The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman (Audio)

by Jessica Anderson on October 21, 2012

in Fiction, Reviews

The Graveyard Book

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Originally Published: 2008
Format I Read: Audio Book
Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating: [rating:4]

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I first read this book immediately upon its release in 2008. I had followed Neil Gaiman’s blog posts about the road to its publication, and I was very intrigued by the idea of a spin on The Jungle Book. But when I first read the stories, I was not enthralled. I liked it but felt it was almost too simplistic. I said that it “felt more like interrelated vignettes than a cohesive story.”

Notwithstanding that first reaction, I’ve always wanted to reread it, especially since it went on to win the Newbery Medal. And I’d heard that the audio, read by Neil himself, was amazing. So, when Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings announced he was hosting a readalong as part of R.I.P. VII, I decided to join in.

The Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody Owens, known as “Bod” for short. As a toddler, he wanders into a graveyard, unknowingly escaping the murderer who had just killed the rest of the family. Bod is taken in by the inhabitants of the graveyard and raised by them. He lives under the protection of the graveyard and comes of age there, with Silas, a mysterious member of the Honour Guard, as his guardian. (Check out this post for some interesting analysis of Silas’s character.)

First, let me say that Neil Gaiman is an amazingly skilled audio book narrator. I was completely engaged by his storytelling. I loved the inside view the author as narrator gave me. The way he pronounced words and paused during certain beats in sentences.

And I found myself more engaged with the story itself. I think this stems both from the excellent audio recording and from the experience of rereading this book. This time around, I loved the vignette feel. I loved Bod. I loved the subtle changes in him, the growing up that inevitably occurs. I loved the inhabitants of the graveyard, especially Liza Hempstock. And I most of all loved Silas. This time around I found more depth. I felt more involved. I saw the layers I missed the first time around.

The Graveyard Book is a fascinating and successful literary experiment. And the audio book only heightens the experience.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman (Audio) [rating:4]

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

bermudaonion(Kathy) October 21, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Wow, I have this in print and now wonder if I should experience in audio instead.

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Jessica October 22, 2012 at 10:33 am

I like the print too, but the audio really took it to another level for me. I snagged the audio at my local library.

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nrlymrtl October 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I am so glad you gave it a second try. I haven’t tried the audioversion, but my man has and he agrees with you. I think the next time I reread this favorite, it will be the audio.

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Jessica October 22, 2012 at 10:33 am

I was really impressed with the audio, but I think next time I’ll go back to print. I like having both experiences.

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Cheryl @ Tales of the Marvelous October 21, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I always love finding new depth on a reread! And while I agree most of the book is quite episodic, I love how cleverly Gaiman pulls so many earlier stories together for Chapter 7.

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Jessica October 22, 2012 at 10:34 am

This was kind of the epitome of a successful reread. I definitely saw more of the deftness with which Gaiman handled the subject and form.

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Carl V. October 21, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Like you I read it starting the day it came out but I fell deeply and hopelessly in love with it. I think Gaiman was trying to structure the story in a specific way and it worked perfectly for me, in large part I think because I am a big fan of short stories, but mostly because I think he captured the joys and sorrows of growing up so poignantly without overly focusing on them, if that makes any sense. I quickly picked up the audio and listened to that and I was lost. It would be, and has remained, a favorite since. I’ve not actually ‘read’ the book again but I’ve listened to it in its entirety many, many times since. I’m so glad you decided to give the audio a try and that you found it better the second time around.

It really is amazing to hear Gaiman read it as the way he pronounces words, as you mention, and the way he emphasizes certain parts makes the story come alive. I’ve actually read short stories of his that I was “meh” about then heard him read them and had a completely different take on them because of the way he made me better understand what he was trying to do with the story. And I just love the way he voices the Sleer.

Wonderful having you come along for a re-read, or listen, of the book. Thank you so very much!!! :)

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Jessica October 22, 2012 at 10:37 am

After this reread, I am completely with you. I think the form, while disconcertingly skimpy on those details readers crave, is actually very successful in portraying how it is to grow up.

And the experience of having a talented author/narrator read it was amazing. I’ll have to seek out some of his other recordings.

I thoroughly enjoyed the reread (and am enjoying R.I.P. VII)! Thank you for hosting.

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Carl V. October 25, 2012 at 6:04 am

All of the books he narrates are equally enjoyable. And I would highly recommend Gaiman’s novel Anansi Boys. It is read by Lenny Henry who does an amazing job with it. Wasn’t disappointed at all that Neil didn’t read this one.

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Jenny October 21, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Well, I liked this one…everything but the ending, anyway. I’m still not a big fan of audio books but if they helped you like this one then yay!

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Jessica October 22, 2012 at 10:38 am

What didn’t you love about the ending? I liked it better this time than I did the first. I’m sort of heartbroken that Bod has to leave the Graveyard, but I almost think it’s a lovely metaphor about how you can never go back to being a kid.

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Arie Stotle October 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I loved rereading it as well. I felt like I got so much more out of the story when I read it slowly.

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Jessica October 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Yes. That is the nice thing about rereading. Typically, you can take it more slowly and see the craftsmanship.

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lynnsbooks October 28, 2012 at 7:03 am

Great review. I love this book and it’s probably the only book that might tempt me to audio. I’ve never listened to a book before but the temptation of Gaiman reading his own story with all his little nuances to add more impact does sound very persuasive.
Thanks
Lynn :D

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Jessica October 28, 2012 at 9:45 pm

It is a great audio. I’ve only recently gotten into audio books, but I’ve found that it really helps to have an excellent narrator and a rather simple plot. This one has both of those plus!

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