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The Graveyard Book Discussion: The Conclusion

“You’re always you, and that don’t change….”

October breezes are quickly blowing the days away and here we come to the end of our group read of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. I have mentioned often that I am experiencing this on audio for the ???th time (its been several, that is all I can say with certainty) and despite my familiarity with both the story and with Gaiman’s telling of it I have enjoyed “reading” this as much as anything else I have partaken of this year. I’m not sure what makes a classic “classic”, but The Graveyard Book feels like a book that could legitimately be enjoyed for a long, long time.

What follows will be a discussion of the final two chapters and spoilers will be present for those who have not read the story. If that is you, consider adding this to your ‘to be read’ pile.

The series of interrelated short stories that make up the book thus far culminate in two intense, packed chapters. In Chapter 7 we see the return of Scarlett into Bod’s life. I like the way Neil handles this with the dream walk meeting of the two before they actually meet again in person. One of the things that strikes me whenever I read this book is to wonder about Scarlett. Is it simply that she is a child and her child-like faith and imagination cause her to see Bod early on and that familiarity allows her to sense/see him as a teen or is there something else about her? I suspect there is something else. I think she too has something special about her but sadly it comes to naught as her fears and suspicions get the better of her. Not that I blame her. Scarlett’s reactions are normal and although it is a pity that she and Bod cannot be friends, or more, it is nonetheless an authentic reaction that Gaiman gives to Scarlett.

We get to see more of the Jacks of all Trades and they are a nasty bunch. I enjoy that in contrast we get to see snippets of a much larger group of Honor Guard members who are acting, mostly offstage, in defense of young Bod. The glimpses we get of the battles being fought are very brief but Gaiman uses them so effectively, allowing our imaginations and reasoning to fill in the gaps of what is occurring. It breaks my heart that Miss Lupescu dies. I give kudos to Gaiman for not shying away from death in a young adult novel. In a novel that treats the dead as having a ‘life’ of some sort which in a way lessens the impact of the subject of death in children’s literature, Gaiman has the courage to show that sometimes sacrifices have to be made and sometimes even the ‘good guys’ die. Still, I hate it when Bod is informed. I always secretly hope that this time will be different, that this time Miss Lupescu will have made it through.

I’ll be curious to see if anyone felt the fact that J. Frost was ‘the man Jack’ was too obvious right from the beginning. I am not sure that it matters much to the overall story because it is still very suspenseful. I think Gaiman does a nice job of toying with the reader, giving just enough to think that ‘maybe this isn’t him’ before committing fully to the idea. Given that we don’t actually get to see much of the enemy during the whole of the novel I enjoy that we get this ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ view of him for a time before Bod figures out who he really is.

As the book comes to a close we get to see Bod come into his own. It is a really nice transition, a good “coming of age” event, as Bod realizes that it is time he protect himself and in so doing he also steps up to protect Scarlett. I also enjoy the fact that Bod doesn’t do it all on his own, as that is not what life is all about. His friends, the dead, help him by keeping an eye on the attackers, reporting to Bod, etc. and I love that. “No man is an island”…I love that Gaiman embraces that truism in his handling of Bod’s transition to young adulthood. Not long after Bod’s ultimate triumph come his series of bittersweet moments. First he loses the friendship of Scarlett and then, even more painfully for me as a reader, he begins to lose his relationships in the graveyard. I ache as Bod begins to lose his ability to see and speak to the dead. As each of those fade away from him I cannot help but wish he could have had a last moment with each of them. I love the humor in Mother Slaughter’s memories of what happened when Bod first entered their lives and how the story makes her look good. I feel so sorry for Liza Hempstock and for the life she was cheated from as we see her lose one that she loves. I feel so bad for the Owens’ and that even though they got to see their boy “grow up” that there will be so much of his future life that they will not be a part of. And of course I find it both joyous and sad that Bod has to get on with actually having a life.

This is another area where I give such kudos to Gaiman. A teenager is not the same emotionally or in maturity as he/she will be as an adult. Although we expect Bod to be a little sad about his partings it is perfectly normal and natural to see that he is actually more focused on the excitement ahead of him and the adventures he is about to have. As an adult I would like to see him understand the pain of what is happening more deeply but I also understand that even the most insightful teenager will not react the same way as they would as an adult with a lot of life experience.

The Graveyard Book is a bittersweet story, to be sure, with much more sweet and only the same ‘bitter’ that we all experience. It is a book that never fails to bring a tear to my eye and choke me up a bit as it all comes to an end. On the audio we are treated to a longer musical sequence of the instrumental that is featured at the beginning and end of each disk. It is a special little addition that I hope you will all experience some day. The Graveyard Book not only reminds me of just how good young adult literature can be regardless of age, it reminds me of my own transitions in life and makes me want to love and appreciate those around me.

Thank you all so much for going on this journey with me. I have been so busy at work and home during this read with projects that are taking place at both places and I want you to know that I have greatly appreciated everyone taking part. I’ll be catching up on the posts I missed and enjoying your reactions to the book.
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Before we go to the link section I wanted to announce a winner! A handful of you participated in Wednesday’s post about “coming of age” and of those who linked their post I let the Random Number Generator do its thing and it chose:

Lynn!!!

When she returns from vacation and reopens her shop, you can pick a print from Gothicrow and email me your choice and your details and I’ll have her send it your way. Congrats!!!

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Please be sure to share your link to your final Graveyard Book discussion post. It has been a pleasure experiencing this book with all of you, thanks again for your participation!

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28 Responses to “The Graveyard Book Discussion: The Conclusion”

  1. Jessica October 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Thank you for hosting this readalong of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. I really enjoyed reading it for the second time. Due to your enthusiasm for the audio, I listened to it this time and was blown away. The recording really made the book come alive for me in a way that the print the first time did not.

    • Carl V. October 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      I’m so glad Jessica. Isn’t it a wonderful recording? Oh, I just LOVE it. Gaiman does make it come alive in a very special way. It must be great to be a talented storyteller on the printed page and also be a talented oral storyteller.

  2. nrlymrtl October 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    I would love to learn more about the Honor Guard and the pig and whether or not the pig stayed lucky. I was truly sad when Lupescu died and even more sad that at least part of her remains could not be brought back to the graveyard.

    Bod’s focus on the excitement of leaving the graveyard to go on with his life I think is realistic. He hasn’t really experienced such a life transition before and so he doesn’t realize some of the good things he will deeply miss later.

    Thank you for hosting yet another great group read.

    • Carl V. October 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

      Wasn’t the pig great? I love the whole ‘he didn’t have a pig’ line. I have no clue if Gaiman was just being whimsical there or if there is some weird inspiration for that addition.

      I thought that was a great idea Bod had about her remains coming back so he could spend time with her. Sad that they couldn’t at least say goodbye. It is such a tear-jerker when he says no one will call him that pet name anymore.

      I agree, Bod’s excitement is so normal. Plus he’s a big reader and had stories told to him so his head is full of places he longs to see. I like to imagine that his adventures are quite exciting once he leaves.

  3. Cheryl October 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    So many great insights here! Bittersweet is the perfect word for the ending, such a deft mix of sadness and new promise.

    I didn’t find J. Frost’s transformation into the man Jack obvious at all…and I like to think I’m pretty good at spotting twists!

    And I will definitely have to pick up the audiobook next time I want to revisit this story. I *love* musical accompaniment to a story.

    • Carl V. October 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

      “new promise”, I like that. I’m glad you didn’t find the J. Frost thing obvious. I can’t remember anymore if I did or not the first time and I was wondering how people overall would experience it. If you don’t see it coming it is a fantastic surprise, but even if you do, as I said, I don’t think it takes anything away from the suspense of that section of the book.

      I can’t praise the audio enough. Wow!

  4. Christine October 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    I have to admit I didn’t pick up on the obviousness of “Jack Frost” right away. I figured it out a bit before Bod did, but not by much! Oops. ;)

    It broke my heart when Bod and Scarlett’s friendship ended.. and the way that it did. The romantic in me imagines Bod and Scarlett perhaps crossing paths again sometime in the future. I don’t know if a friendship between them would be “fair” considering Bod has memories of her , but she none of him, but I’m comforted by the possibility. If not, I know Bod will have a good, happy life with whomever is lucky to befriend and love him.

    One thing I wish we learned was WHY the Jack’s targeted Bod and his family in the first place. It is suggested that Bod’s family needed to be eliminated because they would be the fall of the Jacks, but why? I still loved the book, though.

    Thanks for hosting another great read along, Carl. Stardust for next year’s Once Upon a Time? ;)

    • Carl V. October 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

      I’m glad of that fact. I was worried it might be too obvious and would negatively influence the opinions of readers and am so glad that wasn’t the case.

      I have the same romantic ideas, Christine. It is probably too much to hope they would have a third chance but it doesn’t stop me from wishing it would happen for them.

      Jack mentions that there was a prophecy about a child who would defeat the Jacks and that is why the Jacks had to kill them all. I don’t know if they just knew it would be Bod or if there were certain bloodlines that posed a danger for them and so they killed everyone who might possibly fulfill that prophecy.

      I certainly wouldn’t mind hosting a Stardust group read next spring. It has been far too long since I’ve enjoyed that novel.

      • Grace October 22, 2012 at 12:35 am #

        I thought it was neat that the prophecy was so self-fulfilling. If Jack wouldn’t have gone after Bod and killed his family, then the Jacks would not have met the fate that they did.

        I did find the Jay/Jack thing obvious, but I didn’t think that was a bad thing, because I kept feeling a sinister sense of foreboding and kept hoping that he wouldn’t do anything to Scarlett. It’s more suspenseful knowing that you know that he’s Jack and nobody else does.

        • Deb Atwood October 22, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

          Hmmm…a self-fulfilling prophecy–sort of like Oedipus in its inevitability. It is cool that Jack engineered his own destruction. And I didn’t like Scarlett accusing Bod of being a bad guy just like the others. I like that Bod could honestly say, “I didn’t kill anyone.”

          • Carl V. October 24, 2012 at 10:32 am #

            The Scarlett part was hard but I certainly do see it as an honest reaction to something that would be so unbelievable. I have always hoped that were I confronted with mind-bending reality that I would at least address it with dignity and a kind heart. Who knows? LOL!

            Grace, I thought that whole self-fulfilling prophecy idea was great as well. It makes for an interesting circular argument about cause and effect. And I agree with you, knowing about Jack/Jay didn’t make it any less intense, perhaps more so. You find yourself wanting to scream at Scarlett and Jack to watch out!

  5. Jim Black October 21, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    I kept up to with the read along schedule but did not have the chance to post about it.
    Thank you for an excellent choice for this read along. I will be joining in on future ones.

    • Carl V. October 21, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

      I’m glad you did Jim. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and am thrilled to hear you’ll be joining us again. Not sure what the next one I’ll host will be but chances are good it will be science fiction related with The Science Fiction Experience 2013 coming up quickly.

  6. Caroline October 22, 2012 at 3:54 am #

    Thanks for hosting this Carl. I enjoyed reading the book a great deal. the ending was quite sad, in a way and I wouldn’t mind reading a sequel. I liked the Geek tragedy twist in the man Jack story. Trying to prevent something may very well set it in motion.

    • Carl V. October 24, 2012 at 10:33 am #

      It was so much fun to do so and I am very glad that you read it, enjoyed it, and got a similar emotional impact from it. There is definitely a touch of the Greek tragedy to it.

  7. Juno October 22, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    Thanks Carl for hosting this read/listen along; I have really enjoyed both the listening to the story and the reading of the comments and insights (sorry I did not join in the middle part of this but I had internet/computer problems – enough said!).

    I didn’t pick up on the J Frost thing immediately either. Mr Gaiman is a very clever artist. He really manages to lead one along the main path and then taking one off onto the secondary way to see a different picture for a while before taking you back to the original path.

    By the way I read that in fact Neil Gaiman was “channeling Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 story collection, ‘The Jungle Book’” I found this little snippet in a book called ‘Prince of Stories’ by H Wagner,
    C Golden and SR Risette which was published just before The Graveyard Book was published but was being talked about by Gaiman.

    This was my first read-along but hopefully not my last, will be keeping my eyes peeled for the next one.

    Thanks again Carl, from a sunny and warm South Africa. I hope you all enjoy the coming time of dark evenings, and time by the fire with a special friend and an equally special book.

    • Carl V. October 24, 2012 at 10:35 am #

      Ah, the joys of internet connections!

      I agree with your assessment of Gaiman’s cleverness. He does do that very well.

      I do need to make a more concerted effort to read Jungle Book sometime soon so that I can get a handle on how it inspired Neil’s work on this story.

      I hope you do join us again for another read along. There may be one more in Dec. that I host and there will assuredly be more in 2013. If the world doesn’t end in 2012. ;)

      And I accept your well wishes, that sounds ideal!

  8. Mikel October 22, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    Thanks again for hosting this Read-Along, it was fun to read this book again!

    • Carl V. October 24, 2012 at 10:36 am #

      You are so very welcome, thanks for doing a re-read with us. I enjoyed going back to it again.

  9. Lynn October 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    Such a great book! You know I never got the connection between J Frost so it certainly didn’t spoil it for me. Sometimes when I’m reading it’s as though I go into my own little space and I’m so absorbed that I’m not for once trying to second guess the ending!
    I think Gaiman does a great job of balancing the goodness with the evil – it think this is why he also appeals to an older audience – he doesn’t feel the need to wrap everything up too sweetly. And, the ending, it is sad, but I thought that Bod had to leave then and start to experience life. I felt so sorry for the Owens but at least they got to raise him for all those years!
    I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone else’s thoughts. It broadens the experience.
    Lynn:D

    BTW – did you mean me???

    • Carl V. October 24, 2012 at 10:39 am #

      I most certainly did mean you, congratulations!!!

      I pretty much always read that same way. I never figure things out and am surprised, sometimes even when I’ve already read the book! It is fun to get so absorbed in a book or film that you are just taken for the ride and are as shocked by the story’s reveals as everyone in the story.

      The great thing about the sadness of Bod’s ending is that it is the kind of sorrow that leads to greater joy. It is a sorrow we’ve all experienced, either during that transition or afterwards in looking back and I think Gaiman captures that so well.

  10. Melissa October 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    I’m so glad you hosted this! Re-reading it has been such a delight. I agree with you about Scarlett, she is one of the most interesting parts of the whole book. Her reaction Bod and his decisions and life are hard to read, but realistic. Also, I would definitely be up for re-reading Stardust in the spring!

    • Carl V. October 24, 2012 at 10:41 am #

      They are very hard to read, and hard to listen to on the audio. So painful but so real.

      I’m pretty much locked in to go ahead and do a Stardust read as part of Once Upon a Time VII in March. That will be fun. Another great audio for anyone who will choose to ‘read’ it that way.

      • Christine October 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

        YES! This makes me happy. Already looking forward to reading Stardust in the spring. It has been on my TBR pile for YEARS! As in six or seven! Crazy!

        • Carl V. October 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

          It is definitely time to save it from that pile then! Such a sweet book. We’ll have fun with it.

  11. Deb Atwood October 22, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    Thank you, Carl, for hosting this readalong. I’m so glad I was able to peruse this book and share it with your great readers!

    • Carl V. October 24, 2012 at 10:42 am #

      I’m so happy you decided to read it along with us. It is one of those cherished books, to me, that I cannot help but want to share with others.

  12. Jeff S. October 26, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    I was very glad to reread this book again on Audio. Gaiman is an incredible reader and I would venture to say listening to him read this coming of age tale is the preferred format over reading it the old fashioned way.

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