Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book (2008) Readalong Part II

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.

26 thoughts on “Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book (2008) Readalong Part II

  1. I also enjoyed the headstones – wasn’t there one that said something about ‘regretted by all who knew him’? That made me chuckle. I like how Bod seems to think of them by their name and headstones, almost like we would say, ‘Ms. Emelia Johnson of apartment 4B with the petunias’.

  2. I think we agreed on most things about this section! I love Liza, the epigraphs are such enormous fun (and I like your philosophy about them–very interesting) and the bit with the bullies was great. I also love seeing Bod move between the two worlds, and it’s sad how his attempts to help others keep getting him in trouble.

    • Yes, it’s an interesting twist that helping others almost has him caught. I think when you see only one of the epigraphs it’s not impressive but when you see one after the other they start to sound like business cards and thinking that’s all that stays for the posterity, long after the family is gone and every one who knew you is uncanny.

  3. The bok still sounds good.

    Coincidentally I was wondering around the Sleepy Hollow cemetery today and was looking at old gravestones, some dating back to the 1700s and had similar feelings about everything being gone in so short a time.

  4. I’m still enjoying listening to this on audio. I don’t get to listen every morning as it is sometimes too cold and I need to wear my ear muffs and so can’t also wear my ear buds (what a strange name for them) to listen to my MP3 player. I am only on to the part where Bod has gotten in trouble with Mo and her policeman uncle and realizes that he must give up school because it is too dangerous for him to get caught and interact with the real world. I’m very curious to see how all this will be resolved. It’s a good story and often I have to chuckle over the things he says or does (how he wants to sometimes be with those who can breathe–a little sad that, and that some of his best friends are dead!). I can’t quite gage how much further I have to listen, but I think i must be somewhere past the midpoint anyway.

    • I really think this would be wonderful to listen to. I can imagine how fun. The idea that he couldn’t go to school anymore because it was too dangerous – more dangerous than a graveyard – appealed to me a great deal. 🙂
      I can’t belive it is that cold where you live! Only a few weeks ago it was sooo hot. Our climate is more moderate it seesm. It’s quite cool but not cold at all.

  5. Nice post, Caroline! Glad to know that you are liking the book as much as when you started it. The witch character looks really interesting. Hope you enjoy the rest of the book too. Happy reading!

  6. Good review. I have no illusions about how long I will be remembered for when I’m gone! These days you’re lucky if you get a grave – more likely your ashes will be scattered on a hill somewhere!

    • Thanks, Tom. We always think of those who come just after us but when we have been dead for centuries. Who will remember? And unless your remains are in afamily grave, you will not even have a grave anymore.

  7. I really enjoyed these middle chapters. I admire the compassionate young man Bod is becoming–and one who possesses a great deal of determination to do the right thing, even if he winds up a little over his head. I’m curious how things are going to turn out with the man named Jack!

    By the way, I love the artwork you posted for the Graveyard! Where did you find that? The artwork in my version isn’t nearly as detailed or colorful.

    • About the artwork – I just did a google search and this is one of the covers, I thik the children’s edition (if I’m not mistaken, there are two editions). I loved it and posted it, maybe it’s not allowed (:
      He is very compassionate, a lovely character. But most of the graveyard people are kind, only ghouls are quite dark and the real people are nasty, including the children.

  8. I missed joining in on this readalong, but I’m a little too late. I’ve not read and Neil Gaiman books and I want to correct that. Your lovely description just makes me want to pick up one of his books now.

    Have you read other Gaiman books? If so which one would you suggest reading first?

    • Jackie, I find he is a wonderful writer and I’m sure you’ll notice why, when you read him. He has a very precise way of descriping things. Oroginal but never over the top. It made me often think “Oh, that’s a nice way of saying things”.
      Which one to start with? Stardust if you like it more fairy tale like and if you like it more realistic, Neverwhere. Neverwhere is my favourite.

      • Thank you for the recommendation!

        I will put Neverwhere on my TBR list, and then go from there. I’m looking forward to it because I know how many people love Neil Gaiman.

  9. I’m loving the headstone bits. At first I think I didn’t give them much attention, but then I started to and it’s really a clever technique that adds much to the story. I’m really enjoying his little tactics to make this an original story.

  10. Caroline, have you seen that Neil Gailman’s “Signal To Noise” graphic novel is part of the current “Humble Bundle”, together with 12 other works? It looks really interesting, especially due to Dave McKean’s artwork which uses mixed graphical media.

    These are all digital formats so it may not be your thing, but the idea is that payment goes to both direct to authors and charities. You can even specify how the money is split. There are novels and comics included in the bundle.

    I’m also interested in Cory Doctorow’s latest novel and Kelly Link’s short story collections.
    It’s a time-limited event, 3 days left right now.

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