Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard Book
I picked up The Graveyard Book with a sense of trepidation.
I was originally a reader of The Sandman comic series, starting at Issue #8. I also enjoyed his graphic novel work. However, I stopped my subscription to The Sandman two story arcs from the end because I felt characters no longer served as characters, but instead as plot props.
And the only Neil Gaiman novel I’d read previously was the Anansi Boys, which might have been an interesting book from a new author, but from someone of Neil’s literature stature was poor. While someone suggested to me there was a wealth of research and detail behind the book, I found the story cliqued, superficial, and lacking engagement.
When Neil Gaiman writes well, he writes brilliant stories. But sometimes I think he writes significantly below his own standards.
So a pretty mixed background for reading The Graveyard Book.
The first chapter didn’t start well – it was clumsily written, with sentences building up tension shattered by brief descriptive digressions. These are errors you do not expect from an experienced writer. I thought it was all going to come apart pretty quickly.
However, chapter 2 finally opens into a world that Neil Gaiman really is strong with – engaging characters, a sense of wonderment, and a combination of quirky humour and gothic mystery – and the story never looks back.
As a reader I was dragged in completely, with suspension of disbelief enthusiastically engaged despite the sometimes childish fun in the story itself. And engrossed, Neil opens up a litany of literary figures to add strong peripheral characterisation.
The story has a simple enough premise – a boy is raised in a graveyard by the dead. If I tell much more than that, it’ll spoil it.
However, there are plenty of themes that seem re-engaged from the Sandman series – Neil is on familiar ground as he deals with death in all its forms, and the story is strong for it.
Even more refreshing is the end, which both concluded yet remained open-ended – as if The Graveyard Book promises with a whisper to being a gateway to a literary form of The Sandman in the future.
Expectations aside, The Graveyard Game is an enjoyable, engaging, and fun read, and the only real disappointment is that it finishes.
Probably classed as Young Adult fiction, this is a very accessible novel that is among the best in its class.
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