Monday, October 31, 2011

The Graveyard Book

When I first left college, I went on a reading spree through Neil Gaiman's major novels, including American Gods, Anansi Boys, and Neverwhere (which I loved so much that I read it in a day), along with some collections of short stories and most of his Sandman graphic novels. Then, with my hunger for Gaiman sated, I stopped for a long time. In that time, The Graveyard Book came out and won just about every award a YA book can win. I had always meant to read it, and as Halloween approached, I decided it was time I finally cracked it open and looked inside.

There is good reason why The Graveyard Book won so many awards. Gaiman is in fine form here. He proves with his pacing, his narration, his character development, and his world building why he is considered to be the best living fantasist.

The plot tells the story of Nobody Owens. When he was a toddler, a mysterious man murdered the rest of his family. Luckily, Nobody, or Bod as he is known, toddled out of the house and into a cemetery, where some kindly ghosts adopted him.

Now, Bod lives in the graveyard and is raised by ghosts in the same way that Mowgli lived in the jungle and was raised by animals. The world outside the cemetery is dangerous, as the murderer who killed his family is intent on finding him again and finishing the job. Bod gets to know the inhabitants of the cemetery, who all lived in various eras and have different outlooks, each teach Bod in their own way.

As he grows up, Bod meets a cast of characters, including two girls (one living, one dead), some unsavory individuals, some ghouls, and at least one ancient tomb guardian from before written history. Bod has two guardians, but who exist partially in the shadowy world of the ghosts. Silas is tall, cold, and can only go out at night. Miss Lupescu makes Bod eat a lot of food she prepares in the same way they make it in her country and who apparently comes from the same school of character names as Mr. Lupin in Harry Potter.

Neil Gaiman is at his best when he creates worlds that draw on existing stories while filling them with life and character, and The Graveyard Book succeeds wonderfully. I highly recommend it if you are a fan of Gaiman's work or of spooky, interesting stories with (pun incoming) great plots (sorry).


  1. We just finished reading this in my local Book Club that I attend. Having read this and Neverwhere, I'm really becoming a fan of Gaiman's work.

  2. If you were a fan of Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book, I highly recommend you check out American Gods next. That's the book that got me into Neil Gaiman in the first place, and they're soon making it into a TV series!