Monday, October 15, 2012

The Graveyard Book Read-Along: PART II

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 
Chapters 4-6

This is the second discussion post and link up for the Read-Along of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book [2008] as part of the RIP VII reading event hosted by Carl at his blog Stainless Steel Droppings.

The Graveyard Book is a book about a young boy named Nobody 'Bod' Owens whose family was brutally murdered in their home, a fate that Nobody himself escaped as he toddled out of his house that night and into the Graveyard that would become his sanctuary. Nobody is being raised by the spirits of the dead who live in the cemetery--Mr. and Mrs. Owens are his adoptive parents and the many others are his friends, protectors and teachers. A mysterious being named Silas who is neither dead nor alive also lives in the Graveyard and is Bod's guardian. Being of firm body, Silas is able to go out into the world to retrieve food, clothing, books and other necessities for Bod. Each chapter tells a new tale from Bod's young life.

CAUTION: This is a read-along discussion, so expect some spoilers in the post and comments! Read at your own risk!

Chapter Four: The Witch's Headstone 
In this chapter, Bod learns about the graves just beyond the graveyard proper in Potter's Field where the suicides and witches are buried on unconsecrated grounds. Of course, Bod is driven to this area of the graveyard out of curiosity and meets the spirit of a young witch, Elizabeth 'Liza' Hempstock. She's rather sad that she has no headstone for her grave and even though he barely knows her, Bod sets out to try to get her one. He sneaks into town to sell a graveyard treasure in a pawn shop so he can have money to buy Liza a headstone, but he gets into some serious trouble with some men who know the man named Jack who murdered his first family.

This reading reveals a lot about Bod's character. He has grown to be compassionate boy who cares about people's feelings and feels strongly about doing what's right. Even though he's been warned about those who reside in Potter's Field, Bod looks at Eliza as a young girl who died and was buried there and deserves to be remembered and cared for, even if it is in death. I also admire Bod's determination and resourcefulness to get some money to buy Liza a headstone, but his limited knowledge of the real world outside the Graveyard is worrisome. I realize the Owneses and Silas saved Bod's life and have done right by him keeping him safe, provided for and educated to a degree as well. On the other hand, how long can they keep Bod from the real world? Is that the right thing to do? How and when are they expecting to let him go into the world of the living? It's really a tricky situation and I'm curious to know what Bod's future will entail.

Chapter Five: Danse Macabre 
This chapter opens with a tone of anticipation and excitement shrouded in mystery as the spirits in the Graveyard are busy going about their daily business singing about the dance of the Macabray, but no one is willing to tell Bod what's going on. One evening, Bod is lured into town by strange, enthralling music where the living have congregated, swaying and dancing to the music. At midnight, the spirits from the Graveyard come into town where the living and the dead dance together. Everyone is dancing except for Silas who is watching from the shadows. The next day the living have forgotten everything but the dead remember. They just refuse to talk about it.

It is in this chapter, I think, that Bod really starts to realize that he's very different from his friends and family in the Graveyard and that perhaps he belongs in the world of the living. He's naturally drawn to the world of living, but he also appreciates and recognizes the Graveyard as his home. I think he's torn about where he belongs. It would be nice if he could have the best of both worlds, but I have the feeling that's not going to be an option.

Interestingly, Bod also empathizes with Silas being in a similar position of belonging neither here nor there. When Bod realizes this, he wanted to hug Silas to comfort him and let him know he'd always be there for him. Yet he refrains.

"He could no more hug Silas than he could hold a moonbeam, not because his guardian was insubstantial, but because it would be wrong. There were people you could hug, and then there was Silas."


Interlude: The Convocation
This is a very short section of the book in which we get a glimpse of some men at a private function--most likely priests, where a conversation between two men in particular takes place. A very disturbing conversation because one of the men is the man named Jack and we become very aware that he was supposed to kill Bod years ago and that he still must finish the job. The story behind the murder of Bod's family has just gotten more complicated than I had suspected. Is Bod really going to be able to find safety from these evil men anywhere?

Chapter Six: Nobody Owens' School Days 
Bod's parents and guardian are finally acknowledging that Bod wants and needs to go to school to not only be among his kind but also to learn the so many things that the spirits in the Graveyard are simply not capable of teaching. Bod goes to school where he is easily blends into the background so to speak. His teachers know him when he is in front of them, but can't seem to remember him any other time. The other students mostly ignore him. Until Bod does something to attract attention--he stands up to some bullies. He uses his Fading skills and his ability to instill Fear, but the bullies are set on revenge and set him up for some serious trouble with the police that may not dissipate this time.

This section was interesting for sure. Bod is really starting to assert himself--wanting to go to school, standing up to bullies, protecting the victims of the bullying and most heart-wrenching, revealing to Silas how important he really is to Bod. Silas is not just a guardian to Bod. He's a father figure and one whom Bod has grown to love. And if you ask me, the feeling is mutual. Bod and Silas are growing and learning through their relationship and it's quite touching. I'm starting to think that together they will find a way for Bod to live a full, safe and happy life.

I'm looking forward to finishing The Graveyard Book this week. I'm dying to know what the story is behind the man named Jack and his job to kill Bod. I also hope to find some answers about Silas and his role in the Graveyard. We learned Silas is a member of the Honour Guard--what is that? Of course of most importance, I want a happy ending to this book for Bod. Well, perhaps more like a new beginning.


  1. I'm glad you are enjoying the book. It sound good.
    You're making me very curious about it.

  2. Thanks for including that quote about Silas. I had totally forgotten about it but when I read it I loved it. I think there really are people like that, kind and caring but a tad distant, you just wouldn't hug them, they are sor tof in-between worlds too. This is one of those instances in the book which show, although it's fantasy, it's rooted in realism and that's why it works so wll.

  3. You're right about Silas and Bod being in a similar position during the Danse Macabre. I hadn't thought of that. They are both in two worlds and yet not completely part of either.

  4. That Bod couldn't hug Silas was sad, my daughter said "Awwww!" We just finished the Convocation last night. It gets rough keeping my son still for a whole chapter.

    Hhhmmm, Priests? That never entered my mind, interesting. I'm dying to find out who they all are.


  5. I'm also looking forward to some more details about Silas. I had not thought of Priests in relation to the Convocation, but now that you say it, I'm remembering that Convocation can also mean an assembly of church.. I had been thinking of it in its simple definition (a "calling together"). Good catch!

    I cannot wait until I finish this book.. I am loving it! Thanks for stopping by my blog too :)

  6. Alex This would be a great book to read right now with Halloween right around the corner. Since it is a Newberry Medal book, maybe your library would have it? Do you have free public libraries near you?

    CarolineThere are several scenes with Bod and Silas together that really stand out to me. This was one of them.

    Melissa I think for the most part, Silas is resigned to his level of existence. I ache for Bod not really completely fitting in one or the other. But he'll figure it out with a little help from his friends, I think.

    Paula That part broke my heart a little, too! I wanted Bod to hug Silas anyway. lol Well I just sort of jumped to priests when Gaiman described the group as all men, all wearing black suits talking about all the good charitable things they've been doing around the world. I don't know.. it's just the picture that got stuck in my head.

    Jenna Can't wait to hear your final thoughts on the book. I just finished it late last night and am mulling over the events another day..

  7. I remember when I read that quote about Silas. I think it describes his personality so well and when I read it, I was like YES! That's how I pictured him.


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