Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book (2008) is a novel by Neil Gaiman about a boy being raised by ghosts in an English graveyard. Geared towards young adults, Gaiman was inspired to write this story by Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1894) in which a little boy named Mowgli is raised by wolves in the jungle.

The Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody Owens. At the beginning of the novel, Nobody is orphaned when a man named Jack murders his parents and his older sister. Nobody manages to escape by wandering to a graveyard. The ghosts in the graveyard decide to care for him and protect him with the help of a vampire named Silas who serves as his guardian. Nobody, nicknamed “Bod,” is granted “Freedom of the Graveyard.” He is able to see ghosts and learn supernatural abilities, such as disappearing or Fading, Haunting, and Dreamwalking.

Bod has various adventures and learns about the outside world from the ghosts. He befriends a ghost witch named Liza Hempstock and a young living girl named Scarlett Amber Perkins, who later moves away to Scotland. Though he is safe in the graveyard, Bod craves learning about the outer world and convinces Silas to allow him to go to school. Unfortunately, when Bod attracts too much attention to himself at school, he has to leave.

Meanwhile, the man Jack continues to pursue Nobody with the goal of killing him to finish what he started. Nobody must use his skills to protect himself, his friends, and his home from the evil man Jack.

The Graveyard Book is a coming-of-age novel with an episodic quality. The main narrative conflict is the existence of the man Jack, but he is mainly absent from the story. Jack’s reason for pursuing Bod isn’t very compelling. Still, I really liked Bod and his friends, especially Scarlett and Liza, and I wonder where life will take Bod next.

There were many quotes and exchanges that I loved throughout the story. Here are a few of them:

Silas said, “Out there, the man who killed your family is, I believe, still looking for you, still intends to kill you.”
Bod shrugged. “So?” he said. “It’s only death. I mean, all of my best friends are dead.”
“Yes.” Silas hesitated. “They are. And they are, for the most part, done with the world. You are not. You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you’re dead, it’s gone. Over. You’ve made what you’ve made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished.”


“That’s the difference between the living and the dead, ennit?” said the voice. It was Liza Hempstock talking, Bod knew, although the witch-girl was nowhere to be seen. “The dead dun’t disappoint you. They’ve had their life, done what they’ve done. We dun’t change. The living, they always disappoint you, dun’t they? You meet a boy who’s all brave and noble, and he grows up to run away.”

Liza could be seen now, a misty shape in the alleyway keeping pace with Bod.
“He’s out here, somewhere, and he wants you dead,” she said. “Him as killed your family. Us in the graveyard, we wants you to stay alive. We wants you to surprise us and disappoint us and impress us and amaze us. Come home, Bod.”


Bod had allowed himself no friends among the living. That way, he had realized back during his short-lived schooldays, lay only trouble. Still, he had remembered Scarlett, had missed her for years after she went away, had long ago faced the fact he would never see her again. And now she had been here in his graveyard, and he had not known her...

Then she said, “Can I hug you?”
“Do you want to?” said Bod.
“Yes.”
“Well then.” He thought for a moment. “I don’t mind if you do.”
“My hands won’t go through you or anything? You’re really there?”
“You won’t go through me,” he told her, and she threw her arms around him and squeezed him so tightly he could hardly breathe. He said, “That hurts.”
Scarlett let go. “Sorry.”
“No. It was nice. I mean. You just squeezed more than I was expecting.”
“I just wanted to know if you were real. All these years I thought you were just something in my head. And then I sort of forgot about you. But I didn’t make you up, and you’re back, you’re in my head, and you’re in the world too.”


Nothing was said. Just a silence in reply, that echoed of dust and loneliness.

“How is she?”
“I took her memories,” said Silas. “They will return to Glasgow. She has friends there.”
“How could you make her forget me?”
Silas said, “People want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer.”


...Mother Slaughter interrupted, “And I still feels like I done when I was a tiny slip of a thing, making daisy chains in the old pasture. You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Liza’s voice, close to his ear, said, “Truly, life is wasted on the living, Nobody Owens. For one of us is too foolish to live, and it is not I. Say you will miss me.”
“Where are you going?” asked Bod. Then, “Of course I will miss you, wherever you go...”
“Too stupid,” whispered Liza Hempstock’s voice, and he could feel the touch of her hand on his hand. “Too stupid to live.”
The touch of her lips against his cheek, against the corner of his lips. She kissed him gently and he was too perplexed, too utterly wrong-footed, to know what to do.
Her voice said, “I will miss you too. Always.” A breath of wind ruffled his hair, if it was not the touch of her hand, and then he was, he knew, alone on the bench.


“Will I see you again?”
“Perhaps.” There was kindness in Silas’s voice, and something more. “And whether you see me or not, I have no doubt that I will see you.”


Related Reviews:
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran

Purchase and read books by Neil Gaiman:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett American Gods: A Novel by Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Poppy

Here's a sketch I made a few months back of a wild poppy.

Pen and Ink Drawing of a Poppy by Ingrid Lobo