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Sunday, April 1, 2012

thoughts on: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

(We listened to this on tape.  Neil Gaiman not only has a way with the written word, but he is a wonderful reader/narrator.  )

Neil Gaiman captures the feel and pacing and delight of Kipling's The Jungle Book, while allowing it to become a story entirely his own.  The Graveyard Book does not merely update the familiar story, changing the setting or substituting one character for another.  It honors the basic elements - the toddling lone survivor of a murderous attack, the community that takes him in, the solitary guardian who should be menacing but isn't, the episodic narrative - but is not bound to Mowgli's tale or Kipling's themes.

From the opening sentences, Gaiman turns the story around, placing the danger in the human world.  The murderer, the man Jack, continues to search for the child, and his only protection is the graveyard and his undead guardian.  Within the graveyard, Nobody Owens lives an idyllic if slightly lonely life.  Outside, danger lurks everywhere.  Bod, of course, ventures outside more and more often as he grows.

Spoilers!

I don't like to give spoilers, but, in this case, I want to share something that both surprised and pleased me.  In many books of fantasy, very many children's books, there is a hero who does not know who he is.  He's been stolen, or lost, or orphaned, and in order to defeat some evil, he must find out who he is.  There is some strength the hero will only be able to access when he knows his true name, or some inheritance he needs from his true, ie birth, family.

Neil Gaiman presents us with this young man.  When the time comes, he discovers his name, and it is Nobody Owens.  The name given to him by his adoptive parents and his guardian.  We never do learn, nor does he, what name he'd been given at birth, and it does not matter.  He is who he is. 

As an adoptee, and an adoptive mom, I love that!

1 comment:

Missus Wookie said...

Neil Gaiman read the first couple of pages from this before it was published at EasterCon a few years ago so I wanted to read the rest. I enjoyed it, thought there were some interesting bits.

Have you read Neverwhere? There were echos of that world I felt - but then that's Neil's style too.