Ex Libris: Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book
They say it takes a village to raise a child. In The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman has taken this adage to spin it in his own unique take on raising a child, i.e. it takes a graveyard to raise a child.
If one were of suspicious nature, one could accuse Gaiman of having a fixation with Death and all its accoutrements. One of Gaiman’s most popular works of fictions is his vision of Death—a pale, thin Goth girl in black with the personality of Mary Poppins—in his seminal The Sandman comic book series. Though Gaiman relates the seed of this tale lay elsewhere, it does seem that Gaiman has hopes that mortality has a friendlier face than imagined.
At the start of this book, Gaiman pulls no punches as he writes of the aftermath of the death of a family at the hands of a human monster named Jack. The sole survivor is a babe who manages to escape and slip into a nearby graveyard where he attracts the attention of an old ghostly couple, the Owenses. Thanks to the stubbornness of Mrs. Owens, the babe is allowed to become part of the graveyard community and is given the ‘Freedom of the Graveyard’ with its inherent powers and abilities. The new-named Bod—short for ‘Nobody'—also gains a guardian in Silas, a mysterious figure that roams the graveyard, as well as the support of the Grey Lady, a being revered by graveyard ghosts (shades of the pixie-like Death, the sister of Dream?).
From here, Bod’s life living among the dead and the fixtures of the dead leisurely expands as Gaiman reveals the world behind the veil. From the Dance Macabray that draws the living and the dead at least once a year to the Honor Guard—a group to which Silas belongs—that protects the borders in-between the living and the dead, Gaiman creates an imaginative ‘neither’ world with his trademark flourish.
Whereas the opening perspective of Gaiman’s previous works, American Gods and Anansi Boys, was older and adult, Interworld and Coraline seemed to be directed at younger readers. For this one, readers from YA to adult-range will be able to jump into The Graveyard Book with no trouble. Gaiman writes an engaging tale, from the friendly narrative voice that easily draws the reader into the story to the likeable characters. In fact, it was easy to sympathize with Bod, who grows up into a mature, level-headed young man faced with a dark past.
And just in case you're wondering, yes, us Filipinos are mentioned in this book! (Rating: 4 paws out of 4.)