Friday, 13 November 2015

'The Graveyard Book' by Neil Gaiman (2008)

Synopsis: The Graveyard Book is a middle-grade fantasy novel and coming-of-age story that was inspired by Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. The story begins with a man called Jack who has just murdered a family in the middle of the night - apart from the boy toddler who had climbed out of his cot to do some exploring. The toddler then ends up slipping out of the front door of the house and into the local graveyard where he's found by a ghostly married couple called the Owens. Wanting to protect the child from Jack, the Owens decide to adopt the boy and name him Nobody which they then shorten to "Bod". Bod is then granted the Freedom of the Graveyard, which gives him some supernatural powers, and a mysterious man called Silas (who is heavily implied to be a vampire) is appointed to be his guardian. Bod then spends the rest of his childhood in the graveyard and has many wondrous and eerie adventures. He gets tutored by a Hound of God, is taken into the creepy realm of Ghulheim, witnesses a danse macabre, and befriends the ghost of a witch called Liza Hempstock. But meanwhile Jack is still out there and still wants to kill Bod. And Bod finds himself torn between wanting to stay with Silas and his adopted parents and wanting to go out into the land of the living where he really belongs...

Regular readers of this blog should probably already know that Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors. I love his prose, his characters, and the wonderful, fantastical worlds he creates. I've read almost all of Gaiman's adult novels by now and have loved most of them very much but my personal favourite of Gaiman's works is this magnificent children's book of his. I love it so, so much! :) I re-read it recently and I loved it even more than I did during my first read. The synopsis probably makes it sounds like a rather gruesome and macabre book and not at all suitable for children - but it won both the Newbery Medal and the Hugo Award and it's absolutely delightful! It's charming, funny, sad, suspenseful and beautifully-written. I don't often cry while reading books but I had tears in my eyes while reading its final chapter... it was just so wonderfully bittersweet and moving :')

The characters in this book are a delight. Bod is bright, resourceful, inquisitive, quiet, funny, brave and sweet - an extremely likeable and well-developed main character. His guardian Silas is also fascinating as he's stern, brooding and deeply mysterious but clearly loves Bod very much and as though he was his very own son. The Owens, Liza and the character of Miss Lupescu are all very endearing as well. In fact I think the only non-evil character that I didn't much like in this book was Bod's human friend Scarlet who I found quite bratty, but thankfully she wasn't so annoying that she dragged the book down for me in any way.

Of course another great thing about reading this book are its fun and interesting parallels to The Jungle Book. I've never actually read Kipling's novel and have only seen the classic Disney film adaptation (which is one of my favourites by Disney) but it's obvious that Bod is based on Mowgli, the ghosts on the wolves, Silas on Bagheera and Jack on Shere Khan. Re-reading The Graveyard Book has definitely made me want to read The Jungle Book even more as I'm sure that there are even more parallels between the two books that I've missed. And then there are those two upcoming Jungle Book adaptations that are coming out in the near future: the new Disney version starring Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba and Bill Murray and the Warner Brothers version starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett. Yep, it definitely seems like a good time to be reading The Jungle Book alright...

The Graveyard Book is an absolutely beautiful book, is definitely a favourite of mine, and I would strongly recommend it. The book has some sinister scenes and deep, mature themes so I wouldn't say that it's suitable for very young children (i.e. children under five) but it would be a wonderful book for older children to read and I would love to give it to my own hypothetical children some day.

Rating: 5/5


Hayden said...

(I meant to comment when you first put this post up, but I think my phone messed up and didn't comment. Oh well.)

Oddly enough, I JUST read this book last week, and I really enjoyed it. Before this my only experience with Neil Gaiman's work had been through his Doctor Who episodes and a Sherlock Holmes short story he'd written for a collection, but he was definitely on my to-read list, and The Graveyard Book has certainly made me even more interested in reading his other novels.

Also, I totally did not catch The Jungle Book connection. *shakes head* Don't know how I missed that one, but it's very cool nonetheless and makes the book even more interesting, in my opinion. :)

Hannah said...

Yes, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! :) But I do feel bad for saying that the parallels to 'The Jungle Book' are obvious! I guess it was obvious to me because I already knew that 'The Graveyard Book' had been inspired by 'The Jungle Book' before I started reading it. I don't know if I would have picked up on the parallels if I hadn't known.