Tag Archives: neil gaiman

The Graveyard Book

Dark urban young adult fantasy

I have been reading this author for a long time, and he has an impressive bibliography of novels that straddle the blurry line between fantasy and realism. This book has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while after my partner bought it for me, and I have to admit, the cover had not really attracted me. I know the artist is incredibly well-known, and while I agree the style is probably in line with the themes of the book, it is a bit skeletal and knobbly for my tastes. It sat there gathering dust for some time until I thought, I just need two more books to finish my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge, this one looks relatively short and it has been a while since I’ve read this author.

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“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman is a young adult fantasy novel about a little boy called Nobody Owens who lives in a graveyard. Narrowly escaping murder like the rest of his family by the man Jack, Bod, as he is affectionately known, is granted refuge among the ghosts and creatures who live in the graveyard. Although adopted by Mr and Mrs Owens, and watched over by his mysterious guardian Silas, Bod is given a large amount of freedom within the confines of the graveyard.¬†However, the protection cannot last forever, and sooner or later Bod must return to the real world and live his life.

This, at heart, is a book about growing up. Gaiman sets the scene by introducing the graveyard, its features and residents and uses them as a yardstick to measure how Bod grows and changes over time. In his usual subtle way, Gaiman explores the differences between good and bad, child and adult, accepting help and self-reliance – all things that young people must navigate as they start to find their own way in the world. This is also a book about boundaries, which ones are flexible, which ones are permeable and which ones must remain steadfast. Gaiman is never condescending in this book, and I think that the way that he writes about the challenges Bod faces leaves a lot of room for young readers to make up their own minds about the way things turn out. I really enjoyed how Bod aged over time, and I think it’s quite rare for a children’s book to really examine how children’s personalities develop.

I think the problem I had with this book is that while it is undeniably rich, at times it felt a bit constraining while reading it. I completely understand that Gaiman explores different kinds of freedoms and deliberately uses the border of the graveyard as both a physical and metaphorical barrier. However, because the majority of the story is set within the graveyard, and a lot of the story is Bod revisiting places and people within that graveyard, there were times where the book feels a bit repetitive.

Nevertheless, a complex and sophisticated young adult novel in Gaiman’s trademark style that I think many kids would enjoy.


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The Graveyard Book

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Filed under Book Reviews, Children's Books, Fantasy, Young Adult

Ocean at the End of the Lane

I am a long-standing Neil Gaiman fan, and his novel “Ocean at the End of the Lane” is exactly the standard of story-telling I have come to love and expect from him. Neil Gaiman is a phenomenal crafter of modern fairy tales, and this book is no exception.

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First of all, even though it is about a child, this is not a children’s book. If you are thinking of reading this to your kids, maybe read it first yourself and then reconsider. Similar in tone to his book “Coraline”, “Ocean at the End of the Lane” is much, much darker. It follows the story of a seven year old boy whose name I actually didn’t notice is never mentioned in the book. After the tenant who lives in his family home steals their car and kills himself, circumstances lead the protagonist to meet the mysterious family of three women from three generations who live in the house at the bottom of the lane.

I’m reluctant¬†to write much more about the book because I don’t want to spoil it, but this is a book that lingers with you long after you have finished it. It is at times both frightening and disturbing, and extremely graphic. Also, after reading both this book and “Coraline”, I’m starting to wonder if Gaiman has a pathological fear of fabric.

This is a deeply personal book. Although not autobiographical in nature, Gaiman did acknowledge that elements of it were drawn from his own childhood home and experiences. It seems to focus on the idea of corruptibility and the trustworthiness of our memories.

I’m going to wrap this review up here, because the book really does speak for itself. If you want a modern fantasy book to make you think – read this one.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fantasy