As part of the Young Adult Reading Challenge I am participating in, I decided to check out The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman from Eloor Library.
The Graveyard Book starts rather abruptly with the murder of a young family. Everyone is killed except for the toddler who has crawled out of the house and into the graveyard nearby. When the assassin comes pursuing him, the occupants of the graveyard (the ghosts) come out in his defense and scare him away.
The little boy is then raised in the graveyard by his adopted parents (the ghosts Mr. and Mrs. Owens) and his guardian (Silas – a vampire, although it is not explicitly stated in the book) . The boy who is now named Nobody Owens (because he is nobody with no name) grows up in this strange environment; he is not allowed to step out of the graveyard because the assassin is still waiting for an opportunity to kill him. Nobody is safe only as long as he remains in the graveyard.
The rest of the story deals with his growing-up pains, his adventures, and eventually his stand-off with Jack the assassin.
My thoughts on this book
The book starts a tad bit abruptly for my taste with this sentence:
There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
And it put me off the book for quite a bit. But slowly, I started settling down.
My copy of the book was illustrated and I enjoyed looking at the illustrations, while reading the book.
I did find the first half a little boring and a tad claustrophobic. The thought that the child could not step out of the graveyard, and that almost 90% of the story is set in the graveyard didn’t really thrill me. Also, his adventures just seemed to be very random, and although I enjoyed reading about it, I just could not see where the plot was going. It seemed to be a sweet, meandering little story but still I could not really get what the fuss was all about.
In between, the mommy in me started asking all too-practical questions – but how did he manage living in the graveyard in the winters? what about his vaccination shots? his dental check-ups, and so on.
But towards the last 100 pages, all my reservations about this book dropped and I really got into it. Nobody meets his childhood friend, Jack starts stalking Nobody again, and things really start to heat up. The story rapidly moves to a smashing climax, where Nobody gets his revenge.
The ending of the story was just perfectly bittersweet. Nobody is now a big boy and has to leave the graveyard and his friends, and make his way into the land of the living, and live his life. The parting between Nobody and the inmates of the graveyard was so poignant, it left a lump in my throat.
After I read the book, I read the author’s note where he mentions that he was very inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. And I could see the resemblances – both are similar tales of a child left to be raised by someone not of his type. In both stories, there is a predator out to get the little boy.
But otherwise, the two stories are completely different. The Jungle Book had a lot more adventure and comic moments, and great characters. Whereas, The Graveyard Book is a softer, more emotional story.
I love them both 🙂