Keri Hulme: The Bone People (1984)

The Bone People won the Booker Prize in 1985 and for its own part, raised the awareness of the existence of Maori culture outside the borders of New Zealand. Furthermore, a film called Once were warriors made a worldwide breakthrough in the 1990’s and brought even more social awareness to this minority that has suffered from the lack of basic human rights for ages.

Maoris are indigenous people of the island of New Zealand. It is known that first maoris of the island arrived to the island by long canoes from Polynesia around the 14th Century. As the Europeans started to conquer the island through Colonialism, Maorian tribes were mistreated and the population of the maoris started to decrease. The cultural resurrection of the Maori heritage started to occur at some point in the 1960´s. E.g. the language of Maori people has been legalized and brought to the curriculum of the country´s schools relatively recently, in the 1980’s.

Keri Hulme participates in this process of revival through the contents of the book. She weaves the story  in her magical way by introducing maori words along the journey. The arrangement and relationship between her three main characters could be seen to reflect the past of the Maori tribes. The struggle of the existence has been an ongoing and fierce battle.

It is difficult to write about this book, as the story does not follow the conventional storyline and is some way “out of this world”.  The lives of the three characters are presented in a fragmented ways, but get their meanings in relation to each other. A woman, a man and a child have their own struggles to fight at, yet the caring and loving emotions seem to evolve between them. The connection of this three is unique and biased. Isolation is a big theme, and violent actions occur. It is not always easy for the reader to accept the actions and their consequences.

A relation to the nature can be sensed In the book, and symbols for Maorian culture is presented, such as the importance of art works & tattooes, and the respect to the past and magical stories. Keri Hulme made an important work through her writing, although the story would have not suffered from some further editing or simplification, in my opinion. One of our bookclubbers considered this to be the most outstanding book she has read for a while.

-Marika

Cover (Finnish version): Kirjasampo.fi

 

 

 

 

Christos Tsiolkas: The Slap (2008)

“Bogan, doone, arvo, dag, yobbo, mussie, wog”….Christos Tsiolkas, the author of Greek origin and identified as an Australian author, manages to introduce some characteristics of Australian English through his choosings of vocabulary in his novel The Slap. Published in 2008, the book became an international  bestseller.

The book club agreed on the visual qualities of the plot – the book could be easily seen as a film format. And we came to learn that Tsiolkas is actually a recognised screenwriter, and the book has been made to a film.

Tsiolkas introduces events that take place in Melbourne, the Australian city that seems to have a variety of multicultural families and friendships. There are descendants of Greek (Hector, Manolis), Indians (Anouk) and Brits (Connie), to mention but a few. We come to learn that Australian is not solely a person from Perth, but identities are formed in the dialogues with other cultures.

The events of the book start from a barbeque party, where a man slaps a child of 3 years old across the face. The child is not of his own. The story is constructed through voices of different characters – The chapters are named after eight persons who all witness the slapping in the party.

Reader is asked questions such as what is a modern family about? Where goes the limit for marital rights and obligations? The slap does not leave the reader aside but constantly asks: Whose side are you on?

Some of the book club members liked the book a lot, whereas some found the language rather vulgar and unapproachable. This is what the book is about – Tsiolkas exaggerates, pushes some persons to their limits and leaves the reader a bit flabbergasted. Yet, there are also true survivors in the story, such as a teenager called Connie. She seems to possess the qualities that make you miss the best moments of the teenage years.

-Marika

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Cover: LibraryThing

Nathan Filer: The Shock of the Fall

To begin with, think about the name of the book. It has multiple meanings: it can be about something shocking that is happening in the autumn. Or, it can refer to that horrible state after someone has fallen off the roof, from the edge of the cliff, etc. Or it could also be interpreted as a state of mind, after you have mentally  collapsed or “fallen”. Despite the different meanings of the title (all of which actually all apply to our dear story), the name of the book depicts well the ominous atmosphere in this story.

To talk about this book and analyze the book thoroughly would spoil all the fun and excitement of the reading. Therefore, there are just hints that I would like to give you for your reading: pay attention to the construction of the book. Read carefully, try to catch some hints that the author gives you along the way, and enjoy the typography of the text:  for example, think about the fonts of the text, they do serve some purpose, don’t they?

Also, we have to admit that Nathan Filer, the author of the book, seems to know very well what he is writing about. That he is a registered mental nurse by profession cannot be a coincidence. In the book club we started to wonder how much he might have actually picked up from the real life experiences, since so vivid and accurate seem the descriptions of health care institutions and the states of mind. At the epilogue of the book, Filer actually describes his relationship with his own protagonist: “Of course I also got to spend time in the company of Matthew Homes, who I grew to like enormously. Perhaps compelled is the right word. I felt compelled to tell his story”.

Even though the book handles mostly a subject of grief, we in the book club did not find the book to have a hopeless feeling. The book has a strong will for survival, hopefully still for decades to come. A beautiful piece of writing!

-Marika

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