First released: 30th October 2008
By: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Audiobook length: 7 hr and 48 min
Narrator: Neil Gaiman
Here's a fantastic ghost adventure story, laced with menace and humour.
When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard?
Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him - after all, he is the last remaining member of the family.
A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod's life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?
I'm very sad to say this, but I'm starting to think I'm not going to love Neil Gaiman as an author. I already love him as a person; I read his blog, his interviews, follow him on Twitter...and on paper, he seems like he should be one of my favourite authors. Every fantasy fan loves Gaiman, but the books of his I've read so far (Stardust, Good Omens) haven't really reached above 'OK' for me - the only exception being some of the volumes of The Sandman series. I think my expectations are too high, because The Graveyard Book was another one that I assumed I would fall in love with, only to feel underwhelmed.
The Graveyard Book has a totally brilliant opening that hooked me immediately. A mysterious figure, known only as 'the man Jack' has just murdered an entire family - except for the baby boy. The man Jack has no scruples against infanticide, it's just that the baby has escaped from the house and Jack must chase him down to the nearby graveyard. However, he is thwarted in his plan to kill the baby, as the ghosts of the graveyard rise up to protect the boy. They hide him from Jack's sight and once Jack is gone, they all agree to raise the boy themselves in the graveyard. They call him 'Nobody', 'Bod' for short.
I was at the edge of my seat listening to this first chapter, practically shaking from the tension. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. Only, what happened next was a series of unconnected adventures as Bod grows up in the graveyard. Each chapter deals with some new escapade and the story thread that the book began with is only brought up again once in an interlude chapter and then at the end.
These kinds of stories are just never going to be my favourite - I prefer a narrative arc that's at the forefront, not the backburner. Some of these little adventures in The Graveyard Book are imaginative and interesting - the danse macabre, for instance, or the chapter where Bod goes to school - but there was nothing to really keep me hooked. Stardust was a very similar experience for me, which is why I'm starting to think Gaiman isn't my kind of storyteller. I'm trying American Gods, but if that doesn't work for me, I give up.
The Graveyard Book may not have lit my fire as a book, but I have to say, as a listening experience, the audiobook is truly spectacular. Gaiman narrates it himself and not only is his natural voice rich and deep and lovely to listen to, but the variety of voices and accents he's able to do for all the characters, made me feel like I was listening to a full cast radio play. Music plays at the start and end of every chapter that's really atmospheric and fitting and puts you in the right mood. I'm convinced that all the enjoyment I did get from The Graveyard Book was down to the audio, so if you're interested in the story, that's the way I recommend reading it.
Rating: 2.5 stars