There is a first time for everything, and The Graveyard Book was my first Neil Gaiman read. I’ve heard a lot about his books, how amazingly stellar thThere is a first time for everything, and The Graveyard Book was my first Neil Gaiman read. I’ve heard a lot about his books, how amazingly stellar they are and more where that came from, but I’ve never really felt the need to pick one of his works up and start reading. This all changed when this novel was thrust in my hands for a book exchange.
The story revolves around Nobody ‘Bod’ Owens, an orphan who’s family was killed by the man Jack and… who lives in a graveyard. The graveyard is a place full of wonder and adventure for the little Bod, but the older he gets, the more alluring the world outside becomes. And the world outside is dangerous as well, cause the man Jack is still looking for the toddler that managed to escape his knife many years ago. This novel is told by means of short stories all from the perspective of Bod. With every story, we move a little forward in time and because of this, the novel as a whole was quite a unique experience. The final chapters – or stories, if you like – make all the previous ones come together in one coherent storyline, and an engaging one at that. Because of the different short stories, it was quite hard to discern where the plot was taking you and it wasn’t until the final chapters that things were becoming clear. By not explicitly including the bigger picture in the first few stories, those solely rely on their own little plot and thus can become rather hit and miss. I didn’t find there to be a particularly bad story, but the third one – “The Hounds of God”, about the ghouls – was probably my least favourite of them all. It wasn’t bad, but the contrast with others, like “The New Friend” and “The Witch’s Headstone” was apparent. The way the different pieces of the puzzle came together in the end, however, was nothing short of brilliance. Even though it is a children’s book, I found the ending to be very engaging and exciting. Together with the very beginning, the highlight of the book for sure. There are quite some characters inhabiting this story, ranging from the good to the evil, from the dead to the living. Even though the man Jack is a despicable human being and creeped me out, I thought he did a novel job as the bad guy. Abanazer Bolger and Tom Hustings have some fingers in that pie as well. The great thing about the characters, is how they each have their own, unique voice. From the stern Silas to the rather playful Liza, you’ll learn to love each and every one of them. The main star of the show, however, is Bod. He is a fun, vibrant and engaging character and because of the way the novel is structured, you as a reader grows along with him. You follow him in his playfulness, his endearing compassion for others – dead or alive – and schemes to right wrongs. He’s perhaps a bit wise beyond his years, but who wouldn’t be when tutored by ghosts who’ve lived in all different kinds of eras. It takes a graveyard to raise a child, indeed. The biggest strength of this book, however, is Gaiman’s writing. His prose is not the most elaborate or complicated poetry, but it’s evocative and emotive. Go and read the first chapter and tell me that’s not excellent writing, that it does not tickle your imagination. Go and read the last few pages and tell me you’re not moved. If writing is art, then Neil Gaiman is an artist and The Graveyard Book is a masterpiece. The wonderful illustrations by Dave McKean only add to the imagery of the tale and make it a complete experience for your eyes.
The Graveyard Book was my first of Neil Gaiman, but after reading this, I know two things for sure. One, graveyards will never be the same again to me. Their eeriness has become a place of possibility and growth. Second, this might have been my first, but it will definitely not be my last Neil Gaiman novel. ...more
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. As much as I try to read the book before seeing the movie, I erred on this one. In my defence, when I saw the moForgive me Father, for I have sinned. As much as I try to read the book before seeing the movie, I erred on this one. In my defence, when I saw the movie – the 2009 adaptation of the novel – I only recently found out that it was an adaptation of a book and at that time, I hadn’t much interest in reading the book. In fact, it was the film that made me want to read the book. However, like so much when you turn the natural order on its head, seeing the film first made me eager to read some scenes that weren’t in the book. I was sad, at that, but that didn’t mean that this isn’t a great novel. Well, quite on the contrary.
The Picture Of Dorian Gray tells the story of a young lad, Dorian Gray, whose portrait is being made and upon seeing it, is so fascinated by his own beauty that he prays that he may stay young forever and instead the portrait shows the signs of age. Without his knowing, his wish has been granted. As soon as he discovers this, he goes on living a life in search of pleasure. While his face doesn’t show the signs of his decadent lifestyle, his portrait tells a whole different story. The story itself really appeals to me – hence the reason why we went to the film – and I quite like how the plot unravels here. The big difference between the movie and the novel, is that the book is more subtle. I was waiting for some pretty graphic scenes, but instead I only got allusions and I appreciated the subtlety of it. I particularly liked the evolution of Dorian Gray, from a sweet and innocent young man into this corrupted being who only lives for pleasure. I would have thought that he would redeem himself in the end, but he didn’t and it made the ending even more powerful. If I have to point out one particular part of the book that I thought best, it would be those last few chapters, where everything starts falling apart around him. That was pretty powerful storytelling, I think. The biggest contribution to this story is its characters. Especially Dorian and Lord Henry are pretty powerful individuals. As I said, it’s great to see the transformation in Dorian – even though it’s for the worse – cause it gives some good insight in the darker corners of human behaviour. Without Lord Henry, though, this wouldn’t have been the case at all. It is Lord Henry who corrupted Dorian’s mind with his twisted and sick theories on pleasure and life, but I doubt is he ever put his money where his mouth was himself. One can argue that Henry isn’t completely to blame, cause Dorian eagerly absorbed every single word Henry uttered, but still, it felt like he prayed on the weaker. Without being evil in the strictest sense, I felt a very powerful loathing towards Henry and thought him quite a good antagonist of sorts. A pity, though, that Basil’s role is quite limited. I felt like he could have been a good influence on Dorian and was sad to see him fade to the background. Seeing that this novel is quite dated, I feared a bit for the writing being hard to get through. However, the only thing that prevented me from powering through this, was the tiny print of the particular edition I managed to get my hands on. The writing itself was actually pretty beautiful and poetic. I found the language to be very rich without going over the top in terms of description or the usage of adjectives. There was one part, however, around the middle which was pretty thick to get through for it describes all of Dorian’s follies. I would have liked that better if it wasn’t told but rather shown to the reader, cause that would have made it less dense. Apart from that, though, I liked the pacing of the story and really enjoyed Wilde’s writing.
As much as I feared that the film would ruin the book for me, it didn’t in this case. If the book is good enough, it can draw you in all the same. I might have known how the story goes, but it didn’t keep me from enjoying the novel in the slightest. I keep telling myself that I should read more classics but somehow there is something that prevents me from actually picking them up. If they should all be like this one, though – which I know they’re not, alas – I’m in for quite a treat, cause this one, in fact, is quite a treat to read....more