Fair warning: I’m going to bore on about how much I love Neil Gaiman again. TL;DR version – I love Neil Gaiman and think everything he makes is brilliant and genius and everyone should read/watch all of it ever.
If you’re not fed up of this yet, feel free to read on for my thoughts on The Graveyard Book!
For some reason, this is one Gaiman story I just hadn’t come across yet – possibly because, as a children’s book (as opposed to adult fantasy, graphic novel or YA fiction) – it was just less on my radar? However it happened, anyway, I hadn’t been chasing a copy down with the single-minded fiery passion of a predator on the prowl (like I was with American Gods – why library, WHY don’t you have a copy??), so when it appeared in the GIANT PILE O’ BOOKS given to me by the Book Fairy (thank you lovely!) I was surprised and delighted and couldn’t wait to read it.
As it turns out, the story had been on my periphery, anyway – I’d heard of the main characters (mostly through following Gaiman on Twitter) and settling in to read felt like meeting an old friend for the first time.
Just like Coraline, although The Graveyard Book is written for children, it is more than enough for adults to enjoy (in my opinion, anyway) – and it’s not patronising in the least, which is great. The narrative follows Bod – short for Nobody Owens – a young boy who, on the mysterious murder of his family, is taken in by the ghosts at the local graveyard. He is raised among the friendly long-dead, given the run of the graveyard, and kept safe inside the gates.
One might think that a children’s book is no place for such a focus on death, but (although, disclaimer, I’m not a parent) I do think it’s treated beautifully – just like the rest of Gaiman’s writing. The ghosts who raise Bod are friendly, not scary – and Bod is taught from a very young age that at some point he will have to join the world of the living. Death is treated as something natural and kind… in its right place at its right time. Gaiman manages to walk the fine line between death as a natural part of life (and nothing to be scared of), but not something to be hastened or rushed towards. Again, I’m not a parent so take my opinion with a huge handful of salt, but I can imagine this story being a useful tool for parents when it comes time to talk to children about death – what it is, how to treat it, etc.
In the meantime… it’s a great story and I’m looking forward to reading it again (multiple times).
</end Gaiman love-fest>