Structured so that each chapter works as a short story in its own right while also contributing to the overriding story arc of the novel, this novel includes all the wit, subtlety and bittersweet touches that you expect from a Gaiman book. It begins with the murder of Bod's family and his 'escape' to a nearby graveyard, where he is adopted by the ghostly inhabitants and Silas, a vampire in all but name, agrees to serve as his guardian. Subsequent chapters pick out incidents in Bod's life - one for each year as he ages, including his friendship with a little girl called Scarlett, a centennial dance involving the living and the dead, Bod's accidental visit to the Land of the Ghouls and his encounter with the ghost of a young woman murdered for being a witch. Permeating it all is the threat from The Man Jack who murdered Bod's parents and who, together with The Jacks, is still searching for Bod.
Characterisation is great, particularly Silas and Miss Lupescu (an East European woman who looks after Bod when Silas is on his travels) who are superb and utterly credible. Bod himself is likeable, and the incidents that Gaiman highlights from his life are interesting and believable - the chapter where Bod tries to go to a school for living children is particularly moving.
I would have liked to have seen more of Silas and Miss Lupescu's adventures as the Hounds of God, which Gaiman gives tantalising details of without ever really expanding (what's there works, but I'd have liked more description). I also wasn't enamoured with the introduction of the prophecy element towards the end of the book - it came far too late and I really needed to see it developed more and earlier for it to work and I couldn't help but wish that The Jacks had some other motive for hunting down Bod instead.
That said, I really admire Gaiman for not going for the easy happy ending here. Without going into spoilers, it would have been very easy for him to give the readers what they want and expect and wrap up his novel in a neat little bow. Although he doesn't do this, the ending he does provide is satisfying and fits in well with the characters and hopefully, will set up the possibility of their returning in future novels.
on 5 November 2016
Not usually a fan of Gaiman, although I've always respected him as a writer (some great episodes of Dr Who he's written), I've tried hard to like his work but always found it not clicking too well with me. So when I found that one of my favourite authors (Patrick Rothfuss, Kingkiller series) had given this one rave reviews, I thought I'd give it a go. I wasn't too pleased with the price, but I had expected that being a Gaiman, so I took the plunge anyway and trusted Patrick's opinion.
Boy did it pay off. Cracking little book that took me a week to get through while sailing in Greece this year. Very nice surprise how engrossing this one was. I think it might just inspire me to give his other stuff another go.
So, if like me, you're usually not a fan of Gaiman but still want to try and like his stuff, start with this one. :)
on 14 November 2016
I'm still reading this, but LOVE IT. It is Neil Gaiman at his best. You don't know who to root for, you don't know who is actually evil, but there's so much going on, and SO much detail, you can't put it down!
on 3 December 2008
In a nutshell: A fine read primarily aimed at the junior reader, but with enough maturity to be able to be enjoyed by all. The Graveyard Book has the potential to be a future classic in the same vein as the one that inspired it, The Jungle Book (and other greats such as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard in Oz and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe etc.), and for that reason alone I consider this novel unmissable.
In his acknowledgments Gaiman credits more than a passing nod for this novel to Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, a childhood favourite of his, and while the chief protagonist of the novel Bod, can certainly fit into Mowgli's loin cloth, I didn't really feel that there was much of a relationship between the two, other than a child growing up in a unique environment. Then again I read Jungle Book with child eyes many years ago, and this I read as a mature adult, so my perspective is somewhat different. More delightful for me perhaps (mainly because of the romantic notion it throws up), is the author's revelation that the inspiration for The Graveyard Book came after watching his two year old son pedaling his tricycle between the gravestones of a church one summer.
So from the outset I think I've established that The Graveyard Book is a title primarily aimed at the more junior reader, and fundamentally it is. That said the narrative is certainly more than mature enough to be read by all ages and I certainly didn't feel at any point that I was reading a book that was too young for me. In fact the publishers have seen fit to release this title in both a child's and adult's version so it's accessible for all. Being frugal I actually bought the child's version (it was available at a discounted price :o)), and I'm glad I did because it's got some really nice illustrations throughout from accomplished artist Chris Riddell.
On to the story itself and The Graveyard Book is hugely fantastical (what story about a baby being adopted by ghosts wouldn't be?), but that's The Graveyard Book's quality - pure unadulterated escapism. The story is well-paced, tight and easily read and with this novel at least (because it's the only one I've read) Neil Gaiman shows himself as a great storyteller. If he were around in times of lore then he would undoubtedly be the one wandering the medieval countryside with his lute, entertaining the townsfolk with his tales of wonderment :o). Gaiman's put a lot of cleverness into this story with some neat plot twists that ensure the pages keep turning.
Aside from the plot twists I loved following Bod's interactions with the ghosts of the graveyard, and his attempts to adopt the ghostly attributes which would prove useful to him in his unique position. Undoubtedly however, the main success of the storyline comes from Bod's growing angst at being kept from the world outside the graveyard. It's a problem that increases as Bod grows older and its fundamentally an exploration of growing up, but it's growing up in a wholly unique environment, and that's what makes the story so compelling.
As anyone who has read any of my former book reviews would know, my biggest passion is for good characterisation. I'm not so bothered about story or plot (although they help of course) but good characters mean everything to me; so much so that this aspect on its own can often make the difference between a novel being good or bad for me. Well, I'm happy to proclaim that Gaiman has created a really well-rounded charismatic character in the chief protagonist Bod, and if he were looking to create an equal to rival Kipling's Mowgli then I think he's succeeded, admirably. Silas, Bod's vampiric guardian, is another well realised character in this novel. He's a character that comes across with a great deal of enigmatic depth, and the phrase `still waters run deep' comes to mind when I think of him. I also think that this is the first time ever that I've been so endeared to a character who is traditionally considered to be an icon of horror.
Sadly however that's where the good characterisation diminishes somewhat for me, and with the possible exception of `the man Jack', all of the other characters come across as being somewhat flat and mere `players' in the story. Don't get me wrong, the portrayal of the other characters is certainly adequate, more than enough to ensure the novel keeps its gleam, but given the richness of character that could have been realised with such an imaginative cast of ghostly figures, I would have liked to have seen some of the other characters being better developed, at least up to the same standard as Silas.
In closing then the main question remaining is whether this is a novel that I recommend reading? Well if you're a junior then absolutely. It's a fantastic novel with a flowing, interesting storyline that juniors are certain to love. I promise! :o)
What about the more mature reader? Well as I've said above it's marketed towards all ages and the story has enough maturity to make it a novel for all ages. It's certainly a light read so if your expecting something as deep and engaging as a Tolstoy or Murakami then you're going to be disappointed. However, if it's a light read you're after then I can think of no better. It entertained me completely and as a reader who normally gets his kicks from the more dense prose of writers such as Steinbeck, Doestovsky and Hamsun etc. that's a big achievement. Bearing that in mind I'm confident that The Graveyard Book will entertain just about anyone. Go buy it!
on 25 October 2008
Gaiman is a master story-teller, there is no doubt about that, but it's very hard to think of him as a children's story-book writer (and yes I know he has written other children's books before, but they always seemed...not quite right). However, after reading through this novel of his one can clearly see that he has the skills necessary to delight and educate the young ones without dulling it down too much or losing the young ones on the way.
The story can be considered to be an homage to Kipling's "Jungle Book" with excellent references being made to Kipling's story that are easily recognizable. The hero of the tale, Nobody Owens, is endearing, while at the same time not a weak character. Except for the fact that he was raised by ghots of the graveyard, he is an entirely believable character, which makes the novel even more enjoyable.
Fans of Gaiman will not be disappointed by this novel, those new to him will definitely enjoy it, and those who are looking for a good book to read to a child will also be well served by this.
on 6 August 2014
"The Graveyard Book: Volume 1" is the first volume in a two-part graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 2008 children's novel "The Graveyard Book." Artist P. Craig Russell, who is a long-time collaborator with Gaiman and took care of the graphic adaptation, figures prominently on the cover, but be warned that each chapter is drawn by a different artist: Kevin Nowlan (chapter 1), P. Craig Russell (chapter 2), Tony Harris & Scott Hampton (chapter 3), Gale Showman (chapter 4), Jill Thompson (chapter 5) and Stephen B. Scott (Interlude).
In the 192 pages of the first volume, which covers Chapter One through Five plus the Interlude of the original novel, we start with the toddler who will become known as Bod (short for Nobody), whose knack for wandering off (to the despair of his parents) saves his life as the mysterious stranger Jack slaughters his family for reasons as yet unknown. Bod had wandered off to the nearby graveyard, where he's adopted by its ghostly residents and also taken under the wings of the enigmatic Silas, who's neither living nor death and makes Jack lose the trail. In the next chapters, we see how Bod grows up as a child, learns the alphabet, meets up with Scarlett and becomes friends with her (and gets her into trouble), as well as his adventure with the ghouls. We also see how his desire to help witch Elizabeth, who's buried outside the graveyard in unconsecrated ground, get a headstone, leads him again into trouble, and this volume ends right after the Macabray dance with the short Interlude, in which we meet up again with Jack.
Story-wise, it stays very faithful to the original prose novel, with words and art meshing very well together. It really shows that Gaiman is equally adept at working in prose as well as the very different comic book-format. Overall, the art gives a very cohesive interpretation, and when you move onto a new chapter and a new artist, the style never changes so much it will jar you out of the story. Of course, because each artist has his or her own signature style, this may lead to personal preferences. In my case, it's the art by Tony Harris & Scott Hampton I liked the least. I would give their chapter 3 stars, while I would award Jill Thompson's art 4 stars. But the rest get a solid 5 stars, with the incomparable P. Craig Russell getting 5+ stars. How I wish he had done the complete graphic novel himself, but alas... Anyway, a beautiful graphic adaptation of an already wonderful children's novel, that really makes the story come alive. Recommended!
on 27 December 2008
I've just finished reading this and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Like I said in the title it was easy to read, funny in places and a good, light-hearted, escapism book. I would recommend it to anyone.
The lack of a 5th star only comes from the fact that I wish Neil would have gone into a bit for detail about the characters Silas and Miss Lupescu. I found myself left wanting for a bit more involvement from these two characters. I also got a tad frustrated by the haziness of what went on between them and the Jacks.
Other than that, I loved it and would defiantly read it again! I would also recommend listening to the audio-book. Neil himself narrates it and he does it extremely well; very atmospheric, broody and extremely enjoyable.
I hope you find this helpful (it's my 1st book review...)
on 7 July 2009
On the front cover of my edition is a recommendation from Diana Wynne Jones: `The best book Neil Gaiman has ever written.'
I thought of this as maybe somewhat hyperbolic in the manner of these things (think Stephen King taglines), as Gaiman has embarked on bigger projects aimed specifically at an older readership, but upon re-reading it to about half way through to catch up on myself, realised that this is probably true. Gaiman's imagination is like an attic stuffed full of the continuity of Ages Past, and the Graveyard of the book, dating back to Roman Times, is the perfect arena for his genius. As someone who pretty well lives slap bang in a Victorian Graveyard, I can assure you that Gaiman knows Graveyards and, as the Sandman cycle proved, he is unparalleled at recreating different ages, places, histories and mythologies Real and Imagined.
This one is immediately entitled to stand on the shelves beside the great British Childrens' Classics of the Edwardian and Victorian eras, Carroll and Grahame and the rest of them, and may indeed be the last true Classic of this genre, bearing in mind that my generation, just a little behind Gaiman's, must have been the last that still knew, played and recited the old games and rhymes, the pat-a-cakes and the ring o' roses and so forth. The lumber-room of Gaiman's imagination may well be the last place where it all still exists intact. He Bears the Flame but Scarlet will get her symbolic mobile phone and it won't last out her generation.
There are fascinating gaps in the narrative that suggest something deeper and older and sinister - past and future echoes of a Babylonian New World Order which may or may not exist. Gaiman knows, one feels. His own imagination is an incomparable dreamwalker.
on 9 April 2016
Neil Gaiman said that this book was inspired by watching his then two-year-old son riding his tricycle between gravestones in the sunshine. This is in stark contrast to the boy in the book, Nobody Owens, who plays around his world — the graveyard — when the moon is high. Known to the “community” as Bod, his playmates, teachers, and guardians are otherworldly, incorporeal beings, and he is taught that there is great danger to himself beyond the gates of the graveyard.
Not that being inside the graveyard gates is completely safe, as he finds himself in a few adventures within its borders. Once the book has settled Bod in his world in the graveyard, we follow his growth in each chapter as he goes on exploring the secrets of his “home” and meeting its inhabitants. Most of them have the feel of short stories which can stand well on its own, and I found it just slightly detaching whenever each chapter finishes. However, it all ties up well in the end, and the stories still end up being connected towards the overall resolution of Bod’s story.
I had an easy time reading it (which is apparently best for when you’re trying to get out of a slump) and would have finished it in a day if it weren’t for other responsibilities. I loved all the characters, and I especially liked that some of the well-known ‘creatures of the night’ were not labelled as how they are famously known. Just casual allusions here and there which leaves no doubt as to what they are, but no direct acknowledgement.
The weakest link I found was the reason for Bod’s family’s murder (this isn’t a spoiler, as it is mentioned in the back cover blurb). At the climax of the story where we also get the big reveal, I felt it was quite unconvincing that all that effort was for something apparently vital, but I’m really not sold of the weight of its importance.
Either way, the journey was good fun, and I found myself feeling sadly bittersweet at the ending. It discusses a ‘home’ you can never go back to, growing up, and finding and having a good life lived before you are called to death’s door. It doesn’t sound as macabre as I put it, I swear.
on 26 April 2011
I knew from the first sentence that I would love this story which probably has one of the best opening lines since "Pride & Prejudice". I also wish Neil Gaiman had been writing when I was young, as to have been able to appreciate "The Graveyard Book" as a child would have been very special I think.
It isn't a perfect story by any means. I wanted to know more about how the Jacks found out about Bod and more about Bod's parents. Also, as someone else mentioned, what it was they did the rest of the time. I also felt a bit short-changed by being denied the detail of the "work" Silas and Miss Lupescu were doing on Bod's behalf in other parts of the world.
However I did like the way in which the reader was given clues and allowed to make his or her own mind up - about what Silas is for example - and I did wonder whether the Man Jack was actually Jack the Ripper although he is never named as such.
It has been a long, long time since I have read a story I didn't want to end but this was certainly one of those. Thank you Neil, I shall definitely be adding more of your books to my wish list!