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Guest Review: The Graveyard Book

Last week Neil Gaiman was out and about reading an excerpt of his new book The Graveyard Book in St. Paul.  Fellow book blogger Kim L. at Bold. Blue. Adventure. got to see him and wrote a great post about it here.

A friend of mine, Ben Wheeler, also attended Gaiman’s speech and was kind enough to write a guest post for me about that experience.  Ben also include his awesome review of The Graveyard Book.  The review is posted on his blog, Flying the Stone Kite, so I’m only going to put an excerpt here.  If you want to read the full review, please head to his site!


There Was a Hand in the Darkness, and It Held A Knife: A review of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman wasn’t good enough to write The Graveyard Book.  I know because he told me.  Last week, Neil wrapped up his nine-city reading tour in promotion for the new novel, which debuted atop at New York Times Children’s Book List, with a reading of the novel’s final chapter in St. Paul.  As he told the some one thousand people in attendance, The Graveyard Book had its beginning in a small English graveyard some twenty-two years ago.  Neil, then a journalist, would walk across the street to the graveyard, where he would sit on a bench and watch as his then three-year old son wind his way through the headstones on his tricycle.  Neil remembers thinking, “He looks so at home here,” and the idea for the book that would take a major cue from Kipling’s Jungle Books came to him, but instead the creatures of the jungle, the young boy would be raised by the ghosts in the graveyard and would learn all of the secret things the dead know.

Neil started writing the book soon after, but put it aside after a few pages, saying, “I’m not good enough to do this idea justice.  I’ll get better, and come back and do it right.”  Several years later, after success with Sandman, Neil dug the pages out again, and again, he decided he was not good enough to do the book properly.  Then, some twenty years after the idea came to him, he realized that he was not getting any better.  And so he wrote the book.

After the reading in St. Paul, an audience member asked what his headstone would say where it to be found in the graveyard described in the book.  Neil shuffled through various humorous answers he had given on other stops (Neil Gaiman.  Missing, presumed under here), and finally suggested, rather soberly “Neil Gaiman: He Wrote The Graveyard Book.”   From hearing him speak, I got the sense that the completion of this new novel was a point of immense pride for him, something like the culmination of twenty years of creative work.  It is the book he’s been waiting much of his career to write.

And so this all begs the question: is the book any good?

The short answer: yes.

The novel sees Gaiman returning in part to territory first explored in his last novel for young adults, Coraline.  It is written in Gaiman’s familiar, sparse, stripped-down prose, a deceptively simply writing style that often is inspiring in its clarity.  The story follows a young boy named Nobody Owens, orphaned as an infant when a man murders his parents and older sister.  The infant Bod (as he’s called for short) scoots down the stairs and toddles out the open front door, narrowly eluding the murderer.  The child, not yet a toddler, finds his way up the hill and into the graveyard where the ghosts who live there take him in, and grant him The Freedom of the Graveyard, meaning he can do things within the graveyard that other people would not normally be able to do.  From there, the story begins.


If you’d like to read the rest of the review, head to Ben’s blog.  I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t — that is such a well-written review.  It makes me aspire to writing my reviews better.  If you have the time, peruse around a bit to Ben’s other posts.  He’s a short story and novel writer himself, and you can see some examples of his work on the site.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kim L October 17, 2008, 2:52 am

    Great review of the book and the event! I enjoyed this event even more than a regular book signing because of all the time we got to spend in Q & A.

    Also, thanks for linking me!

  • Kim October 17, 2008, 8:43 pm

    Kim L: I thought you and Ben both wrote good reviews/interpretations of the Q&A event — I really wish I could have gone!