Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book will be added to the list of books that has an incredible and enticing first line: "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." The man Jack has killed a family of three. It was supposed to be four, but the baby has gone wandering and ends up in the nearby graveyard. So begins the story of "Bod" (Nobody) Owens. The 2009 Newbery Award winner is a macabre tale that is sure to become a classic read.

The story follows the adventures of Bod from his adoption by the Owens' through his childhood until he reaches the age of his emancipation. It is a story adopted from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book and provides adventure, fantasy, and the ability to touch every human emotion. In addition to the Owens, Bod is protected by his guardian, Silas with the lupine Miss Lupescu,
Mother Slaughter, Josiah Worthington and the poet Nehemiah Trot, and my favorite, the Roman Caius Pompeius. Although still hunted by the murderer, Bod enjoys protection when he is within the confines of the graveyard. Such a setting provides the background for all sorts of macrabre adventures and ghostly encounters.

Bod's life passes in front of us and we grow to really love this boy who has his share of troubles. One very poignant scene is how he is bullied by his schoolmates when he attempt to attend a school outside the graveyard. He has thirsted for knowledge, but has to give up his dream when classmates make his life there totally miserable. As a little boy he develops a real friendship with a Scarlett, a girl who visits the graveyard with her mother. As the chapters ensue, she disappears for a while, but then reappears as the book reaches its climax. As one might expect Bod meets up again with a man Jack and the all the supernatural entities that Gaiman can muster.

As a reflect on the book, I realize that it was an incredibly written and complex story, full of ghostly haunts and "personages", but also that there was something missing in the first third of the book. It took me a while to really get into it, but by the end I was emotionally hooked and even a bit teary-eyed as the last pages were turned. It is a book that should satisfy all those who are looking for story that is scary and haunting.