Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book is a unique and fascinating supernatural young adult novel. I read this book in a state of wonder, excited to find out what would happen next. It was a perfect read for the week of Halloween. I have had this book on my “to read” list after reading excellent reviews over the past two years and it was well worth the wait.

The Graveyard Book starts with the murder of a family. A small “baby barely a toddler” escapes the atrocity by getting out of his crib and wandering out to the night through the open front door. The killer, the man Jack, follows his scent to a graveyard, but he loses the trail and is escorted away by a mysterious man named Silas. A childless ghost couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owens want to care for the child, especially after the spirits of his family ask them to help the boy. After a spirited debate in the graveyard, it is decided that the Owens will raise the boy with the help of Silas as guardian. The boy is not old enough to know his own name and is christened “Nobody Owens” by the ghosts with a nickname of Bod.

The old adage is that it takes a village to raise a child, but in this case, it takes a graveyard. Young Bod has ghosts for playmates and has great adventures when he meets up with a group of ghouls and the cemetery’s lone witch. Leaving the graveyard is dangerous for Bod as his family’s killer has never been captured. Bod has unique experiences and escapades growing up in a cemetery, but the greatest one of all is the journey to discover his identity and to face his family’s murderer.

I immensely enjoyed reading this book. The premise sounds so strange I wasn’t sure what I would think of it. The book read as a modern myth, legend, or fairy tale. Each chapter was a unique adventure of its own, but overall the book built to a stunning conclusion and epic graveyard battle as the mystery of murder of Bod’s birth family was finally solved.

The setting of the cemetery was brilliant. I have always been fond of cemeteries. I think they are very peaceful and beautiful places. I’ve always liked to read the old names on the gravestones and wonder what the lives of the individuals who lived so long ago were like. I’m used to graveyards in the mid-western United States where an “old” gravestone can be dated 1840. Part of the allure of The Graveyard Book to me was that the history that went along with the graves was fascinating. The oldest grave in the cemetery is a Roman centurion, but even older is an ancient “indigo man” who lives inside the hill. I particularly liked the chapter on the witch, Liza Hempstock. It really told of a time when a woman could be accused for witchcraft and murdered because she stole someone else’s man. Liza was buried outside of the cemetery proper in the potter’s field.

The copy of The Graveyard Book that I read included illustrations by Dave McKean. I thought the illustrations really added to the mood of the book and I enjoyed starting each new chapter with a new picture.

Although the book starts with my own worst nightmare, a family murdered in their sleep by a stranger, I thought overall the book was a positive book. It was not overly violent or gross, but did have plenty of adventure, history, and mystery.

A Facebook quiz told me that Neil Gaiman was my literary match. I had no idea who Neil Gaiman was, but soon discovered I had many friends who were fans and highly recommended his works. I’ve enjoyed reading his blog over the past year or so and I really enjoyed reading The Graveyard Book. It was the first Gaiman book I’ve read, but will definitely not be the last.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library


  1. I have been wanting to read this for a really long time. Your review makes me want to read it even more, I am going to have to find a copy soon!

  2. I read this one earlier this year and really enjoyed it. It was my first Gaiman book and I look forward to reading more of his books.