January 14, 2013

Review: "The Graveyard Book" By Neil Gaiman

I loved this little book!  What a wonderful reimagination of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book.  Neil Gaiman is just a born story-teller, and The Graveyard Book is such a terrific example of his talents.  While there is a touch of horror and macabre in the book, it is very much a book that should appeal to young readers as well as adults.  It is also lavishly illustrated by the author-artist Audrey Niffenegger which adds ever so much to the tale.

The premise of The Graveyard Book is of a mysterious man who slays three members of a family, but the fourth member--an 18-month old little baby boy--toddles off in the night and ends up in an old graveyard.  He is adopted by the 'residents'--all dead themselves--who range in age from Roman times up to the present.  He is taken in and 'raised' by a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, who've been dead for something like 300 years, and is named "Nobody Owens" (nick-named "Bod").  Bod also has a living caretaker, 'Silas', that provides for his material needs whilst keeping him safe as he lives and grows up on the grounds of the cemetery.  Bod is in the unique position of being able to essentially cross-walk, if you will, between the land of the living and that of those dead and residing in the cemetery.  Bod is given a basic education from former teachers who are now permanent residents in the cemetery.  His teachers send him out to practice his reading of English and Latin by studying the plethora of headstones in the cemetery.  Bod also learns some nifty little survival tactics, like how to haunt and fade, from all of his dead 'family' and 'friends', and this serves him very well as the mysterious man is still earnestly looking for Bod in order to finish the job.  Bod also begins to learn more about his protectors Silas and Miss Lupescu.

Like much of Gaiman's fiction this is a quick read, but the plot and the writing are immensely satisfying.  There are all sorts of allusions and references to fairy tales and bits of folklore scattered throughout the book that, taken together, truly cements Gaiman's reputation as a master story-teller in our modern age.  The Graveyard Book is a story that I'd love to see somebody (i.e., like Tim Burton, maybe?) endeavor to bring to the 'big screen', as it such a wonderful, wonderful story from start-to-finish.

The Graveyard Book
By Neil Gaiman
Harper Collins, Hardcover, 2008
312 pp.
ISBN 0060530928


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