Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I’ve read The Graveyard Book in a single day, not just because it appealed to the child that I hide deep inside, but rather because every now and then it exploded into moments of magic and imagination, which have simply kept me asking for more. It is needless to say that Gaiman is not just a writer for kids, but for the young at heart as well.
     This is the story of Nobody (does the name have anything to do with Greek mythology? That is the question.), a boy who’s been hit by misfortune at a very young age. He could hardly walk and talk at the time his parents and older sister got murdered, virtually in front of his own eyes. He only managed to escape by a stroke of luck, and because of his boundless curiosity, which was a part of his character since day one of his short life. All it took was an open door, while the crime was committed, and he was free to go. And off he went; out to the street and on to the graveyard; where he was destined to live for a long time to come.
     The graveyard itself was like a micro cosmos of the modern times, but also of the ones that have come to pass; but a far more interesting place than the world of the living. Right there everything was exciting. There were so many people with so many things to say. At a place like that one could learn all there is to learn and even more. It was the home of the brave and the cowards; the good and the bad; the wise and the stupid; the open-hearted and the petty. From the very first moment that he set foot inside, Nobody became a firm favorite with most of the inhabitants and a family offered to adopt him right away. And thus was born their Bod, their “living boy”, their mascot. The Owens, his new family, did whatever they could to replace his lost parents in his young heart; Silas, a mysterious and kind of dark character who -the exception of the witch, Lisa- was the only person who could wander outside the graveyard, took over as his guardian and tutor; while a few others volunteered to help with his upbringing.
     So lucky, poor Bod started living in a, at the very least, weird society, full of wonders and magic, in a world where for him love was a given. But, and there’s always a but, all his friends were dead, and he, without even knowing it, longed for the company of the living. He founded a way out of his dead end when he met Scarlet, the only living person who could see him. However, their friendship was not to last for long, since she was about to leave. Her departure would create a void in his heart.
     Despite that though his life from then on would be nothing but empty. Au contraire it’d  become a non-stop adventure; an adventure that would bring him time and again face to face with danger; a danger that’d be big enough to prove the kindness of his soul.
     The Graveyard Book is a story that grabs the reader by the hand, or by the heart, and takes him on a journey to the worlds of fantasy, at the land of the legend. It talks about the everlasting battle between the good and the evil, without ever trying to be didactic. Life is not simply a walk in the park; the author seems to want to say, but he never does. Instead he just tells the story and then allows the readers to reach their own conclusions.
     A story beautifully told by a master story-teller. A part of it, or rather a shortened and a bit different version of it, first appeared in the M is for Magic short story collection. Under the title The Witch’s Tomb, it told the story of Bod and Lisa the witch, his special friend, to whom he gave an extra special gift.

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