Friday, March 27, 2009

The Best Book I've Read in Months

Hello friends! I realize it's been awhile since I've posted anything, and I apologize. However, I think I have found the book that's gotten me excited about reading and sharing again. In fact, I am ready to name it the best book (okay, at least my favorite book) I've read since finishing War and Peace way back in December.

So what book has set my heart a-flutter and filled me with joy? It's The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman (with illustrations by Dave McKean).

I decided the read Gaiman's novel after reading several positive reviews for it this winter. Then, it won the John Newberry Medal. Yes, it's a kid's book (ages 9-12, according to But that didn't stop me from wanting to read about a child raised in a cemetery. I waited for the perfect time - Spring Break - to read it, and although I was worried at first about getting back into children's literature, I was rewarded a hundred times over with the two days I spent reading it.

It's fantastic. Well-written, fantastic characters, mysterious and thrilling plot - everything you want from a good book, it's here. The novel tells the story of Nobody Owens, a boy raised by ghosts in an old English cemetery after his family is murdered. As long as he stays in the cemetery, he's safe, avoiding trouble and the murderous Jack, who is still after the baby he couldn't manage to kill. Nobody, or Bod as he's called, is closely watched by his guardian, Silas, a mysterious figure who exists between the living and the dead. Gaiman never right-out tells us what Silas is, but he gives enough clues that a reader knows without needing a name for it. With Silas and the ghosts watching over him, Bod grows up, gets in trouble, has a showdown with Jack, and learns some life lessons along the way. It's a very simple story, but because of Bod's circumstances and surroundings, it's very original and entertaining.

I was less intrigued by the plot, though, than I was by the little things Gaiman does in his novel. The way he gives us the inscription engraved on every headstone Bod encounters, the sly allusion to Harry S. Truman, the way human emotions are perceived by a child - these are the moments that make this novel work. The characters are also fantastic, particularly Silas, whose mystery and tragedy collide with his love for Bod in a very human way.

In the end, this book full of ghosts, supernatural creatures, and murderers is simply a story about growing up and learning to set out in the world on one's own. It's a beautiful book, told very lovingly and with great attention to detail and atmosphere. Whether you're interested in the supernatural, in humanity, or children's lit in general, it's a great read. I loved it, despite being a decade older than its intended audience. I even cried at the end, and any book that can make me do that earns my devotion.

Work Mentioned:
Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Happy Reading, everyone!

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