Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
First line: "There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife."

I know I'm a little late coming to this story, but my good friend gifted me the audiobook this year and I had the joy of listening to it on my way to Murder and Mayhem in Muskego this year.

Nobody Owens is a very small boy when he crawls away from his home to the Graveyard. His journey is what ultimately saves his life because while Nobody is busy being a typical toddler, his family is being murdered by a knife-wielding villain named Jack.

Nobody, a.k.a. Bod, is raised by two spirits, Mr. and Mistress Owens, who inhabit the Graveyard, and he has a "guardian," Silas, who exists between the living and the dead but isn't really a part of either realm. His guardian brings him food and clothing, but otherwise, Bod lives in the Graveyard.

As he grows up he doesn't learn what ordinary children do, but his lessons are valuable nonetheless. And despite the passage of time, the threat of Jack still looms outside the Graveyard walls.

Not reading the printed book, I missed out on the illustrations, but the audio version is incredibly done. Gaiman narrates the story himself and brings out the murky atmosphere of the graveyard setting while counterbalancing that with the blithe disposition of a young boy who doesn't know any different. Bod's curiosities and growing pains are typical for any young boy, he just experiences them in a vastly unusual environment. And that makes for great discoveries on both Bod's part and the readers.

Gaiman's sound was haunting and luring and exactly what good story tellers, especially good ghost story tellers should sound like. It was the cadence and tone that draws the audience in, leaning closer and closer to make sure they don't miss a word.

The Graveyard Book is full of delicious characters readers simply cannot find among the living. And their perspective on the living is discerning. But they mimic the living as well, dividing themselves into the right and wrong sides of the tracks.

I finished The Graveyard Book and thought immediately that my niece and nephew had to read it. It's aimed at middle grade readers, but young and old alike can luxuriate in this tale. And it will stay with you for a very long time. I, personally, visualize the festive dance scene over and over while hearing Gaiman's melody, "step and turn, and walk and stay, now we dance the Macabre."

My friend who gifted me The Graveyard Book said that they listen to it each year at Halloween. I understand completely. This book is a keeper and a re-reader. If you haven't read it yet, enjoy!

The Graveyard Book is available on unabridged audio (ISBN: 978-0061551895) from Harper Audio. It is also available from Harper in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0060530921) and paperback (ISBN: 978-0060530945).

I owe a great big thank you to Rhonda. I owe you big one on this one, my friend!

For those who would like a little taste (well actually, it's long, but you can listen to as much as you like), here's a video of Gaiman reading from Chapter 1.


Katharine Ott January 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM  

I loved this book and it's actually the only Gaiman I've read. I'm not sure where to move next with the rest of his work. Thanks for the good review that reminded me of this fine book.

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