Gosh, it has been awhile, eh? Between comings and goings for work holidays and stressing over the wedding, I did not have much time to sit and make up a nice post (other bloggers would know how much time it actually takes to put one of these together!). Then when I was ready to do so, I was struck by the dreaded reading slump, and was stuck uninspired with any book I pick up — Sense & Sensibility and We Have Always Lived in A Castle could not pull me in how ever much I tried. It wasn’t that I did not want to read and I was forcing myself; I very much wanted to read something, but nothing was just clicking! That happens to a lot of readers too, right?
Anyhow, the book that broke my slump came at the most random moment — I was out shopping for Christmas presents and was at a Waterstones looking for stocking fillers, when I felt my tummy calling for lunch. I did not want to sit through a meal looking at my phone, so I determinedly tried to find a ‘lunch book’. Nearly went for a John le Carré, but found The Graveyard Book at the ‘Books for Syria’ pile. Loved the cover, loved the little blurb at the back (which is a dying thing at the moment — another rant for another day), so went straight to the counter and bought it! It’s not exactly a Christmas read, but I couldn’t care since I was just so glad I can get rid of this slump!
Neil Gaiman, author of this lovely novel, said that it was inspired by watching his then two-year-old son riding his tricycle between gravestones in the sunshine. This is in stark contrast to the boy in the book, Nobody Owens, who plays around his world — the graveyard — when the moon is high. Known to the “community” as Bod, his playmates, teachers, and guardians are otherworldly, incorporeal beings, and he is taught that there is great danger to himself beyond the gates of the graveyard.
Not that being inside the graveyard gates is completely safe, as he finds himself in a few adventures within its borders. Once the book has settled Bod in his world in the graveyard, we follow his growth in each chapter as he goes on exploring the secrets of his “home” and meeting its inhabitants. Most of them have the feel of short stories which can stand well on its own, and I found it just slightly detaching whenever each chapter finishes. However, it all ties up well in the end, and the stories still end up being connected towards the overall resolution of Bod’s story.
I had an easy time reading it (which is apparently best for when you’re trying to get out of a slump) and would have finished it in a day if it weren’t for other responsibilities. I loved all the characters, and I especially liked that some of the well-known ‘creatures of the night’ were not labelled as how they are famously known. Just casual allusions here and there which leaves no doubt as to what they are, but no direct acknowledgement.
The weakest link I found was the reason for Bod’s family’s murder (this isn’t a spoiler, as it is mentioned in the back cover blurb). At the climax of the story where we also get the big reveal, I felt it was quite unconvincing that all that effort was for something apparently vital, but I’m really not sold of the weight of its importance.
Either way, the journey was good fun, and I found myself feeling sadly bittersweet at the ending. It discusses a ‘home’ you can never go back to, growing up, and finding and having a good life lived before you are called to death’s door. It doesn’t sound as macabre as I put it, I swear. I guess since I have just gotten married, it hits quite close to home. Despite living far away from my family, I always feel like things can still somewhat be the same whenever I go back for holidays — I can just sit about or go around and have my time all to myself, be spoiled by my mother, and not have a care in the world for the length of time I am there. But after the big event, I am now a half of a whole and it’s an all new adventure, and things can never be the same.
I think Mistress Owens’ song is quite apt —
“Face your life
Its pain, its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken”
– Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book)
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Let’s have a chat!
What was your life’s big adventure that made you feel like going home will never be the same again?