Last week I wrote about chapters 1 -3 of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, this week we have read chapters 4 – 6.
I’m glad to report that I’m still enjoying the book a lot. The structure is less episodic now, some elements return and we already know that the man Jack who killed Bod’s whole family is still around and hasn’t given up. Bod meets new people in these chapters and one of the most important is a witch. She may be one of my favourite characters and the relationship between the two is quite touching. But there is more. The story of the witch illustrates that there is a very interesting historical dimension to this book which could be overread but it’s present and very well done. The witch is in a part of the graveyard where people lie who have no gravestones, because they were suicides or otherwise cast out by the church. In a place in which gravestones play such a prominent role, to be without one, is like being bereft of your identity. The witch is very sad about this fact and Bod, who is a truly goodhearted little boy, tries to buy her a tombstone. Unfortunately this very nice thought brings not only a lot of trouble but at the end of the whole undertaking, the man Jack is informed that the little baby he couldn’t kill has turned into a boy and is still alive.
An element which didn’t strike me at first is how the many inhabitants of the graveyard are often presented. Gaiman gives us the inscriptions of their headstones like in this example “Majella Godspeed, Spinster of his Parish, 1791 – 1870, Lost to All but Memory”. When you’ve read half a dozen of these the effect is quite uncanny. It looks as if all that is left of us is our name, our dates, and -when we are lucky – an inscription that is poetical and wise and not one that is unintentionally funny.
In these chapters Bod gets into trouble more than once and what is sad is the fact that it is always when he tries to help others. But we do also discover another side of Bod. He has truly become a person who is able to move between the living and the dead and to use their respective talents. One of the scenes I enjoyed the most is when he uses his skills to haunt two particularly nasty children.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest now which will probably be this afternoon. It’s cool outside and rainy, the perfect weather for a book like this.
I’m reading The Graveyard Book for Carl’s readalong which is part of R.I.P. VII. If you want to read other’s thoughts, don’t miss visiting Carl’s blog for the other reviews.