The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

[Book review by ForTheLoveOfBooks, my first guest poster! –CS]

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-an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer.

  But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the Man Jack-who has already killed Bod’s family…

I personally don’t remember when I became familiar with Neil Gaiman, but I do remember one of my friends mentioning The Graveyard Book as one of the books she was planning on reading. I forgot about it for a while and then when I was on vacation in Sri Lanka last summer, I saw it in a bookstore, however the version that I saw was this one  which was published by Bloomsbury. I find the cover of the Bloomsbury version much more appealing; there’s a darkness to it which I find lacking in the American publication. I’ll move on from my usual cover gushing now!

The book  takes place somewhere in England and follows the adventures of Nobody Owens, a.k.a. Bod to the Graveyard Folk as he walks between the living and the dead. The story begins when Bod is a baby and his family are murdered by the mysterious man called Jack and continues till he is about 14/15 years old. Jacks always seem to get a bad name don’t they? You’ve got Jack in The Graveyard Book, Jack The Ripper, the list can go on and on. In his time growing up in the Graveyard, Bod encounters strange and fantastical people and creatures.  To name a few they are: the Indigo Man, the Sleer, the ghouls, Ms. Lupescu, Liza the witch and the human girl Scarlett.

Plot wise, I enjoyed the story. I liked the  darkness of the opening sequence in the book and the illustrations by Dave McKean add to the drama. Some chapters of the book were definitely fillers and sometimes it did feel like they were unnecessary, but regardless they did add a certain charm to the story. The ending of the story caught me by surprise. I didn’t expect a larger scheme of things to be occurring on the sidelines, but the story behind the scenes definitely helps to understand the connection between Jack and Bod. However it felt rushed to me; everything happened in a matter of hours. I also enjoyed the magical concepts Gaiman incorporated into the story such as ‘Fading’ and ‘Dreamwalking’ and I thought they were used well within the situations Bod found himself in.

Character wise, my only complaint is that there was a lack of character development. But then again this is a Children’s book and I suppose character development is not a requirement. I liked Bod’s character, he was sweet, genuine and likable. His parents; the Owens family were also likable characters, but I felt that they didn’t appear enough and I would have liked to see more of them. Bod’s guardian Silas was one of my favourite characters because he was so mysterious. At first I wasn’t too fond of Ms. Lupescu because she was giving Bod horrible food and didn’t seem to like him all that much, however when she appeared in Bod’s hour of need as  a  ‘Hound of God’ I thought she was awesome.

I personally didn’t like Scarlett’s teenage version. I liked her as a child, but she grew up to be an angsty teenager and I felt that there had been too much time lost between Bod and her that she didn’t quite understand him. I suppose who would teenagers be if they weren’t angsty and driven by hormones? The character Jack was well written; he was dark and scary and everything you want in a villain. The illustrations of Jack were also great because having him appear in front of you visually gave me goosebumps and I felt scared every time he appeared in the story.

Overall, The Graveyard Book was an enjoyable read. The concept of the book is unique and it’s different from my own reading experiences as a child. I personally don’t think I would have read this book as a child because it’s quite dark, but that’s my personal opinion. The book had some great quotes such as “Of all the organs, ‘the tongue is the most remarkable. For we use it both to taste our sweet wine and bitter poison, thus also do we utter words both sweet and sour with the same tongue” and “A graveyard is not normally a democracy, and yet death is a great democracy.” However there was something about the book that fell short for me. I don’t know how to explain it, but maybe I had too many expectations for it.

My Rating: 4/5

Would I recommend it? Yes

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  1. DogG6

    Cool review. I’ve never heard of that book before. Sounds like an interesting plot. Have you ever read the Bartimeaus series by Johnathan Stroud? There pretty good, they’re humorous, and the last book in the main trilogy has an epic and original ending. It follows a boy named Nathaniel who is learning to become a wizard, each book takes place about 3 years after the last. Anyways, in this world wizards don’t have any powers themselves, so they basically enslave magical otherworldly beings to do their bidding. At the very start of the first book Nathaniel summons a djinni (Bartimeaus) and it switches between first person perspective for the Bartimeaus parts and then it follows Nathaniel in third person. There’s also a prequel. I thought the last book was extremely exciting and EPIC.

    • Carrie Slager

      Thanks for the suggestion! I haven’t read the Bartimeaus series, but I have read Heroes of the Valley by Jonathon Stroud and rather liked it. The Bartimeaus series sounds good, so thank you for the recommendation.

    • ForTheLoveOfBooks

      Hey! Thank you for reading this review :). I’ve actually heard of the Bartimeaus series. I gave the first book to a friend as a Christmas present a few years ago, but I’ve never actually read the series. She really liked the first book though.But hopefully I can check it out sometime! Have you read the Percy Jackson series?

      • DogG6

        Yes, I’ve read the entire Percy Jackson series. I read the first book of the sequel series (Heroes of Olympus) before I read the Percy Jackson series, sk there were some spoilers, mainly involving Jason Grace’s sister (I forgot her name she was in the Percy Jackson series I think here name starts with TH.)

        • ForTheLoveOfBooks

          I haven’t read that series yet either, but it definitely seems like a series that I would like because I used to be a Classics student :). The series reminds me of a cartoon that used to air a few years back called “Class of The Titans” which was really cool. Did you like the Percy Jackson movie?

          • DogG6

            Another one of my favorite book series is the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games) which I read before I even knew that Hunger Games was written by her

          • ForTheLoveOfBooks

            I haven’t read The Hunger Games series yet either, even though I saw the movie. But I think I’ve heard of Gregor the Overlander series. I’ll add it to my summer reading list.

            Do you prefer Gregor the Overlander or The Hunger Games?

          • DogG6

            Hmm, that’s a tough one because their very different books, and very different settings, although they both have the same brutal style. I like that the Hunger Games is first person perspective from Katniss’s point of view, but Gregor the Overlander is five books long.

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    • Streetlight Reader

      Hi Tanya! Thanks for stopping by and commenting :). I really did enjoy The Graveyard Book. It’s probably the only Gaiman book that I’ve truly enjoyed. I wasn’t much of a fan of both Neverwhere and Stardust unfortunately.

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