The Graveyard Book – A Tale of Life

So my Goodreads.com goal is to read 100 books in 2013.  While I have three other books currently going, I finally finished the first one.  According to the counter, I’m seven books behind.  I think I can do this.  Book number 2 is almost done!

This morning I finished Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

The graveyard book

“There was a hand in the dark and it held a knife.”  So begins the tale of Nobody Owens, a young baby boy who narrowly escapes murder.  The rest of his family is not so fortunate and little Nobody wanders into the graveyard where is he is happily protected by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a pair of childless ghosts who live in the graveyard near the scene of the murders.

After being granted the protection of the graveyard, Nobody, or Bod as he is called, learns the ways of the graveyard.  He learns how the ghosts move and learns of the darker things that lurk in the graveyard.   Growing up under the watchful eye of Silas, his guardian, Bod learns that outside the graveyard, there are still things lurking and waiting to end his life.

Gaiman’s hero must come of age in a world that is unlike any other child, having parents that no one else can see, and never leaving the security of the graveyard. However, Bod is able to find love and friendship in many places – a witch in the Potter’s field, a young (living) girl who came to play in the graveyard, and even in the mysterious Sleer who guard the treasures for their master’s return.

With a rather obvious nod to Kipling’s The Jungle Book, this story is endearing and adventurous as young Bod discovers what it means to be human and what it truly means to be alive.  At one point, Bod finds himself alone in the graveyard, and odd thing for Bod because he has always had someone in the graveyard to talk to.  With no one there to watch him, Bod wanders outside the gate down to the Old Town.

"Bod was a quiet child with sober grey eyes and a mop of tousled, mouse-colored hair.  He was, for the most part, obedient."  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

“Bod was a quiet child with sober grey eyes and a mop of tousled, mouse-colored hair. He was, for the most part, obedient.The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

“Bod had never walked anywhere as a sightseer before. He had forgotten the prohibitions on leaving the graveyard, forgotten that tonight in the graveyard on the hill the dead were no longer in their places; all that he thought of was the Old Town , and he trotted through it down to the municipal gardens in front of the Old Town Hall (which was now a museum and a tourist information center, the town hall itself having moved into much more imposing, if newer and duller, offices halfway across the city)…Bod listened to the music, entranced.  There were people trickling into the square, in ones and twos, in familiars or alone.  He had never seen so many living people at one time.  There must have been hundreds of them, all of them breathing, each of them as alive as he was, each with a white flower.”

Gaiman’s style is wonderful for setting the scene with wonderfully vivid descriptions including the smallest of details that, in real life, we as people would notice but so often are not included in books.  I once read somewhere that someone (I honestly forget where or who) once said how much they love when writers write things like colds into their stories because how often do you hear about a character sneezing or taking a dose of Tylenol.  These are the details that Gaiman works in effortlessly that gives the reader an amazing sense of setting and character.  The narrator provides little asides that help the reader get a true sense of the town, the modern life that has taken over the Old Town and how it has transformed the town from what Bod has learned about from the citizens of the graveyard. It is new and exciting to him and the rest of the evening in the Old Town plays out in a way Bod could only dream of.

While at times I wish there had been more adventures or more mischief for Bod to get into with the Ghosts, I had to remind myself that this novel was geared toward a slightly younger crowd.  I must admit that it didn’t bother me.  It was still a fantastic tale where ghosts, ghouls, the undead, werewolves, and jacks-of-all-trades come together and help shape Nobody.

If you are looking for a quick read and one that is going to leave you feeling uplifted in a macabre kind of way, then I would recommend this book.  If you are going to buy it in paperback, I would recommend the version I linked to above because at the end, there are some great extras including an interview with Gaiman about the book which was a great little treat for those of us who love to hear the author talk about the hows and whys of a book.

Also, a special treat for those who are Toriphiles, there is the nod to her (the two have been friends for quite some time and I even was at a concert that Neil was at so Tori sang “Tear in Your Hand” and waved to Neil.  I love when things like that happen at concerts!) at the end where he does quote “Graveyard.”  Here’s a great live version of it (followed by Snow Cherries From France) and after reading the book,  it was a beautiful tie in!

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