The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…

I always look for what a writer really excels at, even or especially in the first few pages.   Neil Gaiman just continues to excel at everything.   The first few pages throw you off-kilter in The Graveyard Book, with a malevolent somebody introduced with razor-sharp description, creeping around a house in the dead of night, committing despicable acts.   From there the book meanders through the early years of Nobody Owens, a kid with an especially unique background.   Gaiman plays on the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child with his macabre twist, involving the inhabitants of the titular graveyard raising the child instead.

Yet Nobody Owens, the only human living in this graveyard, knows no different than the various dead persons who help raise him, and The Graveyard Book ends up being a horror story only in parts.  It’s also humorous and full of adventure and wonder.  The book takes on a series of vignettes taking place during Nobody’s childhood, some of them whimsical and educational for our protagonist, others chilling and terrifying, from an innocent encounter with a child around his own age as a toddler, to a hellish journey to places unknown with a gang of what can only be described as monsters with names like the Emperor of China and the Thirty-Third President of the United States.

There’s an overarching plot which has an air of menace and foreboding throughout also, but the mystery remains intact for much of the story.   This is due mainly to the character of Silas, Nobody’s guardian, a resident of the graveyard, but somehow different to the rest.

The Graveyard Book is a real oddity, and one that I’m glad I picked up in time for a good Hallowe’en read.   It’s definitely worth mentioning that the most common edition of this book features illustrations by Chris Riddell, which is just the perfect combination with Gaiman’s prose.   His visual creations are in harmony with the characters on the page, and I’d encourage anyone to seek out anything of Chris Riddell’s.   I would especially recommend the Goth Girl series of books, written and illustrated by Riddell.

Thanks to Ali at thebandarblog.com for the invitation to write a review of something scary!   Follow her @the_bandar_blog

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