The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

I’ve been waiting for this book to come out for months, especially since I read Neil Gaiman’s blog everyday and have followed its development. I have to say I was a teensy bit disappointed.

Here’s the gist of the plot: Nobody Owens lives in a graveyard. The inhabitants thereof took him in as a toddler on the night the rest of his family was killed by “the man Jack.” “Bod,” after some debate, was given the protection and Freedom of the Graveyard. The Owenses, a childless couple from the 18th Century, adopted him, and Silas, one of the undead, agreed to be his guardian. In this manner, Bod grows up among the dead and experiences life just a little differently than a normal human boy.

Let me just start out by saying that I have an active desire to like Neil Gaiman’s work. Most readers that I know and trust like his work, and he seems like a really nice guy. You should also know that I’ve had relatively little exposure to his work. My first experience was with the audio version of Coraline (loved it) six years ago. Then I met him at the Sundance Film Festival after the premiere of his movie, MirrorMask (liked it). Later, I read most of the short stories in Smoke and Mirrors (loved some of them – “Snow, Glass, Apples” anyone?), and just this summer I read Stardust (liked it). Now, I’ve read The Graveyard Book (you’ll see). In spite of my desire to love his work and my general satisfaction with it, I don’t think Neil Gaiman is going to be ascending into the pantheon of my favorite authors.

Is it possible for a book to be too simple? I know this book is geared towards children, but still. This was a nice idea – a good story – but there didn’t seem to be much beneath the surface. In fact,The Graveyard Book felt more like interrelated vignettes than a cohesive story. It was all Bod did this. The lesson Bod learned last time came in handy this time. Then Bod did that, and it didn’t go so well. But the lesson he learned here will inevitably come in handy at some point . . . . Rinse and repeat. I felt this same way after reading Stardust. Our book club discussion lasted about five minutes because it was a nice, well-written story – without many layers.

Also, I had a hard time believing Bod’s voice. Let me explain. His voice didn’t seem to change any from the first chapter to the last, even though he went from toddler to teen. This was particularly hard to stomach in the chapter where he’s supposed to be five. He’s got a skewed knowledge palate from living in the graveyard, I get that, but he didn’t know some random things and then did know other random things. It felt off. And, one last complaint, I thought Dave McKean’s illustrations were distracting. Yeah, you can officially hate me now. I just didn’t think they represented the text very well.

All of that being said, I did enjoy the experience of reading this book. The ideas! The settings! The sleer! The writing is so simple and clear I could see it (which may be why I didn’t like/need the illustrations). I loved Silas, Bod’s guardian. I loved five-year-old Scarlett. I loved Bod (uni-aged as he may be), and sympathized with the loneliness he felt. There are some serious parallels between Bod not being quite alive and not being quite dead and an adolescent not being quite a child and not being quite an adult. And, I was so moved by the ending – I cried. There’s a lot here to love. And, so, I think you should probably read this book. If you still aren’t sure, go ahead and read the other reviews listed below. Most of those reviewers liked it more than I did. And, even though this wasn’t my favorite, I give credit to Mr. Gaiman for creating such an interesting world and for explaining it so clearly.

I read this book for the R.I.P. Challenge and won a copy from Carl for the grave remark I left on his review. Thanks, Carl! But, by sheer coincidence, I received a copy from my grandma for my birthday, so I think Carl’s copy will go to another lucky winner.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman [rating:3]

Other Reviews:
Tip of the Iceberg
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
Booknotes by Lisa
Melody’s Reading Corner
Things Mean A Lot
Bookgasm
The Novel World
Stuff As Dreams Are Made On
Stainless Steel Droppings
Fashionista Piranha