Chelsea's Reviews > The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
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May 02, 11

bookshelves: ya-fiction, fantasy

The Graveyard Book was actually the second book I read after Stardust, but I liked it a bit more, so I’m going to review it first! The book follows Bod (short for Nobody) Owens, a boy who lives his entire life under the care and guidance of the ghosts in his local graveyard. After a murder eliminates his entire family as a baby, Bod makes his way to the graveyard where he is adopted and looked after by the Owens. He is also looked after by Silas, a man who is neither dead or alive (there are allusions to his being a vampire), who lives in the graveyard but is still able to venture to the land of the living to get food and supplies for Bod. He is also taught by Miss Lupescu when Silas is away from the graveyard. She ends up being a werewolf, and is just one of the many fantastical figures in the book (others include a group of dastardly ghouls, a witch named Liza Hempstock, and a mysterious smoke monster named the Sleer). Bod lives his playing in graves and only gets to see the world of the living on the night of the Dance Macabre, when the living and the dead come together to dance (which also happened to be one of my favorite chapters).

The book is a wonderful, wonderful book, and a true representation of what could most fully be considered an adult fairy tale. Bod has a number of adventures with the people of the graveyard, some of my favorite of which include, as I said above, the Dance Macabre and his visits to the Sleer, a creepy disembodied smoke-voice combo that is never truly identified but spends all eternity waiting for its master to return. The illustrations by Dave McKean are wonderful, dark and heavy with quick pen-strokes (as though the pictures themselves are caught between living and not living) and highlight the content of the book really, really well. I think one of my favorite characters was Silas, mostly because he is never really fully explained (why isn’t he living or dead, why is he as wise as he is, exactly what is his relationship to Miss. Lupescu) but is often full of the kind of wisdom that is often most helpful – the wisdom of common sense and practicality.

Perhaps the biggest problem I had with the book was the lack of full explanations. There were some questions left when I was done reading that I wished were answered (most of which had to do with the origins of the people/things in the graveyard), not that it was instrumental to the plot. It just would have been nice to have! Be prepared for a darker tale (which may not surprise the frequent readers of Gaiman, but which threw me off a little bit) but the book is wonderfully crafted and will literally make you feel like you were living in a graveyard. You know, if living in the graveyard was the norm.

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