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From A Library: The Graveyard Book

By Neil Gaiman

There’s a quote on the front of the book from Diana Wynne Jones – ‘The best book Neil Gaiman has ever written’ – and she may have a point. Gaiman has written some great comic books, excellent short stories (as well as not so good ones) and some very good books (I liked Neverwhere, I loved American Gods, but I didn’t like Anansi Boys) but this is a very good book indeed. For me, a good book should be a good story told well in the voice of the author; this has it all.

The story is charming: Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a perfectly normal boy except for the fact that he lives in a graveyard, and was raised and educated by ghosts, and has a guardian who is neither alive nor dead (it’s never stated outright what Silas is, but the implication is quite clear).

Each chapter sees Bod at a different age and his adventures: meeting a live girl and visiting the oldest grave in the graveyard; gong through a ghoul gate; the Danse Macabre; meeting a witch ghost and going to school; meeting the man who killed his family (which led to Bod being adopted by the graveyard). This is all told in Gaiman’s distinct, clean, modern yet old-fashioned prose style (I didn’t like Anansi Boys because it read like an impression of Douglas Adams’ style, rather than Gaiman’s own voice). Gaiman also has a point to the story, about living life, facing up to reality, being true to yourself and about growing up.

If I was sufficiently well read, I would point out the similarities to Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, but I’m not, so I can’t. Anyway, you don’t need me to tell you that …

There are lovely touches in the book, such as the quotes for the tombstones, but my favourite is that Nobody Owens is a play on words from the Traditional Nursery Rhyme quoted at the front of the book, which ends ‘who nobody owns’. When I got this book from the library, it was logged as ‘Young Adult’, which made me jealous: I’m sure we never got such good books written for us when I was that age …

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