Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Bone People - Keri Hulme - an extraordinary novel

    You know how you go into a bookstore, looking for something, you're not sure what?  And you ask quietly to the book goddess, "help me find something that will surprise me with how good it is," as you wander the shelves?  That happened to me a week ago.  I went into the bookstore, my little indie book store left on the west side of town, Perfect Books (once long ago I worked here for two months, before I got another job with more hours).  And this book, which  Chris at Stuff Dreams are Made Of has made mention countless times as one of his favourites, was there.  So being curious, and remembering Chris loves this book,  I picked it up.  I had picked it up a few times before, but wasn't ready for it then.  This time, I read a few lines. And then a few more.  And then several pages.  And then I had to buy it. (PS.  Go right to where the story begins, the first two pages won't make sense until after you've read the book. Trust me.)

In the meantime I read Doctor Sleep, and it was so good (review will follow!) that I carried around The Bone People for a few days before I could begin it.  I started seriously reading it Thursday, stayed up until 3 am on Friday night, and finished it yesterday afternoon.  I'm so glad I could read it at home, because two thirds of the way through I was crying so hard that I couldn't see the pages.  "Crying my eyes out" is the phrase I said to myself as I wept over the pages.  It's been a long time since I cried this hard over a book.

The Bone People is about Kerewin Holmes, a reclusive artist hiding away from the world in a tower she has built, and the urchin who steals into her home, Simon, and his foster-father Joe Gillayley.   It is a retelling of the timeless tale of how a curmudgeon has their heart healed by an orphan child.....but it's much more, much richer than that.  There is Maori myth and legend woven into this grand novel.  There is most of all, love, and the idea of what makes a family. Each of the three is carrying a great burden, that makes it too easy for them to react in hurt when they perceive rejection.  But what makes this novel so great, is the determination they each find as they realize that they were made for one another.  They are the true family they each were seeking.  It's a beautiful novel, and so evocative, so real, that for me Kerewin Holmes and Joe and Simon Gillayley are alive somewhere in this world.  The novel is set in New Zealand, and I have come out of this book feeling like I know a little bit about how the land feels, what it is like to live there.  Especially, the ocean.  Kerewin the artist lives the by sea, and fishes a lot.  Simon came from the sea, washed in on a terrible storm, and mute, so no one knows who he belongs too.  And for Joe the full Maori, who takes in Simon,  the sea is where their people originated from, where life has its source.  The sea comes alive in this book, the many colours it has, the shades and the moods, the wind, the sky, the world that Kerewin and Simon and Joe live in.  I could feel the cold, the sea, I could hear the waves, see the different light in the sky depending on when Kerewin is looking at it. I could feel their emotions, and sympathize with each character even though they did things that were mean, even cruel.  One of the great wonders of this book is that despite the terrible act it the center of it, the revelation of abuse, I kept reading because even as I despised the act, I liked the characters so much.  And the characters struggle with it too, they don't hide from it. 

 There is something about this book that made me feel like I was right there, in the story somehow, intensely involved in it.  There is a timeless quality to it, so that it could be anytime this past century.   The story is woven in such a way that the three together do go together, and I got to see how they are drawn to one another, how they see what they love in one another.  I saw their inner thoughts revealed, that bares the soul of these characters to us, and makes it a story that wraps itself around me, stealing into my own heart and soul.

I keep wondering what Kerewin is doing now, and how Simon is, how happy he is.  They seem like real people and ought to be alive somewhere in New Zealand.  Like we have dipped into this year in their lives, but they have gone on.  Which is the best kind of story.   Love, and family, and guilt, and terror, and hurt, and healing.  This book will break your heart, it broke mine, it broke me open, and then pulled me back together again just like it did for each of the three characters.  There is myth and magic here too, of a kind that makes the reader realize that sometimes, there is forgiveness, here, and now, not in some afterlife.

It's wonderful.  It's beautiful.  It has the most exquisite use of language that I have seen in a novel in a long time:  Keri Hulme made words go together: stonegreyblue, sneakthievery, gentlefingered, laughingeyed, that are right.  They make sense, in this book.  As if putting these words together, makes the world seem new, and a little strange, so the events in this story are like a story told around a fire.  A rhythm, a song, a creation myth, for the beginning and the ending, of the family.   The words like this are like poetry, without being poetry, in the novel. So the book is about a new way of seeing things. It's magical and marvelous and grounded in reality - all the myth I am talking about, isn't the center of the story, it lurks in the background, breaking in only when the characters are completely broken down also.  Which is when myth can come in, when people are open to the numinous to come into their lives.  Which makes this is a wise novel, too. 

It won the Booker Prize in 1985.

Other reviews:
Boston Bibliophile
The Guardian Book Club
Raging Bibliomania
Lizzy's Literary Life
Farm Lane Books Blog
DogEar Diary
Stuff as Dreams Are Made Of 
An Adventure in Reading

Thursday, 10 October 2013

50 scariest Books of all time

I have to give a big thanks to Matt at A Guy's Moleskine Notebook.  He posted a link to this today, here is his original post, and here is the link to the article listing the 50 Scariest Books of All Time.

So, tell me.  Do you agree with the list?  Would you have picked something else on it?  I have to say that it's a pretty good list, though I would have picked The Shining over It for Stephen King, and lost boy lost girl over Ghost Story for Peter Straub. 

Here's what I've read from the list:
It - Stephen King
The Exorcist -  William Peter Blatty
Ghost Story - Peter Straub
Hell House - Richard Matheson
Dracula - Bram Stoker
some of Lovecraft's tBloodcurling Tales of HOrror and the Macabre
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson
The Silence of the Lambs - Thomas Harris
Rosemary's Baby - Ira Levin
The Amityville Horror - Jay Anson
Books of Blood - Clive Barker (some of the stories for certain)
Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe - some of
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The Ruins - Scott Smith
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary - M.R. James - some of
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
Swan Song - Robert R. McCammon
The Wolfen - Whitley Streiber

18/50......sigh.  Not as much as someone who reads horror regularly, should have read! 

I also added a few to my list. The Ritual by Adam Neville looks very interesting, and I've had Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons on my to get list for a little while now.  I own Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, just have to get to it now.  I also own October Country, I just can't remember if I have read any stories from it yet.  I think this list is missing among other things Angela' Carters The Bloody Chamber and other stories. 

If you are looking for RIP books to read, this is a good resource list to begin with.

Monday, 7 October 2013

some poetry for a Sunday afternoon read by some famous actors to swoon over

I saw this over at Chrisbookarama, from her post on Friday.  I'm stealing it because, well, it's actors I love, like Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Rickman and Colin Firth, reading poetry.  Poetry! I want this on my blog so I can find it whenever I need to come look at them and hear them reading poetry to me.      *fans self*  So, enjoy, Gentle readers.  (and thanks, Chris).  Happy Sunday indeed.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

6 years old - blogiversary time!

   Well, I almost made it.  I almost posted on my blog birthday!  I missed it by one day; Sept 30 was my last post, Oct 1 is my blogversary.  On Oct 1, my blog turned 6.  6 years ago  I started out on the wide world of blogging, taking my first baby steps into the community where other people talked about books.  Would I be welcomed?  Would I be able to participate?  Yes, a resounding yes to both.

It's been a bumpy 6 years for me.  Both personally, and in my ability to blog regularly. After year 2,  I seemed to lose interest for a month or so fairly often, and blogged intermittently.  I try not to, I want to be consistent, and I know this has affected how my blog is followed.  I have had to come to terms with the fact that if I 'm blogging, I'm reading less, so sometimes I have to go away and just read for a while.  Introverts are like that, you know.  Even here.

I'm not sure why blogging cuts into my reading time.  I think it's because my life is full, with kids and family and working and trying to squeeze in some kind of a social life, which blogging falls into.  It's always the first to go when I feel squeezed in other parts of my life.  And I love reading even more than I love blogging.  Much more.  However, I do know now that blogging is my way to you, my dear readers.  I do it so I can talk to other people about books.  Whenever I am away, I return because I miss you, and seeing what books are being read and what is being said about them.  So though times may change, my love of books does not, and my desire to talk about them.  It just comes and goes in a cycle.

 Thanks so much for everyone who has stuck with me through my silences, and always had a cheerful word when I came back.  It wouldn't be the same without you, my Gentle Readers.  You and your comments and shining intelligence and thoughtful attention to what you read, and love of books, make it all worthwhile.

Thank you too for all the books you have raved about over the years.  Thanks to you, my to-be-read list is now a journal almost completely full of books I want to read - only partially gotten through, I always feel satisfaction when I do look to see how much I have read because of you.   The books I want to read is an actual mountain.  Or would be, if I could get them all in one place.  A mountain of books to go through, sounds like heaven, doesn't it? Thank you, Gentle, dear readers!

  Happy 6th blogversary to me! 

Blog Survey
Don't worry, this is not a precursor to leaving my blog!  I have noticed in the past several months a distinct change in blogging, from bloggers who used to blog all the time suddenly not being able to blog, to other bloggers just stopping, to the huge amount of bloggers out there, so following blogs is much more time consuming than it used to be.  Over at Literate Housewife, Jennifer has developed a survey along with Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness and Shannon at River City Reading.  It's a short survey about your blogging habits. Here is Jennifer's post, which has a link to the survey.  It's very quick to do, so if you are curious, it will be a good way for us all to find out how the book blog world in general is doing.

Here are some books I've read because of you, Gentle Readers, over the years:
Skellig - David Almond (Staci at Life in the Thumb, Mariel at Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops (no longer active)), my original post here.
Clubbing - Andi Watson (Joanne at the Book Zombie, no longer active)
The True Story of Hansel and Gretel - Louise Murphy (Wendy at Musings of a Literary Feline) my original post here.
- Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise deserves a special mention, since she has single-handedly gotten me reading several mystery series that I love: Fred Vargas, Jo Nesbo, Johan Theorin, Peter Temple, Peter James, and especially Peter Lovesey, to name a few.  All highly recommended mystery series.  Her blog is a fabulous resource for all things mystery.

and because they have recommended way too many books I want, and because they are delightful, warm, thoughtful bloggers who I am always happy to see post:
- Jodie at Geranium Cat's Bookshelf, Cath at Read-Warbler, Pat at Here, There and Everywhere  , Christine at Bride of the Book God, Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made Of, Daphne at  where there is joy, Wendy at Musings of  Literary Feline, Eva at A Striped Armchair, and Ana at Things Mean Alot, always add to my book list.  They just have to mention a book and I want it.   I have many books waiting to be read/bought because of their blogs.
 ***These are some of the bloggers whose reading tastes have greatly influenced mine, in that we are always adding to each other's lists.  Very similar reading tastes.  Many other bloggers have interesting books and blogs that I visit regularly,  and love to visit. But we don't necessarily add to one another's books to be read.  Please see my sidebar. 
 - A very special mention to Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, who runs to two best challenges (for me anyway) in the blogworld:  Once Upon a Time in the spring, and RIP (Readers Imbibing Peril) in the autumn.  I love these two challenges, and they get me reading books that I would otherwise put aside for another day (because there is so much to read).  His not-a-challenge Sci-fi Reading Experience in the winter months has quadrupled my science fiction reading.  AND he is a lovely gentle man who has a kind word for everyone, and promotes  just about everything fantasy and sci fiction.  Another fabulous resource on the book blog community.
- and just because it's so cool to have one, my book-twin over in South Korea, at Blue-Hearted Bookworm.  It's awesome to say I have a book-twin.  That you have the same name and we sometimes agree on books and you have a lovely snarky sense of humour, always makes me smile.   

Everyone, all of you Gentle readers named and not named, if I have come to your blog and left a comment it's because you have touched me with your post, because you made me laugh or think or really desperately want to experience the book you just read, too.

Thank you.