Audiobook Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book Audio Versions

The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman narratesOriginal Audiobook

Narrated by: Neil Gaiman
Length: 7 hrs 47 mins
Unabridged audiobook
Publisher: Harper’s Children
Released: September 2008
Available from Amazon as an Audio CD and through Audible audiobooks

Full Cast Audiobook

Narrated by: Neil Gaiman, Derek Jacobi, Robert Madge, Clare Corbett, Miriam Margolyes, Andrew Scott, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Emilia Fox, Reece Shearsmith, Lenny Henry, Elizabeth Bennett, Allan Corduner, Sean Baker, Tim Dann, Adjoa Andoh, Jenny Gannon, Dan Weyman, and Daniel Brocklebank.
Length: 8 hrs 24 mins
Unabridged audiobook
Publisher: Harper Audio
Released: September 2014
Available from Amazon as an Audio CD and through Audible audiobooks

The Story of The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book is the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens, who was orphaned as an infant and raised in a cemetery. Bod is parented by kindly ghosts, guided by a highly respected guardian and educated by a strict tutor. Others in Bod’s graveyard home take active roles in helping him navigate life as boy living in a supernatural world. Despite everyone’s efforts to keep him safe, Bod engages in misadventures both inside and outside of the graveyard. Each time he leaves his home Bod is in danger of being discovered by the man who killed his family.

Both versions of the audiobook use a beautifully haunting musical arrangement, “Danse Macabre” by Bela Fleck and Ben Sollee, at the end and start of each chapter. The musical score is a wonderful complement to the story, and helps the listener to visualize the Danse Macabre from the narrative.

Author Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is a prolific writer, best known for novels including Stardust, American Gods, and Coraline, as well as the comic book series The Sandman.

Neil GalmanGaiman won a several awards for The Graveyard Book including the 2009 Newbery Medal, the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 2009 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel, and the 2010 Carnegie Medal, as well as being nominated for several other awards. The audiobook version was also awarded the 2009 Audie Award.

The Graveyard Book is a rich story with elements that are both moving and chilling. It follows the trend of many children’s books that include frightening content with themes of violence, horror, and loss. Though the story includes murder and monsters, Common Sense Media affirms that The Graveyard Book is appropriate for children nine and older. The Graveyard Book is engaging throughout, with chapter-length stories of Bod’s adventures inside and outside the graveyard contained within the novel’s overarching narrative about the mystery of Bod’s family’s murder.

If you have the full cast production, be sure to listen to Gaiman’s postscript “The Story Behind the Graveyard Book.” He was initially inspired upon watching his son ride his tricycle in a church cemetery. Gaiman compared the concept to Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and one can see the similarities between them—the adventures of a boy living in a non-traditional environment, conflicts with the world outside, and the threat of a murderous foe.

Narration

Neil Gaiman’s award-winning tale comes in two different audiobook options. The original audiobook was released in 2008 and is narrated by the author. Then in 2014 Harper Audio released a full cast production of The Graveyard Book. Both have excellent narration, though they create slightly different audio experiences.

Neil Gaiman narration

The original audiobook can be recognized by its blue cover and the exclusive narration by Neil Gaiman. We all know that narration can make or break an audiobook, and in some cases can actually enhance the story. Though no one is more of an expert on their work than the author, not all writers are equipped to deliver an engaging narration. Yet, Neil Gaiman is an outstanding narrator. His delivery of The Graveyard Book helps the listener to feel strongly connected to protagonist Bod while also scaring the bejesus out of us with suspenseful storytelling. You can tell that Gaiman is not just a writer sitting behind a computer, but a storyteller who understands that performance aspect of relating a tale. Neil Gaiman’s ability to tell his own stories with emotion and power makes his novels that much better.

The full cast production of The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book full castThe full cast production is narrated primarily by Derek Jacobi, who serves as the voice of the story itself, while the character roles were performed by various actors. Jacobi is an English stage and film actor who has narrated hundreds of audiobooks. Jacobi is a very strong narrator, though perhaps doesn’t hold the listener to the same degree that Gaiman does while reading the work. The cast of characters is quite good; their dramatic readings give an individual flavor to each of the characters that makes the dialogue scenes engaging. Listening to the full cast audiobook, it became clear that we remembered more scenes of internal thoughts and descriptions than we did some of the scenes of dialogue between characters, particularly if they were characters that only appeared in one chapter. Thus, the full cast production did a great job showcasing the conversations and connections between characters. As Bod gets older, so does his voice, which doesn’t always happen with child protagonists. The villains are quite scary, but slightly more melodramatic than the original audiobook.

The full cast version has more of the feel of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events than the original. We love A Series of Unfortunate Events so the comparison is not meant as a slight, but just indicative of how the full cast production is a different experience than the original. And certainly full cast productions are meant to have their own unique feel, otherwise publishers would not create both (particularly in this case since the original narration by Gaiman was so good).

The Graveyard Book original audiobook versus the full cast production

We first listened to the original a few years ago, then more recently listened to the full cast production. We love the narration in both because they’re different experiences. You can’t go wrong with either the original audiobook or the full cast production audiobook. It just depends on if you’re in the mood for listening to a thoughtful novel or a dramatic storytelling. The full cast production has the short postscript by Neil Gaiman, but don’t let that drive your decision. If we had to recommend one over the other we’d choose the Gaiman narration, but we’d still recommend you follow our own route and later listen to the full cast production as well.

Conclusion

the graveyard book readingThe Graveyard Book is one of Neil Gaiman’s finest works. It’s a heartfelt story full of suspense and the supernatural. The Supernatural Fox Sisters love all things spooky and supernatural, so this entertaining story rich with wonderful characters and an engaging plot was a fantastic read. We enjoyed both versions of the audiobook, though Neil Gaiman knows how to convey the intent of his work to the audience very effectively. If you haven’t yet read The Graveyard Book, or even if you have, we highly recommend you check out the audiobook.

One thought on “Audiobook Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

  1. Pingback: Audiobook News & Reviews: 12/15-12/30 | ListenUp Audiobooks

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