Reviews of Weathered Bones
“Fantastic, a gripping read”
Ross Holden, News Talk ZB, 22 April 2009
‘[This is] spine-shivering territory, the haunted past reaching out to touch the present, and turn it on its head. A book full of “real” women from an exciting new writer.’
Dame Fiona Kidman
“This is a powerful first novel that tells the compelling and intriguing story of three women and how tragedy storms into their lives, battering and crushing them but then remoulding them into stronger individuals.
Inspired by the woman who became New Zealand’s first permanent lighthouse keeper at Pencarrow, the book paints a vivid and chilling picture of how living on a storm lashed coast affects these very different women and the men in their lives.
..This is a novel of howling wind and crashing water, broken bones, flower filled rooms and manic midnight painting, which sounds strange and unrelated but all these elements and more come together brilliantly under the penmanship of this talented new writer.”
Gwen Chaloner, Southland Times, 6 June 2009.
“Storms and lighthouses – it is the perfect combination. Add in three very different but damaged women, and you have a powerful tale, a tragedy in the making, a ghost who is more than a presence, and finally redemption – for some, at least…
In her rendering of Antoinette, Powles has created a woman who is middle New Zealand. She is a woman who exists for a family that no longer needs her. She grates on her daughter-in-law, frustrates her children, and is lost in a world into which she doesn’t quite fit. The portrait of Antoinette is excruciating, uncomfortable; I cringed with recognition, desperately wishing she could be more self-aware, less gauch, less needy.
Powles’s ghost story, which makes you want to run up the stairs late at night, fearing to look behind you, is inhabited by a spirit that simply wants to shake up and make stronger the women she encounters, but in pushing them, and giving into the power she craves, the spirit demand more and more, and gives nothing…”
NZ Lawyer, 16 October 2009.
‘This book is a piece of dark and intriguing writing and I have never read anything quite like it. Powles successfully combines the past and present in an original and intricate way, while successfully drawing the reader into the individual lives of these three women. Relatively fast paced and certainly unpredictable, Weathered Bones is another inventive and bewitching piece of New Zealand writing that will live on in the imaginations of many readers.”
Carmen Thompson, Ashburton Guardian, 25 June 2009.
“poignant and moving …a touching story full of beautiful imagery. Read it now and you’ll have bragging rights when Powles becomes well-known.”
Dash Magazine, 30 June 2009.
“Michele Powles has created an evocative and powerful piece of writing in her first novel, with characters whose real dilemmas and emotions give them life….the book is an engrossing read…”
Judith McKinnon, Hawkes Bay Today, 16 May 2009.
'This is the best written book I have read in ages. I really like the three stories that intersect. I also really like the symbolism and imagery.'
Karyn White, librarything.com
“Shades of Michael Cunningham’s beautiful but terrible story The Hours run through this book. It shares the same undercurrent of hopelessness, although has slightly more optimism for humanity…Powles describes alienation within relationships, romantic and platonic, with much feeling.”
Karen Tay, Sunday Star Times, 7 June 2009.
“page turning power”
Metro Magazine, August 2009.
“This is an engaging work from a first-time novelist who writes with power and imagination. I am sure we will hear more from Powles. I hope we do.”
Carol Atkinson, New Zealand Books, Winter 2009.
“..the author has a remarkable insight into troubled minds, and the ambiguous character of Eliza is delicious.
This is a book that starts slowly but gathers momentum and catches the reader up with it. If you like something a little dark and different, this one won’t disappoint.”
Heather Talbott, Timaru Herald, 2 May 2009.
“…main characters were nicely flawed, with Antoinette finding it hard to connect with her grown up children, and Grace wondering why she can’t be satisfied with the perfect life. Powles’ descriptions of Antoinette’s vibrant, manic paintings and Grace’s descent into madness were the highlights for me. Emotive but not overly challenging, Weathered Bones would make a fitting read for a stormy afternoon indoors.”
Laura Hewson, Otago Daily Times, 11 April 2009.
“a gripping what’s going-to-happen-next story form…Who is sane or insane? Where do reality and imagination overlap? This book is well written, with a fascinating mystical past-to-present twist. The storms, life events, relationships, attitudes past and present and a wondrous imagination make this book an enjoyable read.”
Anne McPhail, Wanganui Chronicle, 18 July 2009.
“Feisty & intriguing.”
Carole Beu, Easy Mix, 25 March 2009.
”I finished Weathered Bones while a storm raged outside our seaside home in Eastbourne, more than a little spooky, as the novel is set in Eastbourne and is racked by storms, water and drowning…the interlocking lives and concerns of the three women are compelling, there’s some fabulous imagery and you can’t help but admire this author’s chutzpah.”
Mary McCallum, Your Weekend, 4 April 2009.
Under the Weather – NZ Listener
“Weathered Bones by Michele Powles is a strange and eerie tale. A potentially pedestrian story about two women coming through the darkest periods of their lives, this debut novel is saved by the fascinating addition of an old fashioned haunting.
Antoinette is abandoned and bereft. Recently widowed, she has lost her beloved husband to an accident at sea and her grown children to the increasing demands of their own separate lives. Grace is a young wife, married to a nice guy from whom she feels increasingly alienated. She finds distraction in her work for the Maritime Museum, researching the life of Eliza McGregor, the colonial wife of the lighthouse keeper at Pencarrow. As her task becomes obsessively compelling, both for Grace and for the reader, Eliza is somehow drawn into the present, her spirit form becoming increasingly corporeal, and increasingly threatening.
Though sent to give ease and comfort to Grace in her time of need, Eliza can’t manage to offer either. Her life of physical hardship and emotional pain, more than 150 years ago, has rendered her unable to fulfil her spiritual task in the present, hardening her to compassion, making her “lips too hard and [her] arms too tight”. What she offers in its stead is anger.
For Eliza is a ghost in the Stephen King tradition: terrifying, vengeful and malicious. A century and a half is a long time to fester and fume, and Eliza is full of frustration – turned to spite – and the overwhelming desire to be seen and heard. That her only avenue for the fulfilment of that desire is through Grace and Antoinette forces the women together with tempestuous results.
The tumult of the plot is set beautifully against the wild Wellington coast. It’s a very watery book, full of the sea, waves and rain. With the air “Granny Smith crisp” and the sea “a patch of perfect blue”, Wellington harbour is the sensory focus of the story – the view out every window, the soundtrack to every scene. In all its guises, whether welcoming, threatening or tranquilising, it is a setting that is wonderfully evoked and lovingly drawn.
But it is the weather that acts as the central character in the novel. Weathered Bones begins with a ferocious storm, a force alive with “wind fingers” and sharp nails, pulling leaf from tree and nail from board, laughing all the while. Like Eliza herself, the storm glories in the power of destruction it wields. And the question the story as is: what does the storm make of you? It’s an unusual way to pose a familiar question, and that difference is what makes Weathered Bones worth a look.”