1. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Book of the Month - July: The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by arron89, Jul 1, 2009.

    Welcome to the first (revived) Book of the Month Discussion!

    The focus for this month is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, so go grab yourself a copy, read it, think about it, post your thoughts here.

    Being that this is a writing forum, I would encourage posters to think particularly about the qualities of the writing - what works, what doesn't, and why, quoting from the book if necessary.

    I look forward to a full and informative discussion!
     
  2. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Only read the first chapter so far. Although the language is obviously more articulate, the thoughts of the toddler are pretty accurate from what I understand of toddlers. Great characterization.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I just finished the first chapter, and I have to say, its making me reconsider Neil Gaiman (in a good way!).
    The writing is simple enough for young readers to follow, but never patronisingly so (I had to look up obduracy...)
    His description of the graveyard was fairly straightforward, nothing unexpected or especially well written, and played to a lot of the stereotypes of "graveyards" in a way that almost established it as a caricature, exaggerated familiarly.
    Gaiman's greatest strength is his ability to create unique and entertaining characters. The host of ghosts in the graveyard are all memorable, immediately endearing and, like the graveyard itself, based on steretypical stock characters but embued with a great sense of vitality. In some ways, it reminds me of the Harry Potter series in that those books also relied on the use of these basic "stock" character types, but filled them with so much life and believability that the stereotypical aspects seemed both fresh and familiar.
    The opening chapter also opens up a lot of questions about where the book is going, but never in an overly direct way - there are mysterious characters like Silas and The Lady on the Grey, who are sure to hold secrets - and the mystery of who Nobody really is, why he is being pursued and who the Convocation are propels the reader forwards.
    I don't really have any negative comments thus far - the writing is satisfactory, his descriptions are competent, his characters are extraordinary....so far, so good!
     
  4. PKBradley
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    PKBradley New Member

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    Definitely one of my favourite books at the moment.

    I've had it for a while now but I'm only three or four chapters through, which is also what I like so much about it. After having read so many page-turner books in a row, it's nice to be able to just slip my bookmark in somewhere and do something else without getting this "I can't stop! I have to know what happens now or I'll die!" headache.

    The writing style is just about right for it's targeted audience, but all the adults I've talked to so far have enjoyed it immensly. It definitely has this warm and cozy feeling to it and very much reminds me of the late-night stories that my parents used to read to me.

    Character-wise, there are certainly some very strong characters. Like arron89 said, the cast of characters in the graveyard are your typical stock characters but are also very likable and unique in their own way. And they are most certainly entertaining. ("Bartelmy says that thou dost have a face like unto a squished plum." That would have to be one of my most favourite lines EVER!)

    I also like the overall plot of the book. Because of the fairly strong introductory chapter, there is always this lingering sense of mystery but it is never that overwhelming and allows for the reader to easily enjoy Bod's adventures.

    Overall, a great read so far and I think I'm actually going to but my own copy (there is this rather awesome version in Germany, where the book is hidden inside a tin/steel/whatever box and thanks to this gift certificate I got, I can actually buy it without feeling guilty XD).
     
  5. Maroon
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    Maroon Active Member

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    I'll be picking up my copy this weekend and then, no doubt, devouring it. Very much looking forward to this discussion!
     
  6. The Freshmaker
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    The Freshmaker <insert obscure pop culture reference> Contributor

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    Wow, it's great to see that someone got this back up and going!
     
  7. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    The library by my house doesn't have any copies checked in. :( I ordered it from Amazon, though, so hopefully it'll get shipped faster than I usually get my books from them...
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm enjoying it so far, but does anyone else think he's jumping from one thing to another too quickly?
     
  9. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which chapter are you on? It can feel especially jumpy in the earlier chapters.
     
  10. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    1. The writing: The writing is the best part of the book for me. His prose is so whimsical, yet simple, and he makes the characters much more vivid than JKR did with HP.
    2. The mysterious characters & their secrets: Not all their secrets, or their raison d'etre, are explained in the book. This might be irritating to some readers who don't enjoy fantasy and need things to be more concrete. There are a lot of "why?" questions that never get answered, but Gaiman's focus is mainly on Bod and not on the graveyard characters.
    3. The plot: Or lack thereof. If you need a tight plot, this book may frustrate you. The story's told in short story like format, and they don't flow so easily from one chapter to the next. But the overall theme of the story is what you have to focus on instead.

    I'll write more later as more people add their comments. Not sure how much to say and what not to say this early on.
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, that short-story structure of it is what's been bugging me, I guess. But overall, I'm enjoying it. And also, it jumps time periods quickly. He was six, and the suddenly he's eight, and then ten. But that "interlude" chapter is interesting.
     
  12. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, I am so good at picking up on the stuff everyone else misses that I just can't make connections with the obvious stuff. Such as the connection between Mr. Frost and our mysterious character with the knife in the first chapter.
     
  13. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just keep reading. You'll see. It's best I not answer that :)
     
  14. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, I've gotten to that part. I just can't believe I missed it before it was made obvious. I should have been able to put the pieces together a little more easily.
     
  15. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just finished reading it. The ending wasn't nearly as exciting as I hoped it would be.
     
  16. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    How many Amazon.com stars would you give it?

    I'd give it a 4 out of 5 for imagery, prose, and theme. He did well with those 3, but plot, not so much.
     
  17. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Characterization, prose and all that were definitely good, but here is proof that solid story-telling is just as important. *shakes fist at creative writing teacher who said it's not about telling stories*
     
  18. LunarPrincess
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    LunarPrincess New Member

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    just checked it out. its a real treasure i'm glad to have come across the title.
     
  19. Kas
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    I have to agree with Marina's comment. The writing was the main attraction for me. He's definitely not talking down to the kids, but neither is his prose terribly complicated. It's the perfect ideal for his target market, and very enjoyable for adults as well. In truth, my fumblings at 'adult' literature would seem childish in comparison at this point. And ditto what others have said about the characters.

    It's the kind of book you'd like to read in front of the fireplace on a stormy night, sipping hot cocoa. Unfortunately, (and I'm sorry to be negative) even though it was a very pleasant read in many ways, I had to put it aside about half way through. If there was ever a book that could sell itself on charm and strong writing alone, this might be it, but I need a little more incentive to continue. I have so many great books waiting to be read, 'cozy' doesn't quite cut it for me. There wasn't enough conflict/tension/story/plot/what-have-you to hold my interest.

    The whole thing was very. . . meandering. It's the kind of book you can comfortably set aside at any time, so. . . that's what I did. Definitely not a page turner. Even when the mc was in direct danger, I wasn't feeling any tension. It still had that comfy read-by-the-fire feel to it, which was a little bit strange, to me, even in the context of a children's book.

    It would give it 3.8/5. Although I never finished it (and probably won't) I can appreciate the strong points, and it is a great book.
     
  20. LunarPrincess
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    LunarPrincess New Member

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    Finished it the other night. I absolutely loved the imagery, very clear without being bombastic or too simple.
    The story itself was a bit weak. I thought there needed to be more characters or a better defined MC, Bod needed certain characteristics and mannerisms that makes the reader feel as though she/he knows him very well. I thought a lot of Bod's behavior and mood was inconsistent.
    I liked the ending, with the song.
    I thought it was funny how the ghosts all spoke from their given time periods.
    Glad i picked it up, good read.
     
  21. Maroon
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    Maroon Active Member

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    Well, I've been super slow on the uptake here, and only just got hold of my copy - oops!

    Best get to reading this extra fast. ;)
     
  22. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    So I'm about 3/4 of the way through the book now, and I'm less optimistic about it with every page turned, sorry to say. His style and characterisation are charming and as fun as ever, but it gets old, and its not enough to sustain a book that is a basically a series of (weakly plotted) vignettes.

    As a kid's book, it deals with some fairly adult themes with humour and subtlety that allow the majority of them to slip into your mind unnoticed, and suddenly you reach the end of the story and feel like you've learnt something (again, if you're an adult). Also, the way the characters are constructed (and perhaps this is why they are so loveable and charming) is that Gaiman doesn't overly concern himself with their realism (which is fitting, seeing as how they're not real, and all). As I mentioned earlier, he seems to be drawing from a list of stock characters, and the way he exposes their various motivations, emotions and general psychologies is such that we learn enough about them to like/dislike/trust/distrust them without being fed countless fragments of their psyches with which to construct a full character. More demanding adult readers may find this off-putting, as it can lead to a sense of a lack of completion or fulfilment (as to some of the antagonists' motives, for instance), but this book was never meant to be taken that seriously.

    Like most children's books, there are only ever one or two ideas going on at once, very few layers to dive through, and some obvious (though important) messages delivered, but this still feels to me like an adult-fantasy author trying to write a children's-fantasy book, with mixed success.

    Having not been impressed with Gaiman's novels prior to this, I can't say I've been won over just yet. Its a good read, and if I had kids, I'd probably encourage them to pick it up (they could do a lot worse), but with my personal preferences in mind, this book just didn't do anything special for me. Competently written by a competent writer, a solid 6/10.

    And I'm just putting this out there (because this was fun, and could be better still!): Book of the Month August: Lolita, Vladmir Nabokov?
     
  23. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you know where to look, you'd be surprised by how many childrens books have that. Traditional story-telling is riddled with the kinds of things you're talking about. And don't underestimate kids (something I say all the time around here). They'll pick up on the stuff you're talking about, even if they don't see it in the same way. ln a short story collection he contributed to, his bio described Coraline as his first book for all ages, and that often means it's not just for children. I would say that this book is the same. Most of the best books are.
     
  24. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Anyone else read it?
     
  25. Dr. Doctor
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    It started off rather slow, but by the halfway mark, I was frigging hooked, man! He does such a good job at blending subtle supernatural stuff with real life human conflict, and the way he juxtaposes the raising of an average child with the fantasy elements is just stunning. The characters are simple but not overly so, and they're very enjoyable. The writing is good, as the OP outlined.

    Solid book, very enjoyable, and it definitely gets better towards the middle. By the end it was a bit stale, but it didn't detract too much from the overall story. This was my first taste of Geiman and it was a good one. 4/5
     

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