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Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Although I enjoy reading fantasy, in fact, it’s my favorite genre, I haven’t read much of Neil Gaiman. In all honesty, I’d never heard of him until a few years ago while in college. After a friend’s review of American Gods left me non-plussed, I decided to set him at the bottom of my to-read list and move on.

Over the summer, I decided to write a fantasy and so I also decided I needed to read some of the top names in fantasy both today and in the past. As Gaiman was set to release a new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I decided to try him out and pre-ordered the book on my Kindle. I liked it, but it left me with this hole. I needed more. The Ocean at the End of the Lane wasn’t a book to pick up, put down, and then let it cover dust. It was one of those books that needed to be explored. And the more I explored it, the more and more I got it.

But enough about The Ocean at the End… This review is about another Neil Gaiman work: The Graveyard Book.

After reading The Graveyard Book, I realized that there are two things Gaiman does extraordinarily well. He can write the child’s coming-of-age experience in many different situations from any different perspectives and they are phenomenal, and he does an amazing job at leaving the reader guessing the meaning. Because the meaning changes from day to day, hour to hour, lifetime to lifetime. And I think that’s also the reason that explains how he writes the coming-of-age novel so well.

The Graveyard Book was interesting, especially in the beginning, but I felt my mind wandering in the middle and I spent a couple days looking at it out of the corner of my eye and feeling guilty that I just couldn’t get into it. Once through the 200s, the plot picked up nicely once more. In the middle, it was if the two stories that were supposed to really be one story didn’t quite match up. But it came together nicely in the end.

*Spoiler* The most significant thing, to me, is the connection between the excerpt at the beginning of the book from chapter two and the near end of the book. In the excerpt, a little girl, Scarlett, the only human friend the human graveyard-dweller, Bod, has, says, “You shouldn’t leave me.” After Bod saves her and avenges his family’s murder, she’s the one that does the leaving. Bod needs her to have something human to hold on to, just like she needed something warm to keep her safe when they were exploring the Sleer’s cave in chapter two. Bod protected her, kept her safe, but she doesn’t like the means that lead to the end and so she leaves and forgets him forever.

So sad.

But it’s a lesson, and I think it’s a different lesson for everyone, depending on your own experiences.

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory is a historical novelist, and I believe she’s best known for her work The Other Boleyn Girl.  I read the aforementioned title a few years ago and remember enjoying the text.  Based on my enjoyment of The Other Boleyn Girl and my recent wish to dive back into historical fiction, I decided to read one of Gregory’s slightly more recent works, The White QueenThe White Queen focuses on the War of the Roses and is set (naturally) before the Tudor Court novels.

Before I began reading, I tried to pinpoint what I liked about Gregory’s writing the most; I found that I couldn’t. Did I like the scandal associated with Henry Tudor’s mistress(es), Philippa Gregory’s use of the first person, or her strong yet flawed female characters?  I was unable to put my finger on the one thing that really drew me to her writing.  So I decided to just jump in.

I found that I liked Gregory’s easily accessible style.  Historical fiction can sometimes be a bit bland, but by writing in first person, the reader is brought immediately into the world of the past.  There’s no lack of action, either, because you better believe that Gregory’s characters, in this case, (Queen) Elizabeth Woodville-Rivers-York (of England), are always plotting something.

Other than Philippa Gregory’s style, I also liked the mythical aspect that was added with the use of the legend of Melusina, the water goddess the Burgundy’s are descended from.  I had never heard of Melusina before, so I definitely learned a few new things.  This belief, coupled with the accusation against Elizabeth’s mother also allowed Gregory to bring in the element of witchcraft which makes an 13th-century historical novel interesting.

However, the more I read, the more I began to remember what I really liked about The Other Boleyn Girl because I didn’t quite like The White Queen as much.  A lot of The White Queen is war and plotting for war, or how to prevent war, depending on the needs of Elizabeth and her children.  There was so much plotting and not enough action.  I think I also missed the intrigue of the Royal Court.

I need to give Philippa Gregory credit, though.  Even though I didn’t feel completely connected with Elizabeth and didn’t whole-heartedly enjoy The White Queen, Gregory still made me feel something.  Even though I didn’t greatly feel connected in any way to Elizabeth, I still felt for her when Edward began keeping “The Shore Whore” at Court while Elizabeth was in confinement due to her pregnancy.  The fact that Gregory was able to make me feel something, even though I wasn’t that into the book proves (to me) that she’s a great writer.

I will pick up another Philippa Gregory novel.  The White Queen wasn’t terrible; it definitely had its merits, but I think I’ll shy away from the other novels in the Plantagent cycle for now.  I think I’ll move on to Georgian England with Philippa Gregory’s first novel, Wideacre.

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