By Ralph McAllister
I wondered whether the lockdown would change my reading habits.The answer is yes and no.
I was given two novels from a friend.
The Bone People by Keri Hulme was first published and won the Booker Prize in 1984.
Wellington Teachers’ College Maori Club helped put the first published copies together after Hulme had been using the original manuscript as a door stopper. Apocryphal? That is for you to find out.
I loved the book then and felt sorry for the judges at the negative reaction the choice generated. One of the judges was Joanna Lumley.
Generally the book maintains its power, particularly in the relationships of Kerewin, Joe and Simon and the pain that each suffers.
Of course more judicious editing might have helped assuage some of the critics, but Hulme was inflexible as she strove to publish her story.
Another first rate story about the Bounty
The other odd choice was an early John Boyne, Mutiny on the Bounty, a real boys’ own adventure story, told from the perspective of ten-year-old John Jacob Turnstile as he is dragooned onto Bligh’s Bounty.
I was drawn to the book mostly because of my huge admiration for Boyne’s two latest works The Heart’s Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky.
Some day read all three and you will have a great picture of where the author of The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas has arrived, quite simply at the zenith of his powers.
Well I am about 1000 pages through my re-reading of Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy being one of the greats I try to visit every year.
Levin still tends to bore with his farming and workers plans, but this is offset by one of the greatest love stories ever written, desperately moving and a handkerchief is still needed.
Finally Paper Plus and Kaye managed to provide me with a copy of Sebastian Barry’s sequel to his Days Without End, one of my books of the year four years ago.
The heartfelt saga of soldiers John Cole and Thomas McNulty, their love for each other and their caring for orphan Winona, set in the aftermath of the American Civil War, was a triumphant survival of the human spirit, amidst the brutality in Tennessee of the time.
Now native Indian Winona is the narrator of A Thousand Moons as she progresses to womanhood and her desire to leave behind her violent past.These together are two of the most memorable novels written in the last decade.
Both Boyne and Barry are Irish. What talents! What pleasures await you.
But don’t forget the handkerchief!