Monday, January 19, 2009

Book Review: "The Graveyard Book"

Nobody Owens lives in a graveyard. That's the premise of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book (2008), his latest fantastical volume. In this unconventional reworking of Kipling's "Jungle Book," Nobody (or Bod, familiarly) grows up with the ghostly residents of his graveyard, these kindly folks having taken him in as an infant after the rest of his family was brutally murdered. Bod's pursuers never stop searching, however, and as the boy grows, guardians must find the delicate balance between protecting the boy and allowing him to make his own way in the world.

There was much about this story that I liked very much. Gaiman's handling of the graveyard folks was deft (managing characters from many different time periods at once is a tricky proposition), and Bod's struggles to come to grips with his own humanity was lovely. But I felt like there were far too many knots left untangled when I came to the end of the book (I won't outline them all here since most of them would spoil the ending), and those unanswered questions bothered me.

The text is complemented nicely by Dave McKean's eerie illustrations. All in all, a good book, which could have been improved with a bit more backstory.

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