Post #56: The Graveyard Book

Graveyardbook
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Post number fifty-six is for Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, another required reading assignment for my Fantasy Lit course (only three more of these for the semester, hurrah!). I actually bought this book when it first came out and then never got around to reading it. I am not a massive fan of Neil Gaiman; although I've enjoyed many of his books (most notably Stardust and Coraline, and also Good Omens, which was co-written), I don't think he's the best thing since sliced bread. That being said, I liked this book a lot. I found the main character sort of charming and enjoyed the plot and the supporting characters.

Brief spoilery thoughts follow.

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The main character is Nobody Owens, nicknamed Bod. When Bod was a baby, his family was murdered in their home, and only an impromptu nighttime stroll by the toddler saved his life. He wandered into a graveyard, where the denizens ultimately decided to take him in. His parents are Mr. and Mrs. Owens, and his guardian is Silas, who promises to get him food, since obviously the ghosts cannot (Silas is not a ghost). Bod grows up in the graveyard, getting his lessons from ghosts who have been dead for a very long time (I think they're all from the Victorian Age or earlier, but might be misremembering). Meanwhile, the person who tried to kill him is still looking for him, but can't find him because he's in the safety of the graveyard. Bod also meets Scarlet, a very real girl, and they become friends, although she leaves him when he's quite young (four or five) when her family moves to Scotland. They're reunited towards the end of the book, which is what helps bring the culmination of the plot into being.

You'd think that a child who grows up in a graveyard would be a bit morbid, but he's actually quite thoughtful and funny, and his interactions with the ghosts are wonderful. His parents love him, Silas is the silent and brooding (but deep down deeply caring) sort, but there's humor throughout, most notably with the epitephs on the headstones of the ghosts, and the stories they tell him of we learn from Bod when he's talking about them. The book's chapters are told a year or so apart, so we get the first one when he's a baby, then again when he's four/five, then again when he's ten, etc. He's sixteen when the book ends. There's also illustrations interspersed, and the ones in the first chapter are especially good; they set the tone and mood of the story perfectly and really draw the reader in.

The ending was a little heartbreaking and sad, although perfectly right, and I'll admit that I teared up a bit. I would be curious to see if Gaiman ever writes a sequel.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable book with a really wonderful main character and a fine supporting cast. I would definitely recommend it.

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