- Published in 2008 by Bloomsbury
- Format: Audiobook
- Narrator: Neil Gaiman
- Listening Speed: 1x
- Listening Time: 6 spooky days
- Picking another Neil Gaiman book for my GirlXOXO Monthly Motif Reading Challenge and what could be a better book for the spooky month than a book set in a graveyard, featuring a boy raised by ghosts? After his family was murdered by ‘the man Jack’, Nobody Owens (Bod, for short) is raised by the ghosts of the titular graveyard. His guardian is the mysterious Silas, someone who is not quite living or dead and who makes sure that Bod knows that, out in the world of the living, the real danger lurks. His family’s killer is still out there and he hasn’t given up the hunt.
- Lovely writing style, as always, with creative turns of phrase and the great narration I’ve come to expect from a Gaiman book. It’s incredible how many ways one can play with the name ‘Jack’. The inclusion of the Danse Macabre between every chapter is a nice touch too.
- A great main character. Bod is wise beyond his years, has an unusual view of danger and death due to his upbringing around ghosts and has enough cunning to run rings around everyone from schoolyard bullies to hired killers. Those are incredibly satisfying scenes but, at the same time, the book never lets us forget that he is still a kid. As a result, he makes the classic mistakes any child would make e.g. continuing on the path of giving the bullies their comeuppance after he’s told not to. He can get out of most problems but not all. The other characters are all interesting too. Silas is a fascinating figure and, while it’s never explicitly stated what he is, the author trusts you to pick on the heavy hints. Additionally, I like the way each ghost is introduced by whatever is written on their headstone and the fact that each of them has their own story to tell. I also loved the fact that this book has a Hempstock, which raises the questions, ‘Are all or some of Gaiman’s books set in the universe? If only some, which ones?’
- You would be forgiven for losing interest just after the halfway mark. Unlike other Gaiman books like Neverwhere or Stardust, there’s no overarching plot to give the events any urgency. it’s just a coming of age book around a boy who happens to live in a world of ghosts that falls into a rather episodic pattern. So, by the time Scarlett cames back into the story, I was tempted to increase the narration speed to get through the slow parts. I’m glad I stuck with it, though. The twist in the story will hit you right out of nowhere and will suck you back in just as you were giving up on it.
- Friendly ghosts and a lack of a visible enemy make this book very low on horror, especially for a Gaiman story. The ghosts are more funny than scary and Bod very rarely faces real danger that he can’t think his way out of. There are one or two horrific monsters but only in very specific and easily avoidable places. The graveyard is homely and happy, if a bit behind the times, rather than spooky and that’s the whole point, I suppose.
- Understated world building. There’s ghosts and other supernatural beings but they’re more likely to be on the friendly side. The graveyard is homely and happy, if a bit behind the times, rather than spooky and that’s the whole point. The book teases us with snatches of what looks like an exciting hunt, a world of monsters much wider than the graveyard and hints at an evil organisation threatening those monsters but never anything concrete. That information isn’t essential to keep the plot going. It just gives a lot of wiggle room for spinoffs if the author is that way inclined – and I hope he’s that way inclined because I really want to know what Silas gets up to when he’s not looking after Bod.
- Lovely if bittersweet ending that ties up the book nicely but I can’t say this was my favourite Neil Gaiman book of all time. If you’re a big Gaiman fan like me, give it a shot but, if it’s your first book, go for something like Anansi Boys or The Ocean At The End Of The Lane.
Goodreads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
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