Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Yes, I am a book-devouring machine these days. This is in every way related to the fact that I need another job.

I’ve been wanting to read this one for a good few months, but it happened that I actually did read it at this particular time because it’s one that actually lives at the Winthrop library. As opposed to my having to order it.

Coraline is about a girl, small for her age, who’s just moved with her parents to an old apartment building. There are a couple of old ex-actresses downstairs, and a crazy man with (he says) a band of performing mice. There’s an ancient well that could go down further than a half mile. And there’s a bizarre old door in the drawing room wall, with a heavy old key, that opens only to brick.

That is, until one night when something wakes Coraline from her sleep. When she goes to investigate, she finds the door open. On the other side is a house identical to hers, only other. The ruler of this domain is… Coraline’s other mother.

The other mother wants Coraline to stay with them, she and Coraline’s other father, in this world where, she promises, things will always be better. The food will be wonderful at every meal. She will never be ignored. The games will never end.

As Coraline explores her new world, though, she finds that it ends in a mist somewhere in the woods behind the house. The other mother never bothered to create that far out. In short time, Coraline finds herself longing for her real parents. There’s something sinister about the other mother, the other Misses Spink and Forcible. The only thing that’s not other is the cat, who’s quite vocal, and informs Coraline that cats know several ways in and out of places like this. And furthermore, that cats are too good for names. So, he’s just the cat.

When Coraline returns to her real home, though, her parents have gone missing.

Another one by Neil Gaiman, I was less impressed this time around, but I think there’s good reason for that- this is, quite obviously, a book for children. The story is not as complex as the previous Gaiman books I’ve read, but it did have something happening on every page, an interesting array of characters, and a truly scary villain. It’s clever and never boring. It was also very quick, so I’m glad to say I enjoyed it!

If you’ve seen the movie, it’s fun to draw parallels between the two. The movie was actually a very good representation of the story, though it switched some events around and manipulated a bit, as is expected- but there were several places, all throughout, where Selick (the director of the movie) took extreme care to match the feel of the book. In a lot of places, he used the exact dialogue written by Gaiman. There were details in surrounding and action that Selick animated perfectly- such as, for example, the moment towards the end:

The other mother simply smiled, and the tap-tap-tapping of her fingernail against her eye was as steady and relentless as the drip of water droplets from the faucet into the sink. And then, Coraline realized, it was simply the noise of the water, and she was alone in the room.

It felt, to me, like Selick really respected that Gaiman is the master of the story. This is the kind of integrity you don’t see often enough in movie adaptations!

This is basically an adventure story, with a particularly long expositionary period. Even during the exciting, scary bits, though, Gaiman never relinquishes this glimmery, magical tone from his prose. He paints a picture in a way that many authors can’t. He can spend a paragraph describing a painting of fruit, and you’ll wonder what that fruit is up to. It feels like every word he uses has a purpose, and that purpose is most often to manipulate your feelings and make you uneasy, and comfortable, or irritated.

Even in this book for kids, the writing was wonderful. It’s the kind of book I would share with my youngest sister- I think she could enjoy it. I don’t think it’s over the head of the average nine year-old, but it’s also a fun read for your older bookworm.

I have to point out this “praise” that was printed on the back cover, courtesy of Lemony Snicket:

This book tells a fascinating and disturbing story that frightened me nearly to death. Unless you want to find yourself hiding under your bed, with your thumb in your mouth, trembling with fear and making terrible noises, I suggest that you step very slowly away from this book and go find another source of amusement, such as investigating an unsolved crime or making a small animal out of yarn.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a praise that told you not to read a book.

In case you’re interested, here’s the trailer for the movie (which I thought was quite good).

Published in: on July 5, 2011 at 11:55 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You know me, I didn’t like the movie much. But then again you always accuse me of losing my inner child in the depths of my adult cynicism. Either way I didn’t like the movie much at all and the book was enjoyable but not one that I would reread again.

    And Snicket is known for reviews like that ๐Ÿ˜‰ that’s why I love him

    • Adult cynicism is like poison for your inner child. I always try to hold on to at least a little adult naivete so my inner child can thrive.

  2. I really want to read the book, as you know. I loved the review by Lemony Snicket ๐Ÿ™‚

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