I usually read late into the night and sleep when the sun comes up, but this guy changed it for me. For the first time ever, I was scared to read a boI usually read late into the night and sleep when the sun comes up, but this guy changed it for me. For the first time ever, I was scared to read a book. All alone. In the dark.
Mind you, it isn’t actually scary. (Yes it is.) I wasn’t trying to prevent myself from having nightmares or anything. (Yes I was.)
I loved it. But. I’ve given the book three stars. Let me explain why.
I had the same issue with Good Omens. I don’t like predictable endings. And even though I’ll forgive an ending if everything that leads up to it is excellent, Neverwhere just wasn’t a Good Omens. Yes, I was hooked. Yes, I forgot to eat. Twice. Yes, I got angry phone calls from people I’d promised to meet. This book is brilliant, it really is. But with the last forty pages or so, I wanted the escalation to be worth it. I wanted to know that all those hours I spent reading it would result in an explosion that would leave me staring at the wall blankly for the next half-hour. What I didn’t want was to be able to tell exactly what was coming.
However. A good ending isn’t the be-all and end-all (heh heh) of a book, and there’s something about Neil Gaiman you should know, if you don’t already. This guy can paint pictures in your head. Really.
With most fantasy novels, it’s fairies and pixies and elves (not all, don’t hurt me) and while I enjoy novels like that, I don’t really see them in my head. There are images (from movies, photographs, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter related fan art) I can link to the author’s description, but that’s about it. With Gaiman, he actually inserts pictures in your head – and I know this sounds absurd – but he manages to do it. Only, he chooses gritty, everyday landscapes to weave his stories into, instead of glimmering, airy-fairy ones. Don’t get me wrong, I love the latter – it’s just that, even when you have light and dark in those novels, the darkness is still above your everyday existence somehow. It’s something you wish you were a part of, and know you can never be. Neverwhere wasn’t like that. It was the most real fantasy novel I’ve ever read. That’s what made it creepy. That’s what gave me chills. I know I’m never going to be a Warrior Princess/get a letter inviting me to Hogwarts/plunge into a book by reading it beautifully. But I know there is, in fact, a city that exists “below” mine. A city full of dubious characters, more than dubious transactions. A city that is dark and scary without even having to be in a book. Add a little imagination to that picture and you have Neverwhere. Easily accessible. You and I could just as easily slip through the cracks and find ourselves in a world that scares the living daylights out of us.
Final verdict? Incredible. Despite the slightly disappointing finish.
“Suppose we pick a name for him, eh?” Caius Pompeius stepped over and eyed the child. “He looks a little like my proconsul, Marcus. We could call hi
“Suppose we pick a name for him, eh?” Caius Pompeius stepped over and eyed the child. “He looks a little like my proconsul, Marcus. We could call him Marcus.” Josiah Worthington said, “He looks more like my head gardener, Stebbins. Not that I’m suggesting Stebbins as a name. The man drank like a fish.” “He looks like my nephew Harry,” said Mother Slaughter… “He looks like nobody but himself,” said Mrs.Owens, firmly. “He looks like nobody.” “Then Nobody it is,” said Silas. “Nobody Owens.”
This has, without a doubt, got to be my favourite Gaiman after Sandman.
From the very first sentence, you’re hooked. Being Gaiman, he’s managed to get a wonderful illustrator to complement his writing. (Dave McKean? You’re awesome.) But now you’re thinking – because that’s all there is on the page, and you need to take a minute to mind-yell about how this is the most amazing first page ever – Why on earth does a “children’s book” start this way? And you realise you don’t care, because it’s Neil Gaiman, and you trust this strange man with stranger ideas – and if my mum had read this to me when I was a kid, I’d think she was the definition of cool.
C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I agree. And this guy seems to be able to find the perfect balance. While I still read some of my Famous Five books from time to time, the only reason I enjoy them is because they bring back memories. Half the time, I skip entire chapters. With The Graveyard Book, I read it twice, back to back, and I might read it again once I complete my reading challenges – it’s that good. It’s engaging, and beautifully written, plus I don’t feel like he’s “talking down to me” – and that is my definition of a good children’s book.
Sidenote: The reason I’m spending so much time on this is because I think every kid should try reading this – and I know parents will be wary because it’s about Nobody (Bod, for short) being raised in a graveyard. But if your child reads Lemony Snicket, or Philip Pullman, or Harry Potter, even, I’d give them this (and read over their shoulder).
So. What is this book about, I hear you ask. Well, what does any book that has to do with a child in a graveyard have? It’s got an endearing mother-figure, a dead poet that took his revenge on the world by not letting anybody read his work, ghouls that name themselves after their first meal, and the man Jack. Several men Jack, actually. (Or is that man Jacks? This is going to keep me up at night.)
I’ve got to say, Gaiman has a real talent for creating characters that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. I have a weakness for mysterious, intelligent men and strong female characters, and his books have got plenty of those. There was Morpheus in Sandman, The Marquis in Neverwhere, and Crowley (An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards) in Good Omens. Also, Door, Hunter, and Coraline. In this book – there’s Liza Hempstock, Miss Lupescu and Silas.
“There were people you could hug, and then there was Silas.”
“Repeat after me, there are the living and the dead, there are day-folk and night-folk, there are ghouls and mist-walkers, there are high hunters and the Hounds of God. Also, there are solitary types.”
“What are you?” asked Bod.
“I,” she said sternly, “am Miss Lupescu.”
“And what is Silas?”
She hesitated. Then she said, “He is a solitary type.”
I absolutely adore Silas. You’re never told what he is, though. Someone here called him a vampire, and while he does have some vampire-y traits, I needed to be sure. So I tried looking it up on Gaiman’s FAQ section, and this is what I found:
Q: What is Silas in The Graveyard Book? A: Silas is a Very Important Character in The Graveyard Book. Also, he is Bod’s Guardian.