Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Graveyard Book

I jumped on The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman when I saw it in the library several weeks ago. I'd seen it blogged about in several places, none of which I can now remember, and truthfully was not expecting to see it in our library so soon. But there it was, so I nabbed it!



The Graveyard Book starts off with a murder, in fact, three murders. A family is killed by the man Jack... at least, three of them are - the parents and one of their children. The second child, a toddler, has wandered out into the night and escapes. He strays into the disused graveyard at the top of the hill but the man Jack comes to find him. Two ghosts, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, find the baby and protect him and Silas, not a ghost and not human, escorts the man Jack off the premises by addling his brain.

A meeting is held and eventually the ghosts of the graveyard decide that the child's life will always be in danger and they should raise him in the cemetary. Mr. and Mrs. Owens will care for him and Silas will be his guardian. They name the boy 'Nobody' Owens, 'Bod' for short.

Year by year the boy grows and we follow his adventures with his first friend, Scarlett, his education with Miss Lupescu, his adventures in the land of the ghouls, his experiences at the danse macabre and his friendship with the witch who's buried in the potter's field. But all the while the man Jack is still out there looking for the boy who escaped. Things come to a head when his friend, Scarlett, returns from Glasgow and becomes reacquainted with Bod. Who is this man Jack and why did he want Bod's family dead? More importantly, will Bod survive?

I must admit I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book. I've only read three other Gaiman books, Stardust and two short story anthologies, plus a few sundry stories in other anthologies and, to be honest found his writing to be patchy. I was 'so so' about Stardust, loved some of the short stories... but not others. So, in a way, I found my reaction to this book a bit surprising because I absolutely adored it.

Firstly, I think the graveyard is a character all on its own. It's such a real place and the ghosts who live there so sympathetic that I found myself wanting to move in! I was fascinated by Silas... brilliant character, imo... it's quite obvious what he is but it's never stated as far as I can remember. Ironic that it's he who is the fatherly, guiding influence on Bod as he grows up and for me that was one of the best things about the book. There's plenty of humour in the story as well... I love the way the ghosts are named with their dates and epitaph, all of a sudden I understood how Gaiman came to collaberate with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens as it reminded me of the way Pratchett described the departments in Truckers. Very funny. Apparently the book is Gaiman's take on Kipling's Jungle Book stories, albeit a rather macabre one. And the book *is* genuinely creepy and it's brilliantly done, but not overdone - pitched perfectly in other words. From comments made by Bod to Silas at the end I got the feeling that this might become a series. I truly hope so as I would love to read more about these characters and am keeping my fingers firmly crossed.

This book qualifies for no less than three challenges: Carl's Once Upon a Time III, J.Kaye's Support your local library and the Book Awards challenge being hosted by 1more chapter.com. as it won the Newbery award for 2009.

20 comments:

DesLily said...

well now... i've read many reviews on this book and none of them has made me want to go out and get it... until now. But it will have to go on the wish list for now... maybe I'll get lucky and be able to get it for Carls Halloween challenge.. many things in the interum that could make that impossible, but for now consider yourself on the "waiting list" to get on the "bad blogger" list when I finally get it! lol
Really a good review Cath!

Chris said...

Yay!! I'm so glad you liked it Cath :) It was such a fantastic book. And I really want to read one of the UK copies with the Gahan Wilson illustrations. The McKean illustrations were great, but I'd love to see his too. And I totally agree with you. The graveyard is certainly a character of it's own! And you made Pat put it on her wishlist!! I can't thank you enough for that ;)

BooksPlease said...

I'm like DesLily - not been tempted to read this book until I read your review. Guess what? I checked the library's online catalogue and there is a copy available for loan right now. Will it still be there when I get to the library?

Carl V. said...

So glad you liked it! It is a really wonderful book and has become one of my favorite Gaiman books. It is one that I certainly see myself re-reading many times over the coming years. And I echo Chris, getting Deslily to read this is awesome!

Cath said...

Hey Pat! While I was reading this book I kept thinking that it was one you would really like. I honestly think it would be perfect for Carl's RIP challenge for you. Hopefully by then you should be settled somewhere and able to concentrate more.

Chris: I think this is a book that will make my top ten books of this year - I liked it *that* much. My library edition was illustrated by Chris Riddell. He's a popular illustrator of children's books here, well known for the Edge Chronicle series of books written by Paul Stewart. I thought his drawings in The Graveyard Book were superb. Yes! Pat put it on her wishlist! Result!!! LOL.

Margaret: fingers crossed that the book is still there. It wouldn't be the first time a book has disappeared before I got to the library to grab it. I love my library but the whole business can be a bit frustrating at times.

Carl: I don't own this book unfortunately but I can't see that lasting as I know I'll want to read it again. For a start, I want my grandaughter to read it as I know she'll love it. At almost nine she's already a huge YA fantasy and horror fan. And yaaay! that I persuaded the lovely Pat to read some Neil Gaiman. :-)

Kailana said...

I am glad you enjoyed this book! I actually really liked this book, and I am very picky when it comes to Gaiman!

DesLily said...

geez lol... i know "the boys" (chris and carl) love Gaiman, I've only read stardust and while I enjoyed it I'd say I wasn't thrilled with the first 1/4 of the book.. There are other authors they love and they don't do a thing for me.. but it's ok to be different, we all can't like the same thing. But this book does sound better than I've heard , or I'm more open to it??? heck if I know, it IS on my wish list and hope to get it for RIP just not sure I will be spending anything once I leave here. My meager SS doesn't help much and my "savings" need to pay the rent and elect. and food and hopefully computer.. so we'll see.. it's looking more and more like I may wind up in Vero Beach Fla. (yuck.. sorry palm trees don't thrill me !!) still not a definite but I should know soon.

Jo said...

Me and my son read this at the same time (two bookmarks!).And we both loved it. When we were talking about it we both said ed like to know more about Silas.I think he could merit a book all of his own.

Cath said...

Kailana: yeah I seem to be a bit picky when it comes to Gaiman too, but I *loved* this one. I'm going to try some of his adult novels next - probably The Anansi Boys.

Nope, it really wouldn't do if we all liked the same things, Pat. I really *want* to like Gaiman's books a lot but they're hit and miss for me. I hope you find out soon where you'll be living. I'm sure it will help to at least *know*.

Jo: I passed this library book on to my daughter and she's giving it to our grandaughter to read next as we all thought it was fine for a nearly nine year old. The man Jack might scare her a bit but I think it'll be fine. Silas was an amazing character I thought, *perfect* for a book all of his own.

I see you live up in Shropshire... I absolutely love that county, so pretty and unspoilt. We holidayed around Shrewsbury and also Market Drayton a few years back. If I didn't live in Devon I could happily live there.

3M said...

You should definitely read Coraline, then! I really liked The Graveyard Book, but Coraline is my favorite.

Cath said...

3M: I started Coraline just before Christmas but was rather distracted by RL at the time so didn't finish it. I'll grab it from the library when I see it again. I'd really like to see the movie too.

Nymeth said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Cath! He and Terry Pratchett do remind me of each other occasionally.

Cath said...

Nymeth: there are certain similarities between the authors aren't there? There's certainly a nice droll sense of humour running through The Graveyard Book - concerning Silas and what he eats, for instance, and the ghost's epitaphs really did make me giggle. Very nicely done.

Susan said...

Oh, hurray! I was hoping you'd like it. I really enjoyed it too, and surprisingly, it's growing on me. I mean by this, that I like it more as time goes by, and what he did with the story settles in - I wanted him to take it in a different direction than he did, and I find this author voice in me impossible to turn off. I loved the graveyard, but I was so sad when the little girl couldn't be his friend when they both grew up.

I have to say my favourite is Coraline, and I'm reading Neverwhere right now, and it is very very good also. You're right - sometimes he is hit or miss, but then I'm beginning to realize that maybe all authors are, and we have to give them space to be imperfect. Hmmm, I think I just found my next post!!! lol

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I saw that you reviewed this over on the Book Awards challenge and had to come read it. Weird, because I just finished "The Graveyard Book" a little while ago, and I also loved it, but the song that went through my head while writing my review was called "Cath", by Death Cab for Cutie. The song has absolutely NOTHING to do with the book, but for some reason the *mood* fit.

I'm reading Stardust right now, the illustrated version, with illustrations by Charles Vess. I'm really liking it, though maybe not as much as "Graveyard". Maybe next I'll pick up Coraline. My daughter saw the movie and LOVED it.

Thanks for a wonderful review. :) Mine is here, if you're interested: http://jellyjules.com/?p=1856

Cath said...

Hi Susan. You made me think about authors and their work and realise that you're quite right about all authors being hit and miss. How *can* they always right the perfect book for a particular reader all the time? Not possible. Sheri Tepper is a favourite of mine. I've read four of her books, two were only 'so so' for me, good but not wonderful by any means. The other two, Grass and The Gate to Womens' Country are two of the best books I've ever read. Illustrating your point perfectly. Look forward to your post on this if you do one.

J: I had no idea there was a song called 'Cath'! How strange that it was going through your head while reading the book.

I need to get Coraline out of the library again as a lot of people love it. I started it last year but got waylaid by something else and never finished it. I also want to see the movie.

Just off to read your review of The Graveyard Book now.

Shelley said...

I loved the ghosts being named with the epigraphs too. I agree with you when you said it was well done, but not overly done. I wondered too if there will be more. We can only hope!

Cath said...

Shelley: I too am hoping for more, we can only hope!

Book pusher said...

Cath I know this is an old post but I just had to say this is the best online review of The Graveyard Book I have read, it is excellent, if I hadn't already read it I think I would after reading this post. I am also a fellow Pratchett fan. I have been really enjoying reading your blog.

Cath said...

Hi Book Pusher. Thank you so much for your really kind comment about my review on The Graveyard Book. I imagine that my enjoyment of it really showed. LOL.

And nice to meet another Pratchett fan!