Book #75

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts.

There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard. But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod's family.

A boy living in a graveyard, raised by ghosts. What a concept, Gaiman.

We open brilliantly, with “there was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife”. Bod’s parents and sister are killed, but he escapes, and ends up in the graveyard with a group of ghosts huddled around him, wondering what to do. From there, we see Bod grow within his new phantom family,

The chapters read very much like vignettes of Bod’s odd life, but Gaiman does well to link them all together and provide an excellent structure. I enjoyed seeing Bod learn and grow, make mistakes, and come to understand the contrasts between his home of the dead and the world of the living.

Gaiman’s writing is, as always, wonderful. He takes what would usually be imagined as a grey and dismal place, and fills it with colour and life. His wit and charm are heavily apparent, and, despite the supernatural, his world is cogent and real.

What I longed for most here was more information on the ghosts. They spanned such a huge range of death dates, and I really felt something was missed here in the exploration of their histories. Each of them seemed to be introduced to us quickly, to progress the plot in their own way, and then ripped away from us again, never to be considered in more detail, or at least in the detail I wanted.

It’s a nice departure from typical children’s fiction. No fluffiness, no hand holding; we begin with three brutal murders and progress into the world of the dead, ghouls and all. There’s no patronisation, no imperious tones of an adult speaking to a child, just a gorgeous story which can be enjoyed by us all.