There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife. The hand belonged to a man named Jack, and the knife just killed a father, a mother and a sister. It did not kill the little boy, who managed to escape to the nearby graveyard, where he was raised by the ghosts of that place, and a vampire guardian.
Since I first read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book 10 years ago, I have also read Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book(s), which Gaiman has said was somewhat of an inspiration. And I can see that, much like the stories in The Jungle Book, each chapter in The Graveyard Book can stand on its own. (In fact, chapter four, “The Witch’s Headstone” was published as a short story a year before the novel came out.)
In each chapter, we see that the young boy — now called Nobody ‘Bod’ Owens — has grown a year or two, and he has an adventure. At first, they’re quaint little affairs — befriending a living girl and visiting an ancient tomb far below the cemetery; being captured by ghouls and outwitting them; arranging a headstone for a witch — but as Bod grows up, it slowly becomes more serious, like dancing the macabray with the Grey Lady, or going to school. Finally, all the story threads come together in the final showdown, where Bod has to defeat the man Jack and his buddies all by himself.
If not for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Graveyard Book would probably be my favorite Gaiman book. It’s clearly aimed at younger readers, and the story is fairly straight-forward, but it just tugs at my heart in all the right ways.
- Book read
- Neil Gaiman — The Graveyard Book
- First line
- There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.