Kia ora Keri – 30 years ago Keri Hulme won the Booker Prize for Fiction

Cover of The Bone People‘You're not pulling my leg, are you? … Bloody hell – it’s totally unbelievable!’

That's what Keri Hulme said when she won the Booker Prize (now the Man Booker Prize) on 31 October 1985 - nearly 30 years ago. She scooped up New Zealand’s first Booker Prize with her debut novel the bone people.

It's a book that New Zealanders have engaged with in a unique way. At last year's Auckland Writers Festival, it was acclaimed the inaugural Great Kiwi Classic. I think I was at uni when I read it. It was unlike anything read before, or since.

The Bone People

There's a great piece in Booknotes unbound where some booky people talk about the bone people. Peter Simpson reproduces part of his 1984 review:

…The Bone People might be seen not only as a cultural document of immense significance to New Zealanders of all races and as a major novel in its own right, but also as an important advance in the development of New Zealand fiction, effecting a new synthesis of the previously separate Maori and Pakeha fictional traditions.

Librarian Jacqui (purplerulz) said of Keri Hulme: "She’s a polarising author, but the bone people was wondrous for me, her use of words, description of the landscape and the people who lived in it were so evocative to me and when I travelled to the southern West Coast after that, it made all the more sense":

The wind has dropped. It is growing very dark. The shag line has gone back to Maukiekie, bird after bird beating forward in the wavering skein. The waves suck at the rocks and leave them reluctantly. We will come back ssssoooo… they hiss from the dark.

For a full account of Keri's Booker win, read Keri Hulme’s Bone people wins Booker Prize.

I am a fan of Keri's writing in Te Karaka. Here's a recent piece on the NZ flag debate.

I am a vexillologist manqué, you see. I love flags and learning about them and flying them whenever I can, whenever it is appropriate ...The one flag I never flew was the official New Zealand ensign. It is dreary and derivative, and has never spoken to my mind or heart.

Kia ora Keri, always someone who speaks to the mind, and to the heart.

Kōrerorero mai - Join the conversation.