together as a group and resolving issues...'talking it out'..then it could be done.


    June 21, 2005 - 05:10 pm
    I'm of partly Celtic background (Welsh), but no 2nd sight for me, I'm afraid. That could be interesting!

    kiwi lady
    June 21, 2005 - 05:22 pm
    I think the whole ending of the book and your take on it would depend on a belief in Redemption or the alternative that there is no Redemption for someone like Joe. I like to think that there is forgiveness for true repentance.


    Traude S
    June 21, 2005 - 07:40 pm
    and reconciliation. That is my reading too, CAROLYN.

    The illness was real.
    Kerewin consults a doctor who says, bluntly, "It may be cancer. There is definitely an unusual growth there, not an intestinal blockage...."
    Suspecting she has stomach cancer, Kerewin consults another doctor, this one a woman, and asks whether "it is possible to diagnose a condition without hospitalization or intrusive tests."

    "In your case, not surely."
    says the doctor. " I've made a tentative diagnosis, but without a biopsy or other explorative operation, I can not tell you definitely. The pain you describe, the weight loss and waning appetite, the site and form of the probable tumour, are all pointers, but there could be explanations other than carcinoma." pg. 415 of hardcover.

    Kerewin was clearly troubled about her inability to be sexually responsive (she shrank even from the touch of the child), and reading between the lines, there is reason to believe that she was "neuter", as MARNI said.
    Pregnancy? I don't think so.

    I still believe Keri Hulme was trying to tell more than what happened between two adults and one child within a time span of a few months. It was, I believe, about the past, the present and hope for the future of not only that unit, which was not even a family, but the entire country, with hope as beacon.

    Taking this train of thought, I submit that the conclusion is Keri Hulme's hopeful, urgent construct, the utopian view,
    for how probable is Kerewin's miraculous cure, brought about by one mysterious goblin over night?

    Was that, one wonders, perhaps the same goblin Simon, and only he, saw appearing from the floor boards?

    And Simon's arduous trek toward Kerewin's tower - do we really take that as a real ending of a REAL story in the conventional sense?
    Is it probable?
    Not in the conventional sense, IMHO.

    It is fathomable, I believe, only in another dimension in the realm of hope.

    I believe Keri Hulme intended to portray not just these three characters she created, but through them the soul of the people, their errant ways vis-a-vis the treasure of their land, and the ever-present possibility of redemption and reconciliation for Maori and Paheka alike.

    Note the very last words of the book, Te Mutunga - Ranei te take = given as the end - or the beginning.

    June 21, 2005 - 08:41 pm
    Maribeth, I was confused by the two Timotes, too. When I first heard of Piri's son, I thought maybe the first Timote hadn't died, but Joe had given him to Piri. Of course that wasn't what happened, but it had me puzzling for a while. When I run into something like that I start skipping around, reading the ending, etc. trying to figure out what happened. It doesn't make anything less confusing.

    And Deems, while skipping around reading, I wondered too if they were all dead.

    I'm into the last part, but haven't finished it yet. Many of you speak of the trinity aspects. Both Kevin and Joan K spoke of Simon as a Christ figure, the way he was first seen standing in the window, with the thorn in his foot, being reborn to save Joe and Kerewin -- and I think also because of his enduring love no matter how badly he was treated.

    Question No. 1 asks if this is a tragedy. Who is the tragic figure and why?


    Many of you can no doubt explain it well, but I needed help. One definition-- Tragedy occurs when a noble person makes poor choices and causes pain and suffering to those near and dear to him. That could certainly be Joe. I hesitate to call him noble, but he thought he was doing the right thing. One could say Simon made poor choices also, but I'm not so sure on that.

    More later, but I must get to the end of your posts. I was here this morning, and now there are 30 more. YOu guys are something.

    June 22, 2005 - 03:41 pm
    The old mand says to Joe:"I was told about it, taught about it for a long time before I met it. I was prepared, and aue! there isn't time to prepare you. I think it best to say it bluntly. I guard a stone that was brought on one the great canoes. I guard the canoe itself. I guard the little god that came with the canoe. The god broods over the mauriora, for it is what the stone is home to, but the mauri is distinct and great beyond the little god...the canoe rots under them both...aie, he is a little god, no-one worships him any longer. But he hasn't died yet. He has his hunger and his memories and his care to keep him tenuously alive. If you decide to go, he will be all there is left as a watcher, as a guardian."

    The old voice limps and stutters. The kaumatua does not look. There is a shudder running constantly through him now.

    Joe: "What can I say? What do I do? I've seen them in museums, Tiaki. Pierced stones and old wooden sticks where the gods were supposed to live. Where the vital part of a thing was supposed to rest. But aren't they temporary? And can't they look after themselves?"

    The old man mumbles, "Not this is the heart of this country. The heart of the land..." pp. 363-64

    This passage reminds me not only of my Cajun heritage with its Voodoo practices, but also of my Irish Celtic practices and in a small way on my mother's Greek side. Interestingly enough you have to dig very deep past the Christian beliefs to find these "gods." I used to enjoy as a small child my aunts talking about these things. I wish at the time I had written them down, but I can remember that they believed like the old man that these practices were slowly being stamped out and that they too felt that they were part or heart of the "old country."

    June 23, 2005 - 09:14 am
    "I was taught that it was the old people's belief that this country and our people, are different and special. That something very Feat had allied itself with some of us, had given itself to us. But we changed. We ceased to nurture the land. We fought among ourselves. We were overcome by those white people in their hordes. We were broken and diminished. We forgot what we could have been, that Aotearoa was the shining land. Maybe it will be that as it will, that thing which allied itself to us is still here. I take care of it, because it sleeps now. It retired into itself when the world changed, when the people changed. It can be taken and destroyed while it sleeps, I was told...and then this land would become empty of all the shiningness, all the peace, all the glory. Forever. The has power, because of where it came from, and who built it, but it is just a canoe. One of the great voyaging ships of our people...but a ship, by itself, is not that important. And there are many little gods in the world yet, some mean, others impotently benign, some restless, others sleeping...but I am afraid for the mauri! Aue! How can I make you understand? How? How? How?" (p.364)

    I consider this a very important paragraph. The old man sounds like an Old Testament prophet like Isaiah or Jeremiah as he tries to explain why he guards the sacred place and why the Maori have lost their land and what disasters will be fall the people if the place is not guarded.

    I believe that we, all of us, need to guard this sacred place called EARTH. Where would we be without it? The old man states: "But we changed. We ceased to nurture the land.." Every day I see what the people have done to the earth. So it is not just the Maori who have lost their land, but we are all sliding towards disaster.

    June 23, 2005 - 02:34 pm
    Scrawler, you have persuaded me to go back and reread this section with JOe and the old man. At my first reading of it, I was so peeved that perhaps I didn't read it carefully enough. But it irked me to pieces that Hulme brought in this character at the last minutes -- for what purpose? To show Joe getting redemption? To me, it seemed incongruous with the rest of the book. Kind of like the author was not playing the hand she had dealt already. To be facitious -- What, our man has a problem, well let's send in the fairy godfather to tidy everythng up. --

    I'm not attacking any myths or culture, but it just didn't seem right to bring this guy in at the last minute.

    June 23, 2005 - 02:41 pm
    A valid point, Pedlin. Perhaps Hulme felt something drastic was needed to bring about the needed change in Joe. A spiritual breakthrough has been the altering of many a person; maybe that is true here. It was rather 'deus ex machina' tho, wasn't it?


    kiwi lady
    June 23, 2005 - 05:02 pm
    Redemption in real life is often a last minute occurrence- Death bed repentance in the Christian faith for instance. We talk about Christs redeeming love.

    As I said before it all depends on ones take on life. Have we forgiveness for true repentance or do we have no belief in the redemption of the wicked. We cannot pick or choose the recipients of redemption. We either believe in redemption of the soul or we do not.


    Maribeth D.
    June 23, 2005 - 06:02 pm
    Carolyn-- Sure, redemption is possible... But I don't see it for Joe. "True repentance?" I don't see him repenting of his cruel beatings of Simon. I've just rechecked the "Broken Man" chapter and I don't find Joe making any statement saying that he is sorry for what he has done and will never do it again. So, I don't trust him. Just because he listened to the old man and took away the wonderful, glowing stone does not mean that he repents of his horrible behavior.


    June 23, 2005 - 06:14 pm
    Thank you, Scrawler for reminding me that Joe takes the stone away with him, presumeably to "guard" for the rest of his life. I got caught up on the part about the canoe and how the old man says he guards that too and Joe doesn't take the canoe with him.

    I agree with Maribeth--I just don't see any repentance here, demonstrated in the novel either outwardly or in terms of Joe's inner thoughts (of which we have quite a few.) I've never been much of a one for deathbed conversions either though. I think that how one lives one's life adds up to something and that if there is conversion, one needs time to see it's true. If that isn't the case, then all those Mafioso types who no doubt received what used to be called Last Rites are singing around the heavenly throne. If that's the case, I think I'll go elsewhere. (The preceding sentence is stronger if you have seen the Godfather movies.)


    June 23, 2005 - 09:04 pm
    I don't see repentence either. But I think we, the readers, are supposed to think that Joe has become a redeemed person. I suppose that in any religion or culture, belief in redemption, in a redeemer, and in miracles is a matter of faith.

    In this story we are told that the keeper learned from his grandmother that he would have to find 3 people: the broken man, the stranger, and ....the digger? (I forget the 3rd.) Anyway, the keeper, a mystic and a healer who could read people's minds, watching over the canoe and the stone god, protecting the remnants of the Maori culture, believed he would find the 3. The keeper knew that the broken man was to become the new keeper. He was prepared to pass on ownership of the land with the sacred canoe and god and his duties as keeper. He held off from dying until he found Joe, the broken man. He found him at the opportune moment - just after Joe tried to commit suicide. And the keeper healed Joe, helped him to understand himself, and taught him about his new responsibilities as the new keeper. Only then did the ancient mystic die.

    I thought the ending was a mystical story of miracles, healing, redemption, and forgiveness, somehow associated with the acceptance of one's racial origins, protection of the ancient beliefs and culture, and the need for the races to accept each other and live together in harmony. Joe, Kerewin, and Simon miraculously were all brought back from the brink of death and despair to find one another again as changed healed individuals who understood they had to be together as one to be whole.

    I don't think we're supposed to look at the end of the book literally, although it is pretty hard to swallow considering that the entire book revolved around the abuse of Simon and the effect this abuse had on them all.

    June 24, 2005 - 07:38 am
    Marnie writes, "I don't think we're supposed to look at the end of the book literally, although it is pretty hard to swallow considering that the entire book revolved around the abuse of Simon and the effect this abuse had on them all."

    That states my own response to this novel very well.

    The brutalizing of Simon seems so real; the ending seems so magical/mystical and for me the two parts--well, really three parts given the opening section on Kerewin--just don't hang together.

    June 24, 2005 - 08:40 am
    ... that repentance was not real, or sincere, or convincing.
    The conclusion of the book was not plausible, to me.
    A miraculous cure of cancer also does not add to the book,
    but leaves us wondering if the author is giving us her clinical history.
    Not a satisfactory book, after all, regretfully.

    June 24, 2005 - 09:27 am
    "Not a satisfactory book, after all, regretfully"

    I disagree. A seriously flawed book, certainly, but well worth reading for the strengths of its best writing.

    June 24, 2005 - 11:28 am
    Sorry guys, not my thing... Colkot

    June 24, 2005 - 11:55 am
    Personally, I found a lot in the book to appreciate. The ending is weak, I agree, but on the whole I'm glad I read it.

    Joe's redemption is a bit too easy, but what about Kerewin? She went right down to the wire with her decision to fight her battle alone. She nearly died, but she pulled through and I believe she left a lot of her old 'baggage' behind her. Simon has won what he desperately wanted, and much of the physical damage will heal, young as he is. I'm not going to complain too much about a sad story ending on a hopeful note.


    Traude S
    June 24, 2005 - 12:08 pm
    In that respect I agree with JOAN K. (see preceding posts)

    And I also agree with MARNI in that we canNOT take the story literally. That's what I have said all along.

    There is no plot to speak of: there is - more or less - a conventional beginning with three characters which plunges in medias res , right into the middle a situation. At a crucial point, when the reader has barely begun to get a grip on the characters, Simon is beaten beyond recognition and Kerewin, silently complicit in Simon's senseless abuse, ill with disturbing symptoms, moves away. The reader is bewildered.

    A "conventional" novel might have featured just retribution exacted from Joe (as in Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment ) after these unconscionable, heartbreaking beatings and Kerewin's silence.

    Instead, Keri Hulme takes a different path and provides (mitigating) "explanations" in the form of separate journeys of each of the characters, where much (but not all) of their un-written-about past is revealed. Alas, this valiant attempt is not altogether successful.

    We would have to suspend all disbelief to take the outcome, as presented in the book, as REALITY. To my mind it is neither real nor plausible.

    The story as such ended with the last revolting beating of the child. And MARYAL's comments were right on.

    However, Keri Hulme did not want to let things end where they logically could and should have. Instead, she laboriously constructed the reunion, hardly plausible on this earthly plane, and a conclusion that provided for the characters "a happy outcome of all their afflictions" (from the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican church).

    I quite understand, I think, that the author had lofty aims well beyond the three main characters, who became archetypes, prototypes, exemplars, and meant to show the very real possibility of redemption, reconciliation and hope eternal --- with implications not only for NZ but the whole world.

    The dialogue is excellent and, side by side with coarseness, there is wonderful prose, lyrical, articulate, eloquent.

    Judging from the Author's Note in the hardcover, I think she would have adamantly resisted any effort to edit her work and would have felt muzzled.

    Keri Hulme's voice still needs to be heard, and I am glad we had this opportunity to hear/read her. Easy it was not. And while we may not have found the book "satisfactory", I believe it broadened our horizon.

    If we were to go into the the many symbols - like the moth symbol - worthy as this might be - we would have to spend a lot more time than has been allotted for this discussion.

    June 24, 2005 - 07:36 pm
    There were many things I enjoyed about The Bone People, particularly the author's vivid imagery and characters.

    I really enjoyed reading about Maori traditions, beliefs, and background. I'd like to find out more. I'm looking forward to the Whale Rider discussion. I saw the wonderful film and want to see it again. I'd like to find out more about the Maori roots, where they came from and how and why they ended up in New Zealand.

    Carolyn: We were so lucky to have you with us to explain kiwi culture and traditions. You added so much to our discussion!


    kiwi lady
    June 24, 2005 - 11:14 pm
    Maori Geneology - orally handed down says the Maori came from a place called Hawaiki. Nobody knows whereabouts in Polynesia this is. It will be called something else now.

    Modern Scholars say ancient Maori came from China.


    June 25, 2005 - 06:24 am
    Interrupting here for a minute...The Bone People was the second in the Read around the World book discussion series. The voting is now open for the third begin Aug. 1. If you wish to participate in the vote for that selection, please come to:

    You can select a first and a second choice. The first choice will receive 2 points, the second choice will receive 1 point.


    June 25, 2005 - 01:07 pm
    It's fascinating reading about ancient origins. I remember reading Thor Heyerdahl's Kon Tiki when I was young. He was an explorer and archeologist who developed theories about the origins of some of the Pacific island people and how they migrated. He had some controversial ideas like how some originally traveled from Asia to North America, then down to Peru, and then west across the Pacific. He built crafts like the Kon Tiki and the Ra and tested out traveling by ancient means in the Pacific.

    Here is a site with info about Heyerdahl:

    June 25, 2005 - 02:16 pm
    Traude, your comments from your most recent post (included below) were a help to me in trying to understand some of the "whys" of this book, in particular the unbelievable ending which truly distressed me when I first read it --

    "Instead, Keri Hulme takes a different path and provides (mitigating) "explanations" in the form of separate journeys of each of the characters, where much (but not all) of their un-written-about past is revealed. Alas, this valiant attempt is not altogether successful. . . . ...... . . . I quite understand, I think, that the author had lofty aims well beyond the three main characters, who became archetypes, prototypes, exemplars, and meant to show the very real possibility of redemption, reconciliation and hope eternal --- with implications not only for NZ but the whole world. "

    Your comments help explain why Hulme blended the very real story of the relationships of the three characters and the horrible abuse of Simon with the mythical aspects of the book, especially the ending.

    And while it didn't make me LIKE this book anymore, the comments below did help me understand its purpose.

    She describes her story as a deliberate attempt to manufacture New Zealand myth, to blend real and invented Maori legends with European literary style, harmonizing both of her country's cultural influences'" (Contemporary Literary Criticism 158)

    June 25, 2005 - 02:21 pm
    And while we're probably not collectiong any more symbols at this date, I just thought I'd pass this along -- an item found in a late night effort to better understand the story.

    Watch the Hands

    "By emphasizing their reliance on hands, though, Hulme shows the difficulty that three outsiders have in communicating—even among themselves." (From Deep South)

    Maribeth D.
    June 26, 2005 - 09:02 am
    Traude: Yes, thank you for your comments about the author's "lofty aims" and the characters as archetypes, protypes... I found your ideas very helpful, as Pedln said.

    Pedln: Re your citation: "She describes her story as a deliberate attempt to manufacture New Zealand myth, to blend real and invented Maori legends with European literary style, harmonizing both of her country's cultural influences'" (Contemporary Literary Criticism 158)

    - Can you give me a website to refer to for that? What does the number 158 mean? thanks...


    June 26, 2005 - 10:39 am
    When Joe asks the old man why this home of the little gods, the soul of the entire country, appears bleak, rather than fertile, the kaumatua answers:

    "It despaired of us, remember. It is asleep...maybe its very sleep keeps the living things away, except for flies, who come to the sleeping and the dead alike. Aue! the one thing I regret about dying is that, secretly, in the marrow of my heart, I have always wanted to see what happens when it wakes up." He sighs. "Maybe we have gone too far down other paths for the old alliance to be reformed, and this will remain a land where the spirit has withdrawn. Where the spirit is still with the land, but no longer active. No longer loving the land." He laughs harshly. "I can't imagine it loving the mess the Pakeha have made, can you?"

    Joe thought of the forests burned and cut down; the gouges and scars that dams and roadworks and development schemes had made; the peculiar barren paddocks where alien animals, one kind of crop, grazed imported grasses; the erosion, the overfertilisation, the polution...

    "No, it wouldn't like this at all. We might have started some of the havoc, but we would never have carried it so far. I don't think." He adds thoughtfully, after a pause of seconds, "I can't see that"...The whole order of the world would have to change, all of humanity, and I don't see that happening, now now, not ever."

    "Eternity is a long time," says the kaumatua comfortably. Everything changes, even that which supposes itself to be unalterable. All we can do is look after the precious matters which are our heritage, and wait, and hope." (p.371)

    This novel has several layers to it. And the above paragraphs describe the spiritual layer of the story. To me this part of the story is more important than the relationshps of the characters. People are just tiny cogs in the vastness of the world that surrounds us. But the abuse that the characters received reflects the abuse that we do to the earth.

    I think that Hulme was trying to point out that just as "the soul of the entire country appeared bleak, rather than fertile" so too could people's souls appear bleak rather than fertile when abused or when they did the abusing.

    But she also tells us that- "Everything changes, even that which supposes itself to be unalterable. All we can do is look after the precious matters which are our heritage, and wait, and hope."

    "Hope" than is at the very core of this novel. Hope not only for the characters but also for the world around us so that we might enjoy its natural beauty.

    June 26, 2005 - 11:41 am
    Scrawler: Well said!

    June 26, 2005 - 12:03 pm
    Scrawler: excellent!

    kiwi lady
    June 26, 2005 - 01:06 pm
    Scrawler I think you have it all in a nut shell. After reading Keri's book of short stories I know she is very concerned about social issues and the environment as are many many NZers.

    There is a large hard core section of our population who are very active in promoting issues such as climate change. alternative energy etc.

    Keri has used shock tactics in amongst maori myth and legend to make us all think. If she managed to do this, she has achieved her objective.


    Ann Alden
    June 27, 2005 - 12:24 pm
    How do you pronounce the word, Maori?? I was saying "MAY O REE" but was corrected by a friend who says, "MOW REE". Are either of us right?

    June 27, 2005 - 01:35 pm
    Ann--Interesting. I asked an Australian at the Y just yesterday. He's in this country for a couple of years. He said it was Mow-ree as in first syllable rimes with Mao-Tse-Tung.

    June 27, 2005 - 01:48 pm
    Oh, goody, DEEMS. I've been saying it right! ...Babi

    June 27, 2005 - 02:46 pm
    BaBi--Congratulations! I was saying May or ree. But way back Carolyn gave us instructions and then said but not to count on it because she was allowing for a New Zealand accent! So I found myself a genuine inhabitant of a nearby country. Wish I'd known way back when I started the novel.

    June 27, 2005 - 07:12 pm
    I noticed when Campbell was interviewed after he won the US Open. He said MAY ree.

    kiwi lady
    June 27, 2005 - 07:41 pm
    I heard Campbell and he said Maori or Mooaari. Maori vowels always have a long sound. In the word Maori true Maori speakers put the emphasis on the o and the a. The o is very definately heard.


    June 29, 2005 - 05:57 am

    Greetings from Albuquerque, New Mexico, which I just love and where I have had a wonderful time but the Devil's Own Time trying to connect to the Internet. Yesterday we were in Carlsbad, to see the famous Caverns, (unbelievable and to die for), and Carlsbad has no AOL numbers at all, so could not get on. Now am on a high speed DSL and can't send email, bellsouth refuses to send any, at all, so am stuck, so I am going to pack up the laptop, and go out and look at some more of this incredible architecture here, it's just unreal.

    Thanks to all of you for your wonderful efforts in this discussion, and especially all of our wonderful Books Discussion Leaders, for pitching in and helping out here in my absence at the end, many many thanks, much appreciated, I've enjoyed reading your diverse comments as much as any book! I hope those of you who are new to our book discussions will consider joining us for the next several ones coming up, including a new concept, the Read a Page a Day Book Club starting out with Rembrandt's Eyes July 5, I don't know HOW it will work, come join in and let's see what we can do!

    Don't forget our July 24 or so discussion of The Whale Rider, either, it should be super.

    Thank you, Carolyn, for your invaluable insights into the land and culture of New Zealand, and I see our next pick for August in our Read Around the World series is the marvelous, incredible Umberto Eco!! And the country is ITALY!!!! From whence I have JUST returned, and go every year, so I am very excited to see that we'll finally read an Eco, it's long overdue for us here in the Books, and I love Italy. Can't wait.

    We said we'd try a bit of comparative lit, do any of you want to compare this book's handling of explaining a land foreign to most of us with The Kite Runner? Or any other comparisions you'd care to make?

    I see most of you think the overarching theme of the book is hope, I am not sure I agree, but being as I am somewhat hors de combat, I think I'll let my own thoughts pass on this one. Thanks to all of you for your hard work here!!!

    There's an interesting little interview with Eco in this month's…is it Vanity Fair? The one with the article about Deep Throat in it? Anyway, it's on the last page, it's not in much depth but is interesting. I hope to try to find the book at the bookstore this morning, lovely huge B&N here. I have Eco's all over the house, am looking forward to our read together on this one, and all the insights you'll bring to it. Can't wait!

    So as we draw to a close and a holiday weekend, does anybody have any parting thoughts about The Bone People??

    If not we thank you very kindly for your wonderful submissions here and hope that you'll consider joining us in the August selection of our newest Read Around the World series, come see the voting results! We're doing a LOT of passport stamping here and enjoying every minute of it!

    Hope to see you in August!

    July 2, 2005 - 08:37 am
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