Book #42: The Graveyard Book

There are books that are uniformly good the whole way through, and there are books that are okay, but have sections that raise the level up to something better than it was.

And then there's Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, which is uniformly great, with sections that raise it so far through the roof I am compelled to call it the best thing he's ever written.  And that's coming from someone who not only bought the individual issues of The Sandman, but the trade paperbacks and Absolute Editions as well.

The Graveyard Book is the story of Bod Owens, short for Nobody, whose parents and sibling were brutally murdered when he was infant.  But Bod crawls away, and is taken in by the local graveyard, there to be raised by the ghosts and spirits that reside within and without the old stones and trees.  He is awarded the Freedom of the Graveyard, which enables him to learn Fading, and Fear, and all manner of supernatural craft in between his letters and his counting lessons.  But the trick of it is, he has to stay in the graveyard.  For that is the only place he cane remain safe from the clutches of the Man Jack, who still has one piece of unfinished business left to settle.

At heart The Graveyard Book is a coming of age story firmly rooted in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, but Gaimain layers every ounce of his storytelling prowess into fleshing out (ha!) the ghostly world Bod and his friends inhabit.  Beautifully complemented by long time collaborator Dave McKean, who uses his singular artistry to illustrate sections of the novel, The Graveyard Book is ostensibly written for Young Adultstm, but doesn't sacrifice any maturity in its plot or style.  Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the chapter entitled "Danse Macabre" which involves a ritual it would spoil to describe in this review.  If you do nothing else, find this book and read that chapter - it's one of the most beautiful passages I've read in any book in quite some time.

I can't recommend The Graveyard Book enough.  If you're a fan of Neil Gaiman's writing this is essential stuff.  If you're interested in a good story, great characters, and a writing style that feels like you're walking in a dream, this is still essential.