Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman Read Along: Week 2

This week we read Chapters 4 - 6

For links to everybody else’s thoughts, you can visit Carl’s post at Stainless Steel Droppings

It was very difficult not reading right to the end of the book this week, but I have been very good and left the last two chapters for next week . . . or tomorrow . . . or later tonight after I have posted this! :D

As I mentioned last week, I was surprised that Bod had remained obedient and stayed within the confines of the graveyard for so long. This week, we see him begin to spread his wings and venture into the outside world.

In Chapter Four, he goes into areas of the graveyard that are normally ‘off limits’ and so meets Liza Hempstock, the witch. I really enjoyed her account of being dunked and then cursing the villagers once she had proven not to have drowned. I liked the way that she gave the reason for the accusations against her without making them personal: it is obvious that she is the laundress that ‘bewitched’ the young man away from her accuser. It was also nice to see the wicked villagers get their just deserts by dying of the Black Death shortly afterwards. However, I still cannot work out why Bod is told to stay away from her, because she always seems kind and considerate towards him. Of course, this could because he is nice to her: something that I think is unusual for her.

I like the way that Bod makes snap decisions about people. This is something I have experienced myself when meeting new people: sometimes I have ‘clicked’ instantly with people who have gone on to become very good friends. He also shows Liza a great deal of compassion, which is always nice to see. He can understand why she might be lonely and angry after her treatment, and so he is determined to do something nice for her. His naïve idea of buying her a headstone was very touching, especially as he had absolutely no idea how to accomplish this task. This seemed like a perfect picture of the innocence of childish thinking. Again, we see him walking into danger without realizing it and although everything works out well in the end, we know that he has awoken Jack’s interest in him, which is definitely a Bad Thing.

The Dance Macabray tickled me for the mispronunciation of Macabre as for anything else. It was such a wonderful idea and touched on my own experiences with the pagan morris dancing that my father was involved with when I was a child. This form of folk dancing is associated with fertility rituals and other pre-Christian traditions that have very ancient roots in the UK. The thought that this dance could happen and then be forgotten is very touching, but profoundly mysterious. I am even more intrigued by the Lady on the Grey, and I wonder what primal force she is or represents. I also found myself feeling quite sorry for Silas who is always trapped between worlds, a part of neither. It is wonderful that we can have such feelings for a character that is almost certainly a vampire that feeds on people. There are a lot of writers out there who could learn from Mr Gaiman’s ability to make us care for the most terrible of monsters without them having to be sexy.

We had a short interlude where we were introduced to the rest of Jack’s associates, who are possibly all named Jack. This kind of supernatural nest of evil does not seem at all out of place in this world, but their appearance was sobering after the giddy jollity of the previous chapter.

In Chapter Six, we saw Bod move completely outside of the graveyard, and become a real force for good. Although he has learnt the lessons that his previous adventures have taught him, he still cannot stand by when he sees bullies in action. As a past teacher, I was impressed by his ability to avoid notice in class, especially in this age of strict attendance and the closed nature of schools after the Dunblane massacre, where a crazed man shot fifteen children and a teacher. Of course, Bod does not anticipate the possible ramifications of his actions and he is soon in deep trouble. It was great to see him using the powers that the ghosts have been teaching him and how quickly he turned Silas’ intervention to his advantage. However, I fear that this incident saw the end of his innocence, where his good intentions could have brought terrible consequences for him and his family.


  1. 'There are a
    lot of writers out there who could learn from Mr Gaiman’s ability to make us
    care for the most terrible of monsters without them having to be sexy.'

    I second this opinion heartily!

    Thank you for that link on Morris dancing, very interesting stuff.

  2. Bod sure is learning a lot of life lessons in this middle section of the book. I admired his compassion for Liza and his determination to stand up to the bullies. His heart is in the right place and the world of the living sure could use someone like Bod among them.

    I have grown very fond of Silas over the course of this book and I think he's come to care immensely for Bod--possibly to a degree that even surprises him! I hope things turn out well for both of them by the time the story ends.

  3. I thought about all of the men being named Jack as well, just seemed like it may be fitting. Must agree about the concept of his presence in school- as a teacher, I don't miss much.. can't imagine I'd miss a kid!

  4. When I was teaching, there were plenty of kids that I WISHED I couldn't see! :D

  5. Perhaps I have just read too much Paranormal Romance, but it does make a nice change to have vampires and werewolves as 'normal' people with the same emotions as everyone else. Of course, we do have the anti-fairy tale here, so it is fitting that the real monsters are the "normal" humans.

    You are welcome for the link: as a Brit living in the US I find that I often have to translate British traditions, sayings, etc. for my American friends and I am aware that most of my readers are from outside of the UK. I am not sure if that was what Mr Gaiman had in mind when he was writing, but it was such a large part of my childhood that it leapt straight to mind for me.

  6. Bod is a great kid: the Owenses and Silas should be really proud of him! I do wonder if his innate goodness is why he is supposed to die . . . I have a sneaking suspicion that he isn't a 'normal' human himself.


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