The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This review is hard to write. Not because I can't think of enough wonderful things to say about this book, but because there are so many things I loved about it. I am very glad that I had the experience of listening to this book on audio. Hearing Mr. Gaiman read it is icing on the scrumptious cake. He has a beautifully expressive, soothing, and emotive voice. He wrote it, so he has the advantage of knowing exactly what emphasis to put on the different lines and passages, and how he wants the various parts read.
I had never read Neil Gaiman before this year, and it has been my pleasure to discover him. He is a wonderful fantasist, blessed with the understanding of the joy and the awe that fantasy inspires in a reader. In this case, he manages to take a very dark subject, death, and give it a sense of whimsy and beauty.
The idea of an orphan growing up in a graveyard seems morbid, however this book doesn't read that way at all (except perhaps the parts with the ghouls, but that was on purpose). Instead of reading about a lonely, abandoned child stuck in a place of death, I felt the warm, loving way the graveyard and its denizens adopted the orphaned toddler, raising him into a lovely young man. I felt as though I grew to know all the folks in the graveyard, as if they were members of a large, eccentric family. I loved how Mr. Gaiman would introduce a new ghost by what his/her tombstone said. It was just the right touch. This and the abundant personality of the ghosts helped me to avoid descending into sadness at the realization that these were all departed folks lingering on the mortal plane. It felt natural to me. That takes talent.
Similarly the whole idea of a murderer looking for an innocent child to finish what he'd started so many years ago could have been excessively dark. It was dark, but the darkness doesn't overwhelm this story, not knowing that the Bod is far from alone in the world. He has a strong wall of protection around him, in the forms of his ghostly family, his guardian Silas, his sometimes babysitter Ms. Lupesco, and the graveyard itself. And Bod grows into a young boy/man with quite a good head on his shoulders, a good heart, and one who is resourceful enough to deal with his very evil pursuer(s), and to learn from his missteps in the complicated world of the living.
I truly love this book. The mood, the story, the writing, and the narrator. It will definitely go on my favorites shelf. I think I shall have to get me a paper copy, because this is definitely one for a reread.
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