Review of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by NEIL GAIMAN
An easy, quick read, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK possesses Gaiman’s distinct tone: deceptively formulaic enough to trick you into thinking you know what’s going to happen but then original enough to continually surprise you. In retrospect, the arch is clean and easy to map, but that doesn’t mean you see it coming when you’re reading. The book opens with a grisly start: a mysterious murderer dispatches an entire family…except the surprisingly competent baby who escapes to a nearby graveyard where the ghosts decide to raise and protect him.
From the very first scene, it’s clear that the story is building towards the principal confrontation at the end. That sometimes makes the rest of the book feel like filler until that moment, but Gaiman packs it full of enough interesting events along the way to distract the reader from the impending conflict. Also, the book has a very natural flow that tugs the reader along from one page until the next.
The writing takes a somewhat distanced approach to the characters, but I found myself nonetheless eagerly snatching up whatever small lines I could about each individual to piece together as much about them as possible. Sadly, the only one who didn’t win me over was Bod, our protagonist. His nickname is short for Nobody, what the ghosts named him once they decided to adopt him. It may very well be the author’s intent (and I’m still pondering Bod’s character), but sometimes Nobody did feel a little like a nobody. He has a few defining moments, but for the most part he feels underdeveloped and a little hollow. One might attribute his rather bland personality to the fact that he has been trapped in a graveyard all his life with mostly only dead company, but I would expect a mixed bag of ghosts from different centuries and backgrounds serving as family to make a person more interesting, not less.
This is a book that raises as many or more questions than it answers, but satisfies by covering all the major ones. Even if Nobody Owens didn’t captive me, his surrounding cast did and my mind toyed with the characters after the book ended, imagining what’s next for my favorites.