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New Leaf May 2019 Discussion • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
#11  gmw 05-15-2019, 09:38 PM
This is a favourite so I knew I'd enjoy it again even though it was only around 2 years since my last visit; this is one of those books I could pick up at any time. (I must say that Kipling's The Jungle Book never quite held the same attraction for me; I admire it for its place in history/literature more than for the stories themselves.)

I think it takes a very special touch to be able to weave a tale like this, where grief, and loss, and violence and ugliness are so central to the story and yet the story avoids losing itself in any of these things. That, almost as much as anything else, is what makes this feel so much a fairytale; the prose remains mostly light and unaffected and yet the feelings are all there and none of the depth is lost.


I find Gaiman to be an adventure; when you pick up a new book of his you never know what what you will find. I like his voice, so I buy and read all his books, but they get quite a wide range of responses from me. My favourites of his include this, as well as Neverwhere (a novelisation of the TV series he wrote), and Stardust - another story that feels so much like a fairytale, though rather more traditional in its styling than this book.
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#12  Catlady 05-15-2019, 09:51 PM
The best I can say is that I didn't hate it.

Unlike some recent selections that I had to force myself to get through, it at least held my interest most of the way, though I wanted a real plot, not just a bunch of strung-together episodes. I am not inspired to read more of Neil Gaiman.

I listened to the full-cast audiobook, which was acceptable, though the musical interludes were overdone, and the voicing of Sleer was WAY over the top.

And somebody tell me why, when the toddler was the primary target of the man Jack, he killed the other members of the family first--or at all? Wouldn't a good assassin go straight for the toddler? Of course, then there'd be no story, but, seriously, couldn't Gaiman come up with some rationale to explain this stupidity instead of just ignoring it?

Maybe I missed it, but why weren't the murders and the missing toddler splashed all over the news?

Jack Frost? Seriously?
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#13  Bookpossum 05-16-2019, 12:54 AM
The episodic nature of the book was in reference to the series of stories about Mowgli in The Jungle Book. I thought they hung together well, but then I am predisposed to enjoy Gaiman.

Killing the whole family was presumably a way of stopping the outcry they would make if only the toddler was killed. I think the implication at least was that the Jacks of All Trades was an extremely powerful "behind the scenes" group, with the contacts to manage to suppress such reports in the news, and presumably to stop the involvement of the police.

While I agree that this may seem a little far-fetched, I think we are kidding ourselves if we believe that manipulations by powerful groups and individuals do not go on in our various countries. We only think we know what is going on!

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the book more, but it sounds as if I would have hated the audiobook you listened to also. But then, I far prefer reading a book to listening to one.
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#14  Bookworm_Girl 05-16-2019, 01:02 AM
Oh my! I didn't realize today was the 15th so I didn't see this post until now and don't have much time until the weekend to respond. I'm so happy that many of you enjoyed this book!

Here are a few thoughts for now. I really loved this book a lot even though it's not the usual type of book that I would read. I expected to like it since I enjoyed Neverwhere and Coraline. I'm not sure I would like some of his other books such as American Gods but who knows how I might be surprised if I tried it. I do enjoy some fantasy now and then, especially when mixed with children's books.

Like others, I read The Jungle Book before I read The Graveyard Book, and it enhanced my appreciation of Gaiman's accomplishment on this book. I did not particularly like The Jungle Book as much as other Kipling books that I have read such as Kim. However, I wanted to understand Gaiman's inspiration for the structure of his book. One of which is that the overall plot is the coming of age story for Bod and that he has to ultimately defeat his nemesis independently, but it is told in a series of stories that are about coming of age and fitting in just like in The Jungle Book.

Also, after reading The Jungle Book, I wrote down a list of themes as follows: Rules and Order, Revenge, Violence, Courage, Coming of Age, Foreignness/Outsider, Principles, Betrayal and Family.

After I read The Graveyard Book and looked back on this list of themes, I could see how much Gaiman was able to replicate through his own unique story.
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#15  Bookworm_Girl 05-16-2019, 01:06 AM
Quote Catlady
The best I can say is that I didn't hate it.

Unlike some recent selections that I had to force myself to get through, it at least held my interest most of the way, though I wanted a real plot, not just a bunch of strung-together episodes. I am not inspired to read more of Neil Gaiman.
Coming from Catlady, I think this is actually a compliment. LOL.
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#16  gmw 05-16-2019, 01:48 AM
Why pick on Jack Frost? Why not Jack Tar, Jack Ketch, or Jack Dandy, or Jack Nimble (Jack be nimble, I'm assuming). Of all those names, only Jack Ketch comes with appropriately macabre connotations, but then that was not what Gaiman was looking for with these characters (macabre/macabray is played with separately). Come to think of it, Jack of all Trades is also quite corny/traditional/old/obvious/childish/perfect-fit-for-the-story, pick one depending on your preferences.

The early Jack foresaw "there would be a child born" - it did not tell them it was this particular baby. "We had people casting nativities before London was a village, we had your family in our sights before New Amsterdam became New York.", so the horoscopes directed them the family, not the child. Kill the children and not the parents and the parents may well have another child. And, on top of all that, one gets the impression that Jack enjoyed his work enough to be thorough for the sake of it.

There is a great deal left unexplained in The Graveyard Book, as there is in several other Gaiman stories. He hints at things and gives the impression of much larger settings and backgrounds than you ever get clearly defined. This works for me with Gaiman in the way I would likely have trouble accepting from many others.
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#17  CRussel 05-16-2019, 02:17 AM
Hmm. Jack Frost -- Clearly to be played by David Jason in the film version.
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#18  Dazrin 05-16-2019, 03:03 AM
One of the signs of a good book for me is wanting to know more.

How/why did Silas change from being a bad guy to being who he is in this book?

Tell me more of the adventures of Silas, Ms. Lupescu and the others...

Where does Bod end up going and and what does he do?

There are so many hooks here that I want to know MORE!

But I think that is part of the reason I like it so much in itself. While I want to know the answers to those and other questions, imagining them is interesting in itself. Some of those answers, while I am curious, would actually spoil the fun. I don't need to know what Bod does, that he is in a place to DO it is enough. (I do want more about Silas and the others though.)
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#19  fantasyfan 05-16-2019, 10:23 AM
Of course The Jungle Book is the main inspiration of Neil Gaiman’s work but I noticed a nod to his interest in Norse Mythology in his description of Ghûlheim with its Nordic sounding name. But there is also a possible sly reference to H. P. Lovecraft with that writer’s description of alien landscapes having “obscene” mind-bending, horrifying angles. Note the following passage:

“Bod see that all of the angles were wrong–that the walls sloped crazily, that it was every nightmare he had ever endured made into a place, like a huge mouth of jutting teeth. It was a city that had been built just to be abandoned, in which all the fears and madnesses and revulsions of the creatures who built it were made into stone.”

Personally, I think that the names of the evil cult have Chestertonian overtones. The Man Who Was Thursday has a series of characters named after days of the week. In a wonderful short story, The Queer Feet, Chesterton creates an evil hierarchy of power called “The Twelve True Fishermen.”

While I am not certain at all that Gaiman was definitely influenced by G. K. Chesterton, I do feel that he has something of the same kind of quirky wit.
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#20  Catlady 05-16-2019, 12:43 PM
Quote Bookpossum
Killing the whole family was presumably a way of stopping the outcry they would make if only the toddler was killed. I think the implication at least was that the Jacks of All Trades was an extremely powerful "behind the scenes" group, with the contacts to manage to suppress such reports in the news, and presumably to stop the involvement of the police.
But they needed to suppress any outcry why? We're supposed to believe in this powerful but shadowy group that couldn't just grab the baby from the house, kill him off-site, and discard or hide the body, and then slink back into the shadows. So what if police and townspeople were frantic.

Quote
I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the book more, but it sounds as if I would have hated the audiobook you listened to also. But then, I far prefer reading a book to listening to one.
I didn't hate the audiobook, just the music and Sleer. I would have been more annoyed reading some of the unpronounceable names in text.

Quote Bookworm_Girl
Coming from Catlady, I think this is actually a compliment. LOL.
Exactly!

Quote gmw
Why pick on Jack Frost? Why not Jack Tar, Jack Ketch, or Jack Dandy, or Jack Nimble (Jack be nimble, I'm assuming). Of all those names, only Jack Ketch comes with appropriately macabre connotations, but then that was not what Gaiman was looking for with these characters (macabre/macabray is played with separately). Come to think of it, Jack of all Trades is also quite corny/traditional/old/obvious/childish/perfect-fit-for-the-story, pick one depending on your preferences.
Because as soon as Mr. Frost was introduced, I thought, Oh no, he can't be Jack, can he? Surely Gaiman isn't going there. And then, lo and behold. Also, the other Jacks came later, I believe, and weren't immediately recognizable--I never heard of Jack Ketch, for example.

Quote
The early Jack foresaw "there would be a child born" - it did not tell them it was this particular baby. "We had people casting nativities before London was a village, we had your family in our sights before New Amsterdam became New York.", so the horoscopes directed them the family, not the child. Kill the children and not the parents and the parents may well have another child. And, on top of all that, one gets the impression that Jack enjoyed his work enough to be thorough for the sake of it.
So the family was in their sights for generations, but somehow they couldn't manage to wipe out the line a few hundred years back? It all came down to this one family--and yet Jack couldn't kill the baby FIRST, when he was the primary target and the primary threat?

What I mainly wanted from the book was an explanation of the murders and the pursuit of the child, and I was quite dissatisfied with what I got; it seemed that Gaiman used those events basically as an excuse for the series of coming-of-age short stories he wanted to tell, rather than as the driving force behind a full-fledged novel. I don't like it when authors do that to me--when they seem to promise one thing, and then deliver something else.

Quote CRussel
Hmm. Jack Frost -- Clearly to be played by David Jason in the film version.
This went right over my head. I had to look him up; I never heard of him, the show, or the books.
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