Separation: Life and Death

03Feb10

The Graveyard Book

If Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd explored separation and sleep for the toddler in Goodnight Moon, then WOW, Neil Gaiman explored separation and death for the early teen and preteen in his tightly written, beautiful The Graveyard Book. The book works on a number of levels: at its surface, it is a murder mystery, but it is also a bildungsroman. At its heart, it is a book about separation and death, and learning to live in this world . . . a world where we know not only that we can die, but that we will need to leave our homes and parents to make our own lives, and that we will lose people we love along the way, and not only to death . . .

Bod, the protagonist, starts out life as a toddler escaping the Jack who murdered his parents and toddling up the hill to the cemetery. He is protected by its occupants, ghostly and other, and is adopted. The dead and the undead are his teachers and protectors, and the living, for the most part, are dangerous and threatening.

Bod faces school bullies, murderers and fear itself, and he faces first love and loss, all with love and support of his graveyard family. He meets death and dances with her, but the scariest thing he faces, I think, is the scariest thing for most of us: growing up and leaving home.

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One Response to “Separation: Life and Death”

  1. 1 Karen

    This is one of my favorite books of late. I think Gaiman is probably one of the best at taking literary forms and tropes and doing something spectacular and new with them. This book follows very closely the fairy tale pattern of growing up, leaving home, finding the good teacher, etc, and yet it is one of of the most creative stories I think I’ve ever read. Have you read Gaiman’s Coraline yet?


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