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.