The year in which the pipe-smoking Kiwi Keri Hulme won the prize with her one and only novel, The Bone People. It was a win that baffled some in the tight-knit literary world.

Hulme was the first New Zealander to win the prize and came to it the hard way, supporting her career as a poet by working as a tobacco picker (hence her love of pipes and cigars). Hulme’s Maori heritage informs her book, which was turned down by several publishers.

‘Undoubtedly Miss Hulme can write,’ ran one rejection letter, ‘but unfortunately we don’t understand what she is writing about’, before being picked up by a small feminist collective. Three of its members would collect the award on her behalf - in full island dress and chanting a Maori praise song.

Keri Hulme: winner of the 1985 Booker Prize
Published by
Hodder & Stoughton
Keri Hulme’s Booker Prize-winning novel focuses on the mysterious relationships between three unorthodox outsiders of mixed Maori and European heritage.

The Shortlist

The Good Terrorist
Last Letters from Hav
The Good Apprentice

The 1985 judges