Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman captured my imagination from the opening when a man named Jack enters a family's house and kills them.  The only thing that goes wrong is an infant boy escapes his crib, crawls outside and disappears.  Where did he go? Why can't Jack find him?  That is the tale this magical storyteller crafts in "The Graveyard Book".

I have read some of Neil Gaiman's comic books but none of his novels.  When Carl, of Stainless Steel Droppings, announced that this was the group read for his R.I.P. VII I could not resist signing up.  I kept up with the reading schedule but time constraints kept me from posting.

Gaiman's fascinating story of a young boy, given the name Nobody or Bod,  who gets adopted by the denizens of a graveyard makes for a classic story.  It is one I will re-read again in the future.

Even though most of the characters are dead, Gaiman is able to bring them to life.  It's hard to narrow it down to a favorite.  

Silas, Bod's guardian, was one of them.  We are kept in the dark about his true nature for much of the book.

Scarlett Perkins, Bod's first human friend.  Her story is very emotional.  We go from the high of their first friendship to the tragedy of loosing a friend.  I was pleasantly surprised when she returns later but their friendship does not end well.

If I had to pick one favorite, not including Bod, would be Elizabeth Hempstock.    The tragedy of how her life ended was heartbreaking.  When Bod chooses to ignore his family's warning and venture into the forbidden part of the graveyard, he brings a little happiness into her "life".  I kept hoping for a better ending to her tale but it was not meant to be.

The final chapter is a realistic portrayal of the transition from childhood to adulthood.  It could not end any other way.  As he becomes an adult, Bod looses the graveyard and the only family he has ever known.  

At first, I thought this was a unique book that was different from anything else I read.  Then it struck me that it belongs in the same category as "A Fine & Private Place" by Peter S. Beagle.  Both books are unique with completely different stories but share some similarities.  If you liked "A Graveyard Book" I recommend that you read "A Fine & Private Place".


nrlymrtl said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this favorite of mine. Lovely post.

Liza Hempstock was also one of my favorite characters, and while I had hoped for more for her, it really wasn't going to happen - at least not between her and Bod.

Carl V. Anderson said...

I can't tell you how happy it makes me that you enjoyed this so much. Thanks for reading along with us and for sharing your thoughts at the end. You touched on so many points that strike me every time I read this book. Liza is one of my favorite characters in the book and I too always hope for a happier ending for her. Bod is the first person in centuries who does anything nice for her and it makes sense that she develops a bond with him and part of me wishes that in some way they could have a life together. I'm so happy for the moments they have together in the story.

And you are right about Scarlett and Bod's story too, it is pretty heartbreaking as well. So like true adolescence, eh?

Anonymous said...

"Even though most of the characters are dead, Gaiman is able to bring them to life."

Ha, that made me smile! And it's true.

I also loved Liza--probably my favorite character too.