Autumn Reads: Booktober Begins with Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Graveyard Book’

It’s October. The air is fragrant with the scent of autumn. It’s time for hot cocoa with pumpkin spice, and a few spooky books which get you in the mood for Halloween.

I am celebrating Booktober this month. I have picked up a few books to read this month. My TBR list for this month has all kinds of autumn flavours, including sinister ghost stories, cozy reads and spine chilling mysteries. I will share my reading experience with you as I read each book.

The first book I picked up this month was ‘The Graveyard Book’ by Neil Gaiman. If you are more into ghost stories which are not scary in the conventional sense, yet gripping and adventurous, this is a perfect book for you.

I love Neil Gaiman’s writings and his way with words. I had my eye on this book for quite a while, and the beginning of October seemed the perfect time to read it.

The protagonist in this book is a boy named Bod (short for Nobody Owens) whose parents and sister had been murdered when he was a toddler. He has been adopted and raised by the ghosts residing in a graveyard. Through his many adventures, he learns about the ways of the supernatural beings, makes new friends and discovers secrets.

The man who had killed Bod’s parents is still out there in the world, looking for him. Bod is protected by his ghost-parents Mr. and Mrs. Owens, his guardian Silas and all other ghosts of the graveyard. Silas knows things about Bod’s past, and about the murderer of his family, but he has kept Bod in the dark to keep him safe. Yet one day, Bod finds out the truth, and his life is not safe anymore.

The book is full of all things spooky and ghostly. There are ghouls, werewolves, night-gaunts, the Sleer, witches and the Lady on the Grey. There are diverse human characters too. Bod is a brave, inquisitive child, who often gets into trouble for not listening to the instructions from his guardian and parents. Yet this specific quality of his character helps him learn a lot about the world inside and outside the graveyard.

“You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you’re dead, it’s gone. Over. You’ve made what you’ve made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished.”

Silas is an amazing character, and mysterious too. He is wise, he knows a lot of things about life, death and the outside world but he never talks much. His presence has a great influence on Bod. As Bod’s guardian, Silas is protective over him and concerned about his safety. He can go to any length to save Bod from danger.

The antagonist Jack is a cold-blooded murderer. He is clever and obsessed with his aim to kill Bod. His hunt for Bod acts as a driving force of the plot and eventually leads to the dramatic climax.

There is Scarlett, a girl who becomes friends with Bod when they are small children. There are Mr. and Mrs. Owens, the affectionate couple, who were childless in their lives, but get to raise Bod as their own son long after their death. Miss Lupescu and Liza Hempstock are two strong and distinct characters, who play significant roles in Bod’s life. I cannot single out a character without whom the story would remain equally interesting.

When I read this book, I could effortlessly imagine each and every scene like a film playing in my mind. I could even feel the coldness of the graveyard, the wind, the rain. I felt as if I could smell the flowers on the day of the ‘Dance of Macabray’. Such was the power of imagery in the book.

There are moments in the book that make your heart beat faster in anticipation. Towards the climax, I was almost holding my breath and devouring the story until I reached the resolution.

Some questions remained unanswered in the story. I kept wondering when I would get the answers but I did not. Probably the author has intentionally left it to the reader to explore the answers.

I wasn’t expecting to feel emotionally involved in the book when I was reading the first few chapters. I didn’t realize how involved I eventually became until I reached the last chapter, as if I had been a part of Bod’s family too.

The book is a complete Halloween package. It has magic, mystery, ghostly adventures, fantastical creatures, drama and emotions. It contains powerful metaphors on matters related to life and death. There are lines in the book that made a lasting impact on me, and I was going ‘wow!’ every time. For me, this book was a perfect beginning of Booktober.

“Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken.”

Published by Ria Banerjee

In love with books, literature and writing.

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