The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
One dark night a man named Jack goes into a tall house and murders a father, a mother, and a daughter, but the son, who was only a toddler, escapes out the door into the night. The house is near a graveyard and all the graveyard ghosts were looking on. Mrs. Owens found the baby. The mother of the baby, who was now dead herself, came down the hill, beseeching Mrs. Owens to take care of her baby and she said she would.
The baby was hidden from Jack the murderer and taken into the graveyard. It was put to a vote. Mr. and Mrs. Owens would raise the child in the graveyard, he would have the freedom of the graveyard and be raised by all. Silas, who wasn’t dead, nor was he alive, agreed to act as a guardian. It was agreed that the baby would be called Nobody Owens, but called Bod for short.
Bod’s first several years in the graveyard were not that eventful. When he was around five, he met a little girl who was playing in the graveyard. Her name was Scarlett. She and Bod played and Bod showed her a barrow inside the graveyard itself, but there was a scary man in there. Scarlett soon moved away and Bod was alone again, well, except for all the dead people.
Bod was taught to read. He was taught to fade. He was taught many ways of the graveyard. Other people came into his life. He met a witch named Liza who helped him out in scrapes. He was locked up by a nefarious antiques dealer. He was picked up by the police. He went to school. He went out of school. He learned to dream walk. He learned what ghouls were and what their land was. He also learned who the hounds of God were.
The entire graveyard worked hard to keep Bod safe from the man named Jack. Even after such a long time, Jack was still after Bod. Ultimately, Jack did come back, but Bod was grown enough to defend himself and grown enough to outsmart Jack. The graveyard raised Bod just fine.
What I liked
Neil’s books are always so whimsical. Can you imagine living in a graveyard? Certainly there would be lots of people who stayed away purely out of superstition. It’s also an interesting concept for all the people buried in the graveyard to have become this big-extended family, or rather a tight-knit neighborhood. They all help each other out. They come together to raise Bod and educate him.
Neil wove in various mythologies and folklore into his story, which is great, since I love mythology and folklore.
What I didn’t like
I would have liked to have known more about the organization that Jack came from. Why was Bod’s family murdered? Why did it matter?
I am not of the same opinion that this book is about the idea of death. This book states that once you are dead, your actions do not change anything, for the most part. I tend to think of death as simply another stage in a person’s life-cycle. I couldn’t say for sure, but I would want to say that even if you were dead, your actions can still have some effect somewhere.
I kind of want to visit a nice graveyard and imagine all the people who might live there Graveyard Book style.
Would you live in a graveyard?
Do you think a child could grow up to be an alright person having been raised by ghosts?