Book review: The Graveyard Book Volume 2 by Neil Gaiman

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 November, 2014, 11:11pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 November, 2014, 11:11pm

The Graveyard Book Volume 2
by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman constantly surprises, and he's done it again with The Graveyard Book Volume 2, the wrap-up of the novel's adaptation to comics. What looked like a horror story, perhaps overlaid with a fable, topped with a touch of modern myth-making, all intertwined into a charming, almost dream-like child's fantasy, turned out to be a coming-of-age story.

That makes Volume 2 sound pedestrian and thematically different from Volume 1. Which it manifestly is not. The coming-of-age part has been there all along. It's the skeleton around which the story is built, but not necessarily the only point of it. There are so many themes and ideas and insights on the human condition forming the sinew and muscle and hair of The Graveyard Book that it could fit comfortably in any number of categories in the bookstore.

Volume 1 opens with the murder of a baby's family by a fellow known only as "the Man Jack", but the baby is rescued by a vampire and an ensemble of ghosts who live in a graveyard. And as long as the boy who grows into Bod (short for Nobody) stays in the graveyard, he is safe from the Man Jack - protected by the dead and the undead, and even a non-sentient plot of land.

Volume 2, adapting chapter 6 through to the end, continues the tale as Bod gets a little too old to stay attached to his ghostly mother's invisible apron strings. As hormones kick in, he wants to see more of the world, no matter how dangerous. As Bod moves about in the real world, he learns that not all people are nice, and that girls can be confusing.

There's a rousing climax, which pulls together not only all the plot threads and themes of the book, but also everything we've learned about Bod's strange world. Sure, some characters are ended. But so is Bod's childhood. Now comes the hard part, the good-byes, in a chapter that is part hope and part fear, part youthful challenge and part inevitable growth, and all bittersweet. Any heart that doesn't ache at this moment is as cold and hard as a tombstone.