How The Bone People changed the way we read
Striking, poetic and magnificent - or lamentable, unreadable, and indefensible? Discover the story behind The Bone People - one of the most divisive novels in Booker Prize history.
Founder members of the Spiral Collective, New Zealand publishers of the Bone People, receiving the £15,000 cheque and leather bound copy of the book on behalf of Keri Hulme
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.