Thursday, April 07, 2016

The Graveyard Book (by Neil Gaiman)

One of the assignments for the Read Harder Challenge this year was to read an audiobook that has won an Audie award. The Graveyard Book won three in 2015 (Distinguished Achievement in Production, Children's Titles Ages 8-12, and Multi-Voiced Performance) and as a bonus, is shorter than Double Down, the last audiobook I read, which was sixteen disks long. (This one was only seven.)

The premise of The Graveyard Book is that a family is murdered in the night for unknown reasons by a very creepy man called Jack; the youngest of the family, the little boy, wanders off by happenstance and ends up in a nearby cemetery, where he is promptly adopted by a cemetery's worth of ghosts and christened Nobody (known as Bod) Owens.

The book is episodic, and the main plotline (why did Jack kill Bod's family? why is he still after Bod?) mostly disappears in favor of a series of vignettes. Bod makes a (living) friend, tries to go to school, makes a (dead, witch) friend, becomes familiar with werewolves and ghouls and other creatures, etc. It's Harry Potter-eseque in that way. The audiobook is narrated by a cast of characters, not just one narrator doing different voices.

(A side note probably only of interest to Sherlock fans: Bod's guardian, a vampire named Silas, is voiced by someone who sounds a little bit like Benedict Cumberbatch. I enjoyed picturing Cumberbatch in the part -- Silas is described as tall, dark-haired, pale, very Cumberbatchy -- so I didn't look at the cast list, just pretended it was him. Turns out it's not him, and I completely missed that the villain of the book is narrated by Andrew Scott, who plays Moriarty.)

The narration is mostly excellent, although I did not love Derek Jacobi as the main narrator. He over-narrates (with added pauses for effect in many, many sentences) and his r's sometimes sound like w's, like Corin Redgrave in Persuasion. Small vocal issues like that can get very irritating over the course of seven disks. I recognize that he actually does do a very good job, I'm just nitpicking.

I did enjoy the story, although the main plotline is extremely thin. (The answer to "why did Jack kill the family" actually [spoilers in white, avert your eyes RSS readers] makes no sense and again is basically stolen from Harry Potter. But if he's trying to kill the boy who is the subject of this prophecy, why would he kill the rest of the family first and give the boy enough time to wander off? Makes no sense.) I also found the ghoul section interminable -- if only I'd had the print version so I could skim. But I did like getting back to Jack, finally -- the finale was really well done.

So: overall, a memorable production of a divertingly entertaining book. 

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