The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman from Lunchtime Reading Group

GraveyardIn November the Lunchtime reading group met to discuss The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. The vast majority of the group were new to Neil Gaiman, and we weren’t sure what to expect – but it was very pleasant surprise. If you took Rudyard Kipling’s classic story “The Jungle Book” and replaced the animals with ghosts,ghouls,werewolves and other such supernatural creatures you would get a flavour of this 2010 Carnegie Book Award winning story. Although not an absolute copy of Kipling’s book we felt Gaiman had conjured up a dark witty fantasy that opens with the line ” There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife”. The group thought the Graveyard Book was a beautifully written, bittersweet coming of age tale. We liked the world of the Graveyard that Gaiman portrays  for us with it’s strange creatures, hellish red cities with decayed moons overhead and midnight parades where ghosts dance with the living; yet with a hint of something horrible lurking around the corner. The story is the assorted ghostly adventures of a young boy, Nobody Owens or Bod as he’s called by his other worldly friends, who crawls into the Graveyard one night when his family are brutally murdered. We then  find ourselves drawn into a ghastly confrontation between Bod and the people who wish to harm him. Most of the group felt that the characters were extremely well written with the dead maintaining an eerie timelessness. Especially pleasing for us was the way the writer explains the relationship between Bod and his ghostly guardian Silas, who may or may not be a vampire (“Silas ate only one food and it wasn’t bananas”). He serves Bod as a kindly but stern mentor and we came to see that he clearly loves the young boy like a son. Admired greatly were the line drawings throughout the book which really added to the atmosphere and how the writer portrayed the cemetery as a safe and welcoming place. Although this is categorized as a children’s  or young adults book most of us grown-ups found it a profound and touching tale with murder, ghosts and a mystery to keep both children and adults happy. It was  quirky but a delight to read. I’m sure someone like Tim Burton could turn this book into an amazing film.

Paul

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