The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

‘THE GRAVEYARD BOOK’


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OPENING LINE:

They say it takes a village to raise a child. However, if you don’t have a village, a graveyard might work even better.


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

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 best-selling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.
Music arrangement of “Danse Macabre” copyright 2008 by Béla Fleck and Ben Sollee, Fleck Music (BMI), admin. by Bug Music.
©2008 Neil Gaiman; (P)2008 HarperCollins Publishers


THE PLOT:

When a mysterious man known only as “the man Jack” comes to a house in the middle of the night and kills a mother, a father and a young girl, his task is not complete. The most important one to be killed is a young boy. Only the boy managed to escape the house and make his way to a nearby graveyard. There, through the intervention of the graveyard’s residents, the boy is protected from “the man Jack” who comes looking for him.
Thus begins the story of Nobody Owens who is known as Bod to his friends. And what a cast of friends he has, being raised in a graveyard by ghosts and under the watchful eye of Silas, his guardian.
The book’s chapters are really a series of short stories about Nobody Owens growing up in a graveyard, and they are all set roughly two years apart. As Bod goes on several adventures in and out of the graveyard, the question that remains to be answered is – who was “the man Jack” and why did he want the boy dead?
‘The Graveyard Book’ is a rich environment populated by many interesting and funny characters. There is a sense of wonder and excitement as Bod explores different sections of the graveyard and comes across new people long dead with their own story to tell.
Give credit to Bod’s ghostly parents, guardians and other graveyard friends. Bod is overall a good-natured child who has a strong desire to do good things and be of help whenever he can. This does not always work out in his favor however, like when he tries to procure a gravestone for the witch Elizabeth Hempstock, a good deed that results in his kidnapping and her having to rescue him.
Bod also has the problem of never really fitting in. He doesn’t fit in the living world because his ghostly teachers have taught him ghostly skills such as fading, haunting and dreamwalking. He doesn’t entirely fit in with the graveyard world either because unlike his ghostly friends, he continues to age. Bod laments at one point that ghostly children who were once his friends don’t age, and as a result he finds he has less in common with them as he grows.
You can also argue that ‘The Graveyard Book’ contains a hidden message about destiny. When “the man Jack” rediscovers Bod in the book’s final chapter, he explains to the boy why he came to kill him that evening. A prophecy was told that a child would be born who would develop the skills to wipe out Jack and his order, “The Jacks of All Trades”. Well, it was his coming to kill Bod in the first place, his attempt to prevent his fate, that actually set things in motion for the prophecy to come true.
I won’t spoil how things play out in the end because that’s the fun part. I will say that there are other questions one could ask about Bod’s morality in how he finally confronts Jack, and those questions are valid. However, it doesn’t have to be that complicated either, if you just want to enjoy it as a fun story without worrying about themes of morality and destiny.
‘The Graveyard Book’ is structured in a similar way to the classic ‘The Jungle Book,’ which Neil Gaiman notes as an influence. Ultimately the story is about growing up, and is a coming of age tale set in a graveyard. Bod is constantly told by his dead companions that they have lived their lives and had their turn for however long it lasted, and now he must do so as well.
‘The Graveyard Book’ is a rich world full of wonder and depth in both character and theme. In the case of Nobody Owens, his greatest lessons about living life came from people who were no longer capable of living life themselves.


THE AUTHOR:

Neil Gaiman has said that he got the idea for this book while observing his son pedaling around a graveyard in 1985. However, it took him awhile to feel like he was a good enough writer to properly tell the story.
Well, the wait was well worth it. Gaiman managed to craft a story that is fun and full of intrigue and depth. You can read it without applying any critical analysis to it and have a good time, but if you do apply some critical thinking, there are definite conclusions you can draw about messages contained within the story.
This is my first experience with any of Neil Gaiman’s work. I can say with much confidence that it won’t be my last and that I will probably reread ‘The Graveyard Book’ on a pretty regular basis.


THE NARRATION:

Gaiman is a supporter of the audiobook format and knows how to give a good performance. He does a good job with vocal inflection and slight variations in his speech to give voice to each of the many characters that occupy his world.


THE PRODUCTION:

The audio track sounds wonderful with everything coming in clean and clear with a consistent level of volume. There are no glitches or other hiccups to be found anywhere on the track. The audio chapters match up perfectly with the chapters found in the book as well.
There are no sound effects to be found on the track. However, there is a heavy dose of “Danse Macabre” which plays between each of the book chapters. It is a wonderful rendition and fits the tone of the book perfectly. A very nice touch!


FINAL THOUGHTS:

‘The Graveyard Book’ as both a book and an audiobook has won several awards. It is deserving of all of them. While this book’s target audience is younger readers, I believe that when a story is crafted well enough, it will work for readers of pretty much any age. ‘The Graveyard Book’ was one of the more genuinely enjoyable reading experiences I’ve had in a while. There are a lot of books that I have read and like quite a bit but didn’t find as genuinely fun as this. It has been a few days, and I still have “danse macabre” stuck in my head, something I don’t mind that one bit.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman Neil Gaiman Harper Audio Young Adult 09/30/2008 7 hours, 47 minutes 9.25/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘THE GRAVEYARD BOOK’ was purchased from Audible for review.

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