Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Graveyard Book

Although I adore Neil Gaiman's comic book work like his wonderful Sandman magnum opus, I have never really enjoyed any of his novels. His adult novels like American Gods failed to interest me and his books more aimed at younger readers never quite hit the right mark. Stardust attempts to to tell a tale in fairy tale style but is far too long for that style to engage. Basically I think he wrote a novel using a style more suited to the short form. He has great ideas, a wonderful imagination and a wide eclectic grab-bag of interests and knowledge to draw upon. Neverwhere was an explosion of concepts, wordplays and atmosphere but too much jumble at once and always preempted by the tv series and undermined by rewrites to suit other audiences.
The Graveyard Book is for me his first hit, yes, a very palpable hit. Escaping from the man Jack (a very Gaimaneske assassin) who murders his family in their beds, a young toddler escapes to the strange safety of a nearby graveyard. He's adopted by the local ghosts and named Nobody - or Bod for short. Each chapter is pretty self contained as Bod grows up and learns about the different characters that inhabit his new world. Perfect for reading a chapter a night for the kids. And there are some really fine characters; the vampirish Silas, Miss Lupescu, Scarlett and my favourite, the capricious ghost witch Liza Hempstock. It's a simply written, pleasurable, charming and surprisingly emotional read. My copy was illustrated by the excellent off kilter line drawings of Chris Riddell.

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