For my final Hallowe’en-esque post, I chose The Graveyard Book. As with Riordan and Oppel, Neil Gaiman can do no wrong, in my humble opinion. His writing is smart and witty and original. (Oh! Good Omens! Now there’s a Hallowe’en read! Witches, the Anti-Christ, the Four Horsemen, and a hellhound that likes to chase sticks, get his ears scratched, and sniff his own butt. What’s not to love? But I digress…)
Gaiman’s story of a young boy raised by ghosts is a fabulous Hallowe’en tale, without the terror of a horror story. There are grisly and creepy elements, including the opening scene multiple murder and the constant shadowy threat, but it is also sweet and gentle and shows the kindness of strangers. Dead ones.
After a horrible night when his entire family is murdered, a young toddler miraculously escapes the carnage and wanders into the nearby graveyard. Unsure of how to deal with the sudden young life, the ghosts of the graveyard decide to raise and educate the boy themselves, and protect him from the still-present threat. Dead 300 years, Mr and Mrs Owens take him as their own, into their crypt, and name him. Nobody Owens.
Bod is given Freedom of the Graveyard, so he can see in the dark, and communicate and see the ghosts, and also learn their ways of fading into the mists and darkness. Bod has wondrous adventures in the graveyard, learns about himself, learns how to make friends, and learns what it will be like to live away from death one day.
Silas is a great protector and teacher, his ghostly guardians, the graveyard itself are all so beautifully developed and so relevant to Bod and his story. Under their care, the young boy becomes an independent man with a good head and a loving heart, able to look after himself in a world where evil still lurks.
In the end, The Graveyard Book is about family. Family that you are born into, and family that is created. Although haunted and eerie, it paradoxically never loses the optimism and joy of a young man growing up and learning to how to live. A tribute to Kipling’s The Jungle Book, “It is going to take more than just a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child. It will take a graveyard.”
Gaiman’s writing is poetic and visual and imaginative, humorous and mystical and riveting. Every word adds to the images, done effortlessly.
The story is appropriate for any age, but there is a murder, so may not be for everyone.
Happy Hallowe’en, everyone!!
The Graveyard Book is published by Harper Collins.