Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
“After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…
Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.”
This was my first foray into Mr Gaiman’s* world and was recommended to me by a friend and long term fan of his work as a good place to start. He was not wrong.
This Gothic Jungle Book, as alluded to in the afterword, is an easy and entertaining read that’s characteristic of what Mr Gaiman does best; rich worlds and unique characters carefully woven together with the magical and the macabre. Ably assisted by the marvellous and chilling illustrations of Chris Riddell, who deserves a blog post all to himself, it was a perfect introduction.
Despite being a children’s book, Mr Gaiman does not shy away from the more sinister and violent elements of the story (it opens with a triple murder after all); like the Brothers Grimm he recognises the importance of darkness in a fairytale. In fact, considering that the vast majority of his characters are dead, this is not an unnecessarily sentimental or morbid tale but actually a rather well-balanced mix of whimsy, sadness and adventure.
A poignant and bittersweet fairytale, I particularly enjoy books like this one that can deal with big, scary subjects like death and fear without becoming overly depressing or mawkish. Through the eyes of Bod, our quiet and kind leading man (or boy), The Graveyard Book allows us to experience the nostalgia of childhood and the inevitability of growing up.
*I always want to call him Mr Gaiman. I’m not sure why, it just feels right. Whatever the reason, I’m going with it!
If you like this, you might like: Other books by Neil Gaiman