The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Just finished reading the Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.  Before I put one more thing down I must firstly say that I adored this book and I think I now love Neil Gaiman.  Not that I’m about to turn into a bunny boiler or start stalking him – no, I will love him from afar and show my love by reading all his books and annoying the hell out of everyone about how good they are!  Simples.  This man is brilliant.  His writing is so damned easy to read and his imagination is unbelievable.  Yet again I wonder what took me this long to pick up this book.  For starters it’s based in a graveyard – and I actually like graveyards, I don’t know if that’s a bit creepy but there it is.  It’s also based firmly in the land of make believe which I love to read about.  I think to be honest I didn’t pick this up because it’s a children’s book.  I haven’t got anything against children’s books, I’ve certainly read enough over the course of time, but sometimes they can be just too ‘young’ in the way they’re written.  This book isn’t like that.  The writing is a joy to read, the graveyard and the ghosts practically come off the page and, almost in the style of children’s animated films, there is definitely some more subtle adult humour and areas that I don’t think children would pick up on – for example Silas?  So, in that respect it has something for a more rounded audience.  Anyway, who am I kidding, I love Harry Potter and the Pullman Trilogy – and I’m pretty sure they’re children’s books!

Anyway, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.  The Graveyard Book starts off with a heinous murder, almost an entire family killed in their home by a sinister and dark man.  Only one survivor, a toddler, who unwittingly, and as a result of the curious nature of one that age, has crawled out the front door – which was oddly left open.  This little child manages to toddle along to the local cemetery at the top of the hill  and in doing so unwittingly finds a strange bunch of unlikely saviours.  The ghosts of the cemetery come to his aid and grant him their protection and the freedom of the graveyard.  However, although the ghosts who adopt him together with the strange darkly clad man who acts as his guardian, do their best to protect him – the murderer is still at large and won’t be happy until he’s finished the job!  For the next few years this will be the boy’s home and henceforth he shall be called ‘Nobody’,  Nobody Owens, although to his friends, family and readers he will become known simply as Bod.

Basically, this is a coming of age book and given that Gaiman, in his acknowledgements, praises Rudyard’s Jungle Book as one of his favourite childhood books the inevitable comparisons I suppose are to be expected.  We basically have a young boy, homeless and without family being adopted and brought up in unconventional surroundings and with a family of a different nature.  This is only a short book and so we only spend short paragraphs with Bod at various stages of his life but all of them are pertinent to the tale, all of them are really enjoyable and unfortunately – all of them end too soon!  I think it’s great to see Bod as he moves through his childhood.  He’s an inquisitive toddler, as he becomes a little older he loves his family and the wealth of friends he has in the cemetery, then he becomes a little more difficult to manage and quick to annoy as he moves into his teenage years until finally he has really outgrown the confines placed upon him.  And, it’s at this point that things become a bit more dark and the murderer returns to the scene.

I really loved Bod.  He’s such a great character.  He’s innocent and he’s good and kind.  He’s brought up in this totally strange environment but as it’s all he’s ever known it’s all perfectly natural to him.  Gaiman also manages to introduce other characters who are great to read.  We obviously have all the graveyard ghosts who we briefly touch upon including Bod’s adopted parents, The Owens.  We even have a ghost dating back to Roman times and all of this gives Bod a rather more in depth knowledge of history than most people – a fact that becomes a little obvious when he joins school.  We have the witch Eliza – who had a great time relating her own story, also the rather, at first, stern Miss Lupescu who occasionally stands in as Bod’s guardian and of course we have Silas – Bod’s full time guardian.  Very mysterious and dark, a little sad but a great protector of  Bod throughout the story.

On top of this there is just this wonderful array of short stories included in Bod’s growing up, for example the Chapter headed ‘The Hounds of God’ which brings to us the Ghouls Gate or the chapter in which Bod makes a new friend and introduces her to ‘the barrow’ or more to the point the mysterious creature that lives beneath!!  I don’t want to give anything away here but even the Order that the murderer belongs to is such a great take.

Anyway, clearly I enjoyed this book very much.  Throughout it put me in mind of so many enjoyable reading experiences whilst not actually appearing to be like any particular one.  For example, the friendship between Bod and Scarlett for some reason brought Pip and Estelle to mind from Great Expectations.  I also had thoughts of the Labyrinthe – not that the book is like that, or Great Expectations for that matter – just that it made me think back to those particular reads.  I really enjoyed when the ghouls were travelling with Bod and carrying him and throwing him from ghoul to ghoul as they travelled – very reminiscent and a sort of homage to the scene in the film Jungle Book where Mowgli is being passed through the tree tops by the apes.

So, well written, funny, creepy and sometimes even a little sad.  Good characters, a little bit hair raising (just in a couple of parts) and overall downright enjoyable.  What’s not to love?

Read it.

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book


25 Responses to “The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman”

  1. nrlymrtl

    I found this book to be a great mix of creepy, beauty, friendship, violence, magic, endurance, and love. I made my husband listen to the audio version, even tho it was in the kid’s section at the library. He also enjoyed it.

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s a great book – I don’t know really why I resisted it for so long. It’s great that you both enjoyed it. I was sad that his friendship didn’t quite work out the way we thought althoughI think at the end that was a positive thing.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tanya

    You read it! 😀
    “Not that I’m about to turn into a bunny boiler or start stalking him – no, I will love him from afar and show my love by reading all his books and annoying the hell out of everyone about how good they are! ” – I’m joining this club of yours. 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      Ha, ha – we are a club of at least two! We can go around annoying everyone. Next book – Stardust or Coraline. To be honest I’m a relative beginner to Gaiman but I really do love his books already.
      Lynn 😀

      • Tanya

        I have American Gods on my shelf, but I haven’t picked it up because a raving review will most certainly follow, and I promised myself I would leave his books alone for a while. You know, give other authors a chance and all that. 😛

  3. Michael

    I’ve read this one a couple of times now and enjoyed it more each time.

    I saw he’s signed a contract for three more books….to which I quote Homer Simpson and say, “woo hoo!”

    • lynnsbooks

      I’ll join you with that ‘woo hoo’. Such good news! Very happy and *dancing a jig*.

      Lynn 😀

  4. "Auntie"

    WOW!!!! I have actually read and loved this book, quite a while ago!!!! Imagine that? -gigggles- I beat you to a read. -more giggggles-

    But now it’s time for me to put it on my list, get it again, and re-read it. Thank you for the suggestion!

    Mmmm, btw, I take pictures in old cemeteries. Those really ancient (for my USA) grave stones, are so interesting and …. Well, I know. Not that many people do such, so I’ll just go away now. -giggggles-

    “When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man.
    When a woman give her opinion, she’s a bitch.”

    ~~Bette Davis

    • lynnsbooks

      I hope you do read it again – I definitely will. Have you read Neverwhere as well. I’m a bit of a newbie to Gaiman but I think I’m going to be a BIG fan. Looking forward now to Coraline and Stardust. I’m such a big kid really I love books like this.

      I wouldn’t mind seeing some of your pictures of cemeteries. I think some of the statues in old cemeteries are practically like works of art. I would love to go and have a visit to Highgate in London – apparently lots of people take tours there! Lots of famous people.

      Lynn 😀
      Big hugs!

  5. TBM

    Neverwhere was my first Gaiman book and it won’t be my last. After reading this review I need to track down this one. And I also love cemeteries. I take my dog Miles for a walk in a cemetery everyday. Should I read the Jungle Book first though? I don’t think I’ve read it actually. I’ve seen the movie but somehow I think Disney may not have stayed true to the book.

    • lynnsbooks

      I thought the Graveyard Book was really excellent. It’s a short read and you would probably finish it in one sitting. I don’t think you need to read Jungle Book first, it’s just interesting that Gaiman particularly mentions his love of that book as a child and they are both coming of age novels.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Carl V.

    Although Neverwhere has that special place in my heart as my ‘favorite’, if I look at things objectively I personally find The Graveyard Book to be Gaiman’s greatest triumph thus far. It is an amazing piece of fiction and so deserved all the accolades. Happy to see you loved it so. I’ve read or listened to it every year since it came out, I believe. It is just too good not too. I’m hoping to do a group read of it for RIP this year.

    It is a great coming of age story and always chokes me up a little.

    I too love graveyards. When this book first came out I of course rushed out, bought it, and began reading it right away. I actually went to my local old graveyard and read large parts of it there. Weird, I know, but it just seemed like the thing to do.

    • lynnsbooks

      Nothing weird about going to read in your graveyard – I bet it added the whole reading experience a lovely eerie feel. I adored this book. I couldn’t possible compare it to Neverwhere because I just wouldn’t be able to choose (and thanks for that recommendation – I owe you for that, wouldn’t be reading Gaiman otherwise!)
      I think the thing with this particular book was it was a reading experience. The writing was almost lyrical, plus beautiful pictures and does Gaiman have an overactive imagination or what – thank God! I really do love that guy now. I’ve got Coraline waiting to be read (although I don’t see how that particular one can surpass the film – which is just gorgeous and colourful) and also American Gods. Still must buy Stardust – I actually had that one on order from the library but their copy has disappeared! Spooky or what?
      Back to graveyards – did you read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenger? It’s not as good as the Time Traveller’s Wife but the parts about the cemetery are really interesting.
      Speak soon
      Lynn 😀

      • Carl V

        It was wonderful. And as it was daytime and sunny it wasn’t too creepy. I’d love to actually do it again at some point in time.

        I did read Her Fearful Symmetry. I didn’t particular enjoy the book when all was said and done, though it was well written and I loved the setting. I did a lot of looking on Google Earth and google images while reading that book. My post with the most comments ever is my spoiler-filled review of Her Fearful Symmetry (I did a non-spoiler and then a spoiler review). Folks still stumble across it all the time and leave their opinions. It is great. There are comments on there longer than some of my reviews, lol!

      • lynnsbooks

        I remember finding the ending of Her Fearful Symmetry really annoying. And, its a shame because I quite like the author’s style of writing and her imagination. In fact, it’s one of the few books that I’ve taken on holiday and actually left behind (I always keep the books I like). I didn’t hate it or anything but I think I was probably predisposed to like it because of the author and I also really liked all the cemetery info – was it Highgate (can’t remember)? But in spite of all that in the end it just really bugged me!
        Whenever we go anywhere I love to visit the cemeteries, it sounds really odd, but I find them some interesting, sad, but intriguing. I’m going to check out your reviews now – I’m sure I must have already seen them but memory like a sieve (I bet I’ve already left comments! I’m pretty certain I must have checked out everything on your site – you can’t have enough good book recommendations after all).
        Lynn 😀

      • lynnsbooks

        Hi Carl,
        Being such a numpty I can’t find your Fearful Symmetry reviews – could you send me the link, I’m so keen to read them now. I’m so bloody useless that I’m virtually professional!!!!!!
        Lynn 😀 😀 😀

      • Carl V.

        Sure, here is my non-spoiler review:

        And here is my spoiler review:

        To read the whole non-spoiler review just hit the ‘more’ button and skip past the banner that takes you to the spoiler review.

        I think I’ll read it again too just to remember my thoughts. It is a novel that has stuck with me strongly, and that too attests to Niffenegger’s talent.

      • lynnsbooks

        Great reviews Carl (tried to leave a comment on yours earlier but screwed up using my blackberry)! This book definitely stays with you. It’s certainly well written, it’s interesting and the characters are well written. I just (a bit like you) didn’t really like the characters – but, I could have got over that, except I really didn’t like the ending. It won’t stop me from picking up anything else by Audrey N. But, no, I really didn’t like the ending. Pah.

        Lynn 😀

      • Carl V.

        Me either, I’ll be right there anxious to read her next novel.

        I was in the bookstore today and saw copies of the hardback and paperback on the bargain aisle and had to sigh because I just wish that such a well written book would have a story that I cared for.

      • lynnsbooks

        Exactly. As usual Carl you have hit the nail on the head!
        Lynn 😀

  7. Margot McGovern

    I think this is my favourite of all Gaiman’s books (or at least the ones I’ve read so far). Just such a gorgeous story.

    • lynnsbooks

      It really is a lovely book! I could easily revisit it again and again. Plus Neil Gaiman is so nice in person. I think he’s my current ‘most adored’ author!
      Lynn 😀

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    […] The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – I would love to see this adapted – it could be such a lovely and slightly creepy adaptation – perhaps Tim Burton could give it his special touch? […]

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