Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untakenThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a perfectly normal boy. Well, he would be perfectly normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the world of the dead. There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard: the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer; a gravestone entrance to a desert that leads to the city of ghouls; friendship with a witch, and so much more. But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.
I haven’t read many of Gaiman’s books yet, something I’m definitely planning on changing after reading The Graveyard Book. Out of the three books of his that I’ve read two are now favorites, and this is one of them.
This little book begins with the murder of a family by a mysterious man known as Jack. He was supposed to kill every single one of them, including their toddler, who manages to furtively scape his grasp, much to his frustration. The baby boy ends up in a Graveyard where Mr. and Mrs. Owens, both ghosts, being helped by Silas, who is neither dead nor alive, decide to name him Nobody Owens (Bod for short) and raise him.
After it is decided that Bod will be raised there, he is given “the Freedom of the Graveyard”, which allows him to learn some neat ghost tricks such as the Fade, where he can disappear from sight even when someone is looking right at him. And it is right here that we see him grow up. He takes his lessons with Silas and learns his letters, how to behave, how to read the constellations, he learns about the world through his fellow ghost companions’ experiences and he also learns that one day, he wants to get to know the world for himself. He longs for adventure and for relationships with the leaving too.
By all that description it may seem odd to say this but this book is absolutely delightful. It has suspense and just the right touch of creepy to it, but delightful nonetheless. The book is made up of a collection of stories that takes us through Bod’s upbringing, from childhood to his school days and then into his teenage years. That made it very much a coming-of-age novel, which was especially captivating for allowing us to get a close look at how Bod would deal with problems as he grew up and how his awareness changes from age to age.
Bod is the most perfect main character. He is sweet. humble and compassionate and so imaginative. I’m absolutely in love with him. His interactions with every character are so wholesome and pure. He put a smile in my face for the entirety of the book and his inquisitiveness and bashfulness just made more attached to him. We mainly get to see more of Bod and Silas in this book, and their relationship offers just the perfect balance between a kid’s point of view and his adult counterpart. They respect each other and the person Bod grows up to be is that much more beautiful because of Silas’ teachings. We may not get that much more deeper into all the other ghosts’ stories but honestly that didn’t feel like a gap and I feel like every character played their part in Bod’s life just perfectly, with no one being left aside. Bod also meets a living girl called Scarlett when he is around 5 years old and their interactions are so tender and pure that it just left me wanting more, and I love that.
I didn’t think I would enjoy reading a book that is set in a Graveyard as much as I did, especially since I get scared at basically anything and everything, it’s not exactly the kind of setting you would see me delighted to have 😅 but the game changer here is Gaiman’s writing and imagination. I swear I want to get inside that man’s head to understand how he comes up with this stories that leave me completely in awe. Also, Dave McKean’s illustrations are so stunning and just added to the whole magic.
The story ended in what I deem a most perfect ending. I couldn’t have wished for a better and sweeter fate for such an exquisite character. My hat’s off to Gaiman once more.