Then at the door of the castle the rector had shaken hands with his father and mother, his soutane fluttering in the breeze, and the car had driven off with his father and mother in it.
This sentence is a good example of the problem with ambiguous antecedents. If you’ve never read Portrait, you probably came away with the wrong meaning. This should help:
Then at the door of the castle the rector had shaken hands with his [Stephen’s] father and mother, his [the rector’s] soutane fluttering in the breeze, and the car had driven off with his [Stephen’s] father and mother in it.
I hadn’t originally planned to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but when I stopped at the library on the way home, they didn’t have a copy of the book I planned to read, Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, which I told my mother I would read soon.
The reason I needed a new book to read is because I finished Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book Sunday night. There are few books that begin with a grisly triple murder that I would recommend for fourth- to eighth-grade kids, but this is one of them. If you have a tween who is just getting into werewolves, vampires, and ghosts (that is to say, a kid who doesn’t know what to read now that the Harry Potter series has finished), get them to start reading The Graveyard Book, and then the rest of Neil Gaiman’s repertoire.
Like he did with American Gods and Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman gives a new, interesting, and human twist to the mythologies we think we know in The Graveyard Book. The story revolves around a child who is raised from toddlerhood by the inhabitants of an ancient cemetery after the rest of his family are eliminated during the aforementioned grisly triple murder. The boy, who is given the name Nobody Owens, grows up among the dead and learns what the dead have to teach him. Eventually, though, Nobody will have to deal with the world outside the cemetery.
As far as settings go, this is a really interesting place to start a story. Few authors could pull it off, but Neil Gaiman is definitely one of those authors. Definitely worth the read (but still not as good as American Gods).