The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman
Bloomsbury, London; 2008
ISBN – 978-0-7475-6901-5
The back cover:
‘It is going to take more than just a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child. It will,’ said Silas, ‘take a graveyard.’
The Graveyard Book is beautifully told children’s novel by Neil Gaiman. After the cold hearted murder of his family on one chilly Edinburgh night; an adventurous toddler escapes the same gruesome fate by wandering into a graveyard, the inhabitants of which reluctantly agree to protect him.
The book tells the story of this fortuitous orphan, as he grows up in his unusual new home with his ghostly adoptive parents and mysterious guardian. We follow as the boy grows up into a young man, and see key moments in his life as he struggles to understand the world around him, and discovers the truth of his bleak history.
The structure of the book is such that each chapter reads like a short story in its own right, each providing new characters or information that ultimately stitch together into a satisfying whole. This is perfect if you just have time for a chapter a day as you never feel unfulfilled at a chapter end. I don’t have children myself; however I feel that having mini-stories within a story would work really well for a younger reader.
The concepts that Neil explores within this novel, particularly of life after death are really interesting. For me, it actually made graveyards a happier place to visit after reading. Speaking of concepts, there are some adult discussions and some scary moments within the pages, so this book may not be suitable for the lower age groups or for a sensitive soul.
Overall I found this novel to be hugely enjoyable, I was entirely swept up by Neil Gaiman’s beautiful descriptions and light humour, not to mention the stunning illustrations by Chris Riddell that are sprinkled throughout. The mystery of the boy’s history and the unusualness of his upbringing maintain your interest throughout, and there is plenty of action and excitement to keep you on your toes. A truly wonderful and surprisingly touching book that will maintain a permanent place on my bookshelf – and I’ve just heard that there will be a movie! Another one to watch out for!
“You might not have seen a pale, plump woman, who walked the path near the front gates, and if you had seen her, with a second, more careful glance you would have realised that she was only moonlight, mist and shadow.”
“…You are not fading. You are obvious. You are difficult to miss. If you came to me in company with a purple lion, a green elephant, and a scarlet unicorn astride which was the King of England in his Royal Robes, I do believe that it is you alone that people would stare at…”
“Abanazer Bolger had thick spectacles and a permanent expression of mild distaste, as if he had just realised that the milk in his tea had been on the turn, and he could not get the sour taste of it out of his mouth.”
“There was a woman riding on the horse’s bare back, wearing a long grey dress that hung and gleamed beneath the December moon like cobwebs in the dew.”
“You’re alive… That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you’re dead, it’s gone.”