Book info

The Graveyard Book (2008)

The Graveyard Book (2008)
Author
Rating
3.55 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0060530928 (ISBN13: 9780060530921)
languge
English
publisher
harpercollins
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The Graveyard Book (2008)
The Graveyard Book (2008)

About book: Once there was a little girl who lived in a big house in a strange and wonderful city in the North. Her name: Dove Black*. An unusual name for an unusual girl. Her equally unusual mother took her away for the summer, across the sea. I came to that strange and wonderful city and stayed in that big house. In the house was a book. The Graveyard Book! I fell prey to an odd illness during my visit; while my companions made merry in the streets and taverns of that city, I recovered on the wide and sunny porch of that house, the clucks of chickens from the chicken coop and the laughter of the children playing on the street making me feel rather less lonely. I took The Graveyard Book down from the shelf and read it. It was perfect company. Indeed, it is a perfect book!I’ll dispense with much of a synopsis because you can read that anywhere. An infant is taken in by a graveyard full of ghosts (and more); they raise him as their ward and son. As he grows up, young Nobody Owens learns a lot about death and a little bit about life as well. Gaiman notes The Jungle Book as an inspiration; I’m not sure I would have thought of Kipling’s classic myself but after reading that comment, it makes perfect sense, title and all. There, done with synopsis.Many times I felt as if the book was tailor-made for a young mark monday, what with the eerie atmosphere, the ambiguity, the graveyard, adventure mixed with sadness, life and death existing side by side, and at the core of it all, an unusual and genuinely loving family – but a created family, not necessarily a family by blood. All those things appealed to me at a pretty deep level as a kid, which is probably why I really loved Bellair’s The House With a Clock in Its Walls as well. I wish this book had been around when I was younger; I can easily picture connecting to it in so many different ways.But I’m an adult and I still feel a deep connection to the book. All those things above are still things that connect me to a novel, of course, but my feelings about many of those things have intensified. The idea of a ‘created’ family, one that can come together for a variety of reasons but one that will look out for and support and love its members, one that embraces the difference of the individuals within that family… so meaningful to me! It’s an idea that I didn’t start experiencing until my early 20s, oh the life of a quasi-punk cynical jerk outsider who suddenly realizes that there are others out there like him, happy sigh, and it’s an idea that I feel like I’ve tried to carry on with my adult circle of friends and within my work place. It’s actually why I even chose my place of work. The Graveyard Book offers this found family as meaningful and valid and beautiful, much as The Jungle Book did. Gaiman doesn’t bluntly pound the point home and he isn’t mawkish or even all that sentimental about it all – but it is such a central part of what makes the novel work. And it is also what makes the ending such a sweet and sad one. Sometimes, perhaps always, you do need to move on. Some things are transitory. Sometimes those families that you spent so much time with melt away and stay on only as memories. But you can always make those families again! Yes.Ambiguity: I love it and I yearn for it in books. The feeling that the author doesn’t want to spell things out for you, that they realize the reader may gain pleasure from figuring things out on their own, filling in the blanks, imagining why something may have happened and what may come next. Not being spoon-fed every little detail and not tying it all up with a neat little bow. It seems like an easy thing to be able to do but I think many authors just don’t want to do that. Perhaps they don’t realize there is a sort of tyranny in excessive detail, in paths made painfully clear and obvious, fluorescent lighting rather than shadows and moonlight, endings that explain it all away instead of showing a newly opened door – an ending that leads to a beginning. That is one of the beautiful things about this book, that kind of an ending and the ambiguity of it all. Sure, it explained many things. But it left many doors open, for the reader to step through and explore on their own. Maybe this is also why I appreciate books written for children and young adults: because of the basic form of the genre, the actual length of such books, perhaps even because of the attention span of the audience… things often have to be left to the reader’s imagination. I like simplicity that creates mystery, simplicity that is its own form of depth. “Hello,” he said, as he danced with her. “I don’t know your name.”“Names aren’t really important,” she said.“I love your horse. He’s so big! I never knew horses could be that big.”“He is gentle enough to bear the mightiest of you away on his broad back, and strong enough for the smallest of you as well.”“Can I ride him?” asked Bod.“One day,” she told him, and her cobweb skirts shimmered. “One day. Everybody does.”“Promise?”“I promise.” Death is not the end! I don’t know if I believe in ghosts or heaven or a cosmic consciousness that we all float into. But I do believe in the somewhat corny We All Live On In Some Way, whether it be as memories or as influences or as just one more part of humanity that is connected to the rest of humanity because we are all humans. I dunno. The Graveyard Book literalizes that concept, of course. It does it in a way that can make sense to both children and adults – showing how things are forgotten, perhaps, and that’s not so bad really, and it does it by showing how we live on in each other, by the things we do and the people we care for. Is Gaiman a spiritual man? Surely he must be. There is a certain kind of spirituality to much of his fiction, an ease with and an interest in describing worlds that are larger than us – and yet he makes that greater world rather wonderfully prosaic, real, worlds we could actually live in, somehow. Some may think such things are depressing – or that a book that is set in a graveyard and that opens with death and where the dead live next to the living, all of that, that that is a depressing book. To me, it is the opposite of depressing. Death is a part of life; there would be no life without death. This book for children recognizes that and even, amazingly, celebrates it.The book certainly knows how to illustrate Growing Up. Each chapter is a step forward, a snapshot of Nobody Owens as he grows up. At the end, it captures that wistfulness, that sweet sadness at the knowledge that growing up means you may never look at things the same way again, you can never go home again and if you do, that home will be a different place. That home may be a physical place, it may be a group of people or even just one person, it may be a feeling of being protected or a place where you learned and grew and loved and lived in a particular way. Good things to cry over. The tears may be melancholy ones, wistful tears – but yet not depressing ones, not to me at least. If anything, they affirm life. And growing up, or moving on, or going down new paths… it is also an adventure. I love how the ending makes that perfectly clear. Sure, shed some tears over what has passed and can never be again, but know that the future is still a path that can lead you to all sorts of places. It doesn’t matter how old you are – old Silas is about to go on his own adventure too. And so Nobody is sad and moves on and is happy and moves on and he jumps onto that path and moves on.Trudi said in her review “Gaiman reminds me of why I love to read and I love him for that.” Yes, Trudi, yes! Very well said.After I finished the book, I looked through Dove Black’s bookshelves and found many things that I loved. A lot of Philip Pullman, Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising series, Narnia, books by Edward Eager and Louise Fitzhugh and Colin Maloy and Garth Nix, and of course Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I admire your taste, Dove Black. I hope all of these books have informed your world view. But how could they not? They must. Your mother put your paintings and your awards on the wall and she should be proud: you are a talented young lady. I think you will grow up to be an equally impressive adult. I wish you the best of luck! But I really don’t think you’ll need it.____________* A real little girl but of course not her real name. I tried to think up an approximate of her unusual name but I fear I have failed. Her real name is so cool!

This review is hard to write. Not because I can't think of enough wonderful things to say about this book, but because there are so many things I loved about it. I am very glad that I had the experience of listening to this book on audio. Hearing Mr. Gaiman read it is icing on the scrumptious cake. He has a beautifully expressive, soothing, and emotive voice. He wrote it, so he has the advantage of knowing exactly what emphasis to put on the different lines and passages, and how he wants the various parts read. I had never read Neil Gaiman before this year, and it has been my pleasure to discover him. He is a wonderful fantasist, blessed with the understanding of the joy and the awe that fantasy inspires in a reader. In this case, he manages to take a very dark subject, death, and give it a sense of whimsy and beauty. The idea of an orphan growing up in a graveyard seems morbid, however this book doesn't read that way at all (except perhaps the parts with the ghouls, but that was on purpose). Instead of reading about a lonely, abandoned child stuck in a place of death, I felt the warm, loving way the graveyard and its denizens adopted the orphaned toddler, raising him into a lovely young man. I felt as though I grew to know all the folks in the graveyard, as if they were members of a large, eccentric family. I loved how Mr. Gaiman would introduce a new ghost by what his/her tombstone said. It was just the right touch. This and the abundant personality of the ghosts helped me to avoid descending into sadness at the realization that these were all departed folks lingering on the mortal plane. It felt natural to me. That takes talent.Similarly the whole idea of a murderer looking for an innocent child to finish what he'd started so many years ago could have been excessively dark. It was dark, but the darkness doesn't overwhelm this story, not knowing that the Bod is far from alone in the world. He has a strong wall of protection around him, in the forms of his ghostly family, his guardian Silas, his sometimes babysitter Ms. Lupesco, and the graveyard itself. And Bod grows into a young boy/man with quite a good head on his shoulders, a good heart, and one who is resourceful enough to deal with his very evil pursuer(s), and to learn from his missteps in the complicated world of the living.I truly love this book. The mood, the story, the writing, and the narrator. It will definitely go on my favorites shelf. I think I shall have to get me a paper copy, because this is definitely one for a reread.Highly recommended!
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Reviews
Jonathan
Before I had picked up The Graveyard Book I was yet to find a Neil Gaiman novel I loved. His writing was always solid and interesting in Neverwhere and Stardust but I didn't love those books to death like other readers. It's rather curious that this is the case because one of my favourite recent Doctor Who episodes was written by Gaiman. However I now have to look no further. This is the kind of book I was looking for.The Graveyard Book sounded like a macabre story. It focused on a boy named Nobody raised among ghosts and by an un-dead guardian after a gruesome murder. In fact if I were to tell you that this book opens with a murder you would hardly think that it would turn out to be a charming fairytale in the end. But that is precisely what this story is: a fairytale set in a graveyard. If you've watched Once Upon a Time and enjoyed the slightly darker twist to recognisable fairytales you should enjoy this new one very much.I fully recommend this book to anyone who still finds fairytale magic entertaining. You may not think that ghosts, ghouls and un-dead beings could cheer you up and make you almost teary eyed but this is a book that ignores what others think cannot happen and pushes ahead anyway. What Gaiman has done here that he did with Stardust and Neverwhere but that I did not capture was to create a remarkably new version of the fairytale story for a new generation.
Meredith
**SPOILER ALERT**This book was entirely mediocre. The plot was disjointed and very loosely woven throughout the story, and much of it didn't make any sense. Details (what few details there were) seemed to be added at the last minute to make later events in the story make sense. It's almost as if Gaiman wrote the middle first, then the beginning, and then the end. I think he had a million ideas floating around in his head and had no idea how to connect them all, so he made up some stuff on the fly.Also, I'm willing to accept a large amount of non-sensical information in a fantasy novel, but there has to be some sort of explanation behind it. For example--if a boy lives in a graveyard his entire life, what happens if he needs to go to the dentist or take a shower or get vaccinated? Somehow, everyone reacts completely normally to the protagonist, even though he must be a filthy, smelly toothless wreck. Also, at the end of the book, the ghosts just kind of release the main character into the world--the boy who is only 15 and has had almost no formal schooling in his entire life. What is this kid supposed to do with himself? He's been getting his education from people who've been deceased for at least 150 years and has nothing on him but a little money and a passport. Yeah, I'm sure he'll do REALLY well on his own.Anyway, I didn't think it was a bad book, but it certainly wasn't a good one, and it was WAY below Neil Gaiman's usual standards.
Carmen
There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.This amazing opening line draws us into a story of ghosts, ghouls, and werewolves - along with other creatures that go 'bump' in the night.Nobody Owens's whole family is slaughtered by the man Jack. Mother, father, and older 7-year-old sister. Nobody only escapes being butchered because he is a baby Houdini (aged 18 months) who likes to escape from his crib every night.Baby Nobody wanders into the graveyard, with the man Jack on his trail. His newly-dead parents make an impassioned plea to the resident ghosts to protect Nobody and keep him safe from harm. The ghosts hold a vote and decide to keep the boy.Nobody is raised by the dead....This enchanting tale - of a boy who grows up with ghosts as adoptive parents and a mysterious 'guardian' named Silas who walks the thin line between the living and the dead - carries that distinctive whimsical-yet-dark stamp that Gaiman is often known for. At times the reader is presented with rough black-and-white drawings by Dave McKean.Each chapter is, in a way, its own little vignette. In that way this book is reminiscent of the old-style of writing, the style in which each chapter is given a title. Gaiman, unfortunately, does not use this extremely appropriate device, but the reader can easily imagine each chapter with such a title: In Which Nobody Receives a White Flower and Dances the Macabray; In Which Nobody Disobeys His Guardian And Ventures Into the Outside World in Order to Help a Friend etc. etc.This book is reminiscent of both Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl. There is a very strong Roald Dahl scent in this book, which is a good thing, I think. Specifically it calls to mind his book The Witches.This is not a YA novel, and I express my profound relief that no love triangle (and, indeed, no real 'love stuff') rears its ugly head in this novel.A few things in this book annoyed me. First, being aimed at a younger audience, Gaiman does not provide much detail and background for things. This really irritated me. I needed a bit more explanation for things than 'that is how it is.' Gaiman introduces such interesting concepts and characters, but then leaves the reader aching for a sense of their motivations or origins. It may be fine for a child, but any reader older than 12 is going to be questioning. Secondly, I was not entirely on board with Gaiman's portrayal of females in this novel. Besides the amazing and surprisingly kickass Mrs. Lupescu, the females were stereotyped. There were about three maternal, loving, let-me-feed-you types, and two I'm-irrational-because-I'm-a-female-and/or-because-I'm-attracted-to-you types. Very typical, very one-dimensional, and very displeasing to this reader. If not for Mrs. Lupescu, I would be throwing a bit of a fit.This book will be most exciting and new to young readers who haven't been introduced to basic fantasy and horror tropes yet. For the older, more educated, and more worldly reader, 99% of the characters will have you nodding and saying 'this character is just like x' or 'I know this character from y,' inserting your favorite typical creature of the night from various movies, television shows, or books.The overarching message of this whole book is 'you must leave your family and live your life. You must forge ahead and face the world as an independent and free person.' This is a good message and the book is not overly preachy with it.In summary, a strong children's fantasy novel with strong horror elements; fun for older readers too, but perhaps a bit predictable for them. I would say appropriate for ages 8 and up, depending on how well your child deals with a bit of darkness and spooks. Actually, this is a really great 'generation-gap closer' and a fun book for parents or even grandparents to read to or with a child. I personally know grown men who have cried after reading this book - you are warned. :)
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