The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Somewhere in Britain, a man known only as “Jack” kills an unsuspecting family…
all but one of the family dies. The youngest, a toddler, slips away into the night and into a nearby graveyard where he is adopted by the ghostly inhabitants. The toddler is named Nobody Owens, raised up by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, and a mentor named Silas.
As the weeks turn to years, Nobody, “Bod”, learns the way of the graveyard. By visiting the local inhabitants, he learns to make himself fade, how to call ghouls, and even meets a real live girl! But as Bod gets older, he longs for the chance to be among the living – to experience school, and friendships. What Bod doesn’t understand is that the graveyard is where he is safe. Reluctantly, Silas helps Bod made his dreams come true, all the while knowing that “Jack” is still out there…
looking for the boy that crawled away….
all those years ago.
I started listening to this audio while in a van in La Esperanza, Honduras. When I put my ear buds in and the start-up music (above) began…. I swear my whole body tingled! The music is entitled Danse Macabre and this music actually inspires a chapter in the book where the characters both living and dead dance the Macabre. This was my first experience with Neil Gaiman and it was going to be on audio… read by none other than… Neil Gaiman.
According to legend, “Death” appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance their dance of death for him while he plays his fiddle (here represented by a solo violin). His skeletons dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.
The piece opens with a harp playing a single note, D, twelve times (the twelve strokes of midnight) which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section. The solo violin enters playing the tritone (or “Devil’s chord”) consisting of an A and an E-flat—in an example of scordatura tuning, the violinist’s E string has actually been tuned down to an E-flat to make this chord more biting. The main theme is heard on a solo flute, followed by a descending scale on the solo violin which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section, particularly the lower instruments of the string section, followed by the full orchestra who then joins in on the descending scale. The main theme and the scale is then heard throughout the various sections of the orchestra until it breaks to the solo violin and the harp playing the scale. The piece becomes more energetic and climaxes with the full orchestra playing very strong dynamics. Towards the end of the piece, there is another violin solo, now in modulation, which is then joined by the rest of the orchestra. The final section represents the dawn breaking (a cockerel’s crow, represented by the oboe) and the skeletons returning to their graves.
The Graveyard book is one of mystery and fantasy, dreams, and nightmares. Neil reads it in a fantastic tone that fits everything I just said in the previous sentence. Listening to this book was like living it. While it is a story about a murder, and then subsequently, a graveyard… it is a middle grade book. While that may surprise (or concern) you… don’t let it. The book is never graphic or gory… handled well as just an old-fashioned spooky story with a great paranormal twist.
My thoughts in the end… it was actually a fun experience. I will definitely look for more from Neil Gaiman.
The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading Map has been updated to include The Graveyard Book
I purchased this audio from audible.com