The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

I finally finished this book!  This has been a long journey for me, but it’s finally done.

First, a quick summary. If you’re not familiar with the story, The Graveyard Book tells the tale of a baby whose family is murdered. He is supposed to be killed as well, but by some chance he escapes, and makes his way into a graveyard. There, the ghosts of the graveyard adopt him, and give him the name of Nobody, or Bod, for short. Bod grows up in the graveyard, with two ghosts for parents, and a guardian who brings him food and clothes from the outside world. As he grows, he learns the secrets of the graveyard, and lives the life of a sort of half-human, half-spirit. But eventually, the killer makes it back to the graveyard, to finish Bod off once and for all. And it is up to this (now teenaged) boy to save himself and protect his home.

Okay, so here’s my story with The Graveyard Book. I kept seeing this book around, and kept hearing just how good it was. So I had it on my “to-read” list. Then, last Christmas, I got it as a present. Which is great, except…I don’t know, I just couldn’t make myself read it. I think it was too Halloween-y for me, and I was in a Christmas-y mood. I didn’t, in fact, pick it up until I think April? And then began my full struggle with it.

I could not read more than a few pages of this book at a time. I have no idea why! It just would not click for me, and I kept putting it off to read other books. But I kept coming back to it. I was fully determined to finish it eventually, because I just knew that at some point I would hit a certain spot, and just fly through the rest of the story. And, finally, in a gap where I had nothing else to read but wanted to be reading something, I hit the spot. I flew through the second half of the book after months spent getting through the first half, and I finished it!

And I loved it.

I don’t normally force myself through books. If I’m not enjoying a book, I forget about it, because in my opinion there are far too many books in this world to spend too much time on one you don’t like. But I knew that I would like this story eventually. I had heard far too many good things about it (from like-minded individuals), and it had all the makings of something I’d love; it was a spooky story with murder and dark material, and it was a children’s story. It was a children’s story that didn’t dumb anything down, and it was a modern story, but it was surrounded by so many old things that a lot of the time you could forget that it was set in modern times (making it much more timeless). It also had magic, in a way where magic was never the focus of the story. For instance, Bod learns how to Fade, in which he can sort of cloak himself into invisibility, because it is something the ghosts can do. He had to learn how to do it, but there’s never a lot of time spent on what sort of magic is involved in him being able to do it, which I liked. There’s an explanation for it all, but it’s a simple one, that allows more time to be spent on the story itself. And The Graveyard Book was even a British story, which I always seem to favour.

I think I had two problems with this book. The first is that, while I loved teenaged Bod, I thought child Bod was a bit too mature and calm and smart for his age. Sometimes he did things at the age of 5 or 6, but it sounded like he was 11 or 12. Not to say some kids can’t behave like this, but without him having any living humans to socialize with, and with his education being a bit lackluster (living in a graveyard and all), I thought he didn’t quite struggle enough. My other issue was simply that, in the beginning, it was all very episodic. One chapter was completely unrelated to the next, and none of them seemed to really move the plot along at all. By the end, a lot of these episodes did come back into play, and it was seen how they were ultimately important to the overarching plot, so I can forgive them now, but they were a little annoying at the time.

But this story had a very satisfying ending. I don’t often think that with books. The ending is so difficult to land, and many times I enjoy a story, but dislike the way it ends. Not with this one. It wasn’t really a happy ending (well, it was sad and happy at the same time), but it was genuinely satisfying. I would love to read more about Bod, and the ending, while it doesn’t suggest more will be written about him, it does allow a definite imagining of an exciting future for the young hero.

So, that’s my story with The Graveyard Book. Not a typical thing for me to push so much to get through a novel, and one of the few occasions where it has resulted in me actually enjoying the story in the end. But it just goes to show how much we can accomplish by knowing ourselves as readers. I trudged through because I knew it had the makings of a fantastic story for my tastes, and in the end, I was right.

And now, nine months after receiving it, I’m so happy I got to read it!

P.S. Apparently this story is similar the The Jungle Book. Has anyone read both stories?

2 Responses so far.

  1. Hmmm… This sounds like an interesting story, but I think I still need to read some of Gaiman's others before I start with this.

    Since I started writing, I lost patience with a lot of stories, since I'd rather to struggle with writing a scene than with making sense of someone's difficult writing. You know what I mean?

    🙂

    By the way, do you know that you have word verification on your blog? Makes it a huge pain in the backside for people to comment… 😉

  2. Mere Joyce says:
    Do I? I had no idea I did…I'll check that out!

    Yes, I know what you mean…I'm reading something right now, and as much as I am trying to accept it and enjoy it, I can't help but keep thinking "I *know* I write better than this!"

    Being a writer definitely takes some of the fun out of reading sometimes!

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