Book 16 in my challenge to read one book (I haven’t read before) a fortnight in 2012 is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
There was never going to be a chance that I wouldn’t adore this book. I’ve loved every Neil Gaiman novel I’ve read, and Stardust (which was made into a film with Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer) is one of my favourite books ever.
The Graveyard Book is one of Gaiman’s children’s books, although that categorisation means next to nothing, since you would never guess this wasn’t written for adults.
Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a young boy being brought up by ghosts in a graveyard, after a mystery man called Jack murdered his parents when he was a baby. He is under the protection of those that live in the graveyard, but is still being hunted by his parents’ killer.
Many of the book’s chapters could read as standalone short stories as we follow Bod through adventures including his first meeting with a (real) girl, his getting to know various inhabitants of the graveyard, a trip to the underworld, and his going to school. It’s that contrast of things that are firmly grounded in a fantasy world alongside normal, everyday occurances that make The Graveyard Book so appealing and so much fun to read.
In addition to the self-contained stories within chapters, a narrative thread runs subtly through the book, building and building until the climax in the graveyard. And alongside Bod’s story we also get to know the fascinating Silas, Bod’s mentor and guide in life. There are also a host of other interesting characters who play their part throughout Bod’s formative years, and then are crucial when it comes to his survival.
Creepy illustrations by Chris Riddell add to the experience of reading of The Graveyard Book and seeing into Bod’s life.
The Graveyard Book is as much a story of growing up as it is a fantasy novel. Yes, Bod lives in a graveyard and is being brought up by ghosts, but in other ways he’s just a normal boy – curious about the world around him, interested in meeting new people, always getting into some sort of scrape, and then always getting back out again.
Like Gaiman’s Coraline, The Graveyard Book has a dark and disturbing edge. And also like Coraline, even when I was nervous about what was going to happen I just gritted my teeth and carried on reading – and loved every moment of being freaked out.