The month of October is finally upon us, and with it creeping fogs and cozy evenings spent with spooky stories. Most of the time, those stories are filled to the brim with witches and monsters, murder and cases of manslaughter. Or you dig up movies, tv shows and books that are all about magic, ghosts, haunted castles and mysterious Hauntings. Those weeks before Hallowe’en are so very special to me, which is why I’m going to fill these coming weeks with reviews and book recommendations fitting the spookiest season of the year. Conveniently for me, most of those are books I should’ve reviewed some time ago – killing two birds with one stone over here. Let’s dive right into it!
N E I L G A I M A N – T H E G R A V E Y A R D B O O K
“Sleep my little babby-oh
Sleep until you waken
When you wake you’ll see the world
If I’m not mistaken…
Kiss a lover
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure…
Face your life
Leave no path untaken”
Neil Gaiman | The Graveyard Book | p. 288
Nobody Owens could easily be a normal boy. That is, if he wasn’t living in a graveyard (which he is), raised and educated by those who have long been dead and buried. In this boy’s world, there are ghosts and ghouls and night-gaunts, and a place full of tombstones and ivy-tangled crypts is his home. Nobody, or Bod, as everybody tends to call him, can only be kept safe if he stays in the graveyard. But the outside world is beckoning, and the man who killed Nobody’s entire family is lurking in its shadows, waiting for his final kill…
“People want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer.” – p. 270
Honestly, “The Graveyard Book” is such a wonderful story! It’s haunting and funny, incredibly wise and moving to a point where I sat crying in the pitch-darkness of a bus that drove me home late at night. Little Nobody is almost too precious and precocious for his own good, but I guess there can barely be another way when raised by ghosts.
I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing for quite some time now. His vast imagination as well as an understanding of a child’s mind and a heart full of magic are able to capture my heart time and time again. In “The Graveyard Book”, Gaiman plays with the concept of death almost effortlessly, painting it with this somewhat childlike understanding that most people lose with adulthood: it simply is a part of life, and it is something that patiently awaits your arrival after you’ve lived your potential. And after that? Well, those ghosts in Bod’s graveyard certainly do have their hands full when the little boy arrives. Thankfully, there’s Silas, who is willing to be Nobody’s guardian as long as he hasn’t yet reached adulthood.
Bod said, “I want to see life. I want to hold it in my hands. I want to leave a footprint on the sand of a desert island. I want to play football with people. I want,” he said, and then he paused and he thought. “I want everything.” – p. 288
My edition of this book is illustrated by one of my favourite illustrators, Chris Riddell. He has already illustrated most of Neil Gaiman’s books. As always, his illustrations in this book are just magnificently spooky and hauntingly beautiful, and therefore most fitting for this touching, adventurous novel about Nobody Owens.
If you want to read only one spooky and entertaining book this October, let it be this one. Let Neil Gaiman’s story of a peculiar boy warm your heart and cuddle up in your favourite reading place with a book about being different than anyone else and being brave enough to chose life over death each day until you draw your final breath.
Author: Neil Gaiman
Title: The Graveyard Book
illustrated by Chris Riddell
Press: Bloomsbury Publishing
Year of publication: (this paperback edition) 2009
Other books by Neil Gaiman I’ve reviewed on this blog:
Other spooky book recommendations this fall: