1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Hiya. So, I disappeared for a month, not because I stopped reading (heavens, no), but because 925 pages takes some time, even for me. Although it did take a little longer than I anticipated. And then, well, I just didn’t really feel like writing a review, so I jumped right in and started/finished my next book (more on that later). But now it’s nighttime, and I’m clean, and it would irresponsible for my sleeping patterns to start another book now (even though I have a really good one sitting next to me). And I have some ice coffee, so, awesome. It’s actually ice mocha. Mostly chocolate. With ice. It’s delicious in winter.

1Q84 marks a special first for me: first book ever read entirely on an e-reader. Specifically, a classic Kindle, which my father bought me for my birthday. I have to say, I found the experience strangely enjoyable. Strangely because I didn’t expect the Kindle to offer me anything besides a lighter, cheaper way to carry books, but there were actually several features I found very useful. For one thing, the progress bar at the bottom which shows what percentage of the book you’ve read. Since this book is so long, that bar moved really, really slowly.

One thing I found myself doing quite a lot was highlighting. I’ve never highlighted my books before- besides the fact that most of my books come from the library, I’ve never been tempted to highlight with ink. But highlighting on the Kindle if just pressing a few buttons. On top of that, since my Dad and I share an account (which means we share all of our books), he can see anything I highlight. Mostly I just highlighted sentences that looked really good to me.

Okay, about the book. One day, Aomame is riding in a taxi on the way to an appointment when they get caught in pretty serious traffic. Janáček’s Sinfonietta played on the radio. The taxi driver informed Aomame that if she was really in a hurry, there was an emergency stairway down from the highway that would take her down into the city, so she pays the man, exits the taxi, and locates the stairwell. As soon as she steps over the gate, though, she feels something shift. She can’t say what, so she ignores it and climbs down the (somewhat treacherous) stairs to pavement below and makes her way to her appointment, on time, and all is well.

Meanwhile, math teacher and part time writer Tengo Kawana sits down with his friend Komatsu, an editor, talking about a young writer’s contest which is hosted by Komatsu’s company and Tengo helps judge. This year an interesting piece of fiction has been submitted and caught their attention; the story is too good to ignore, but the writing is poor, so Komatsu devises an elaborate plan whereby Tengo rewrites the story, with the permission of the young author, Fuka-Eri. The story is called Air Chrysalis. It is set in a strange world with Little People, a world with two moons.

The perspective jumps between Tengo and Aomame (a third character is factored in later on) as they progress through their storylines. Soon, they each become aware of a change in their world. It is revealed that they have a past connection, and now they have to find each other again fix whatever is going wrong.

Yes, for about seven hundred pages, it really is that vague.

I loved it. I thought it was excellently written, and for not one minute did I find it slow or dull. Now I have to say that I did come across a very negative review that raised some valid points: the pace is leisurely (I won’t say it’s ‘slow’ because that sounds like a bad thing), and Murakami has a slight tendency to repeat himself and drag out seemingly insignificant details. For some reason, this never bothered me.

There were a few things that annoyed me, but they’re spoilery so I don’t want to mention them here. But for my first Murakami, I was really impressed. I’ve heard a lot of good things and had been meaning to read something of his for a while, so I was pleased when my Dad got this one for us on the Kindle (he’s reading it now).

I’ll leave you with this:

Oh, it’s also a love story. Though I didn’t actually think of it that way for most of the time I was reading it, it really is.

Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm  Comments (2)  
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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I first came across this book a few months ago, seeing only the cover and a short synopsis, and I instantly wanted to read it. I ordered it from my library, only to be informed a few weeks later that they couldn’t find. It was so new it wasn’t in any system anywhere. So I resigned myself to wait.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was putting through a few orders, the librarian asked me if I’d ever gotten my hands on the book. I told him I still hadn’t, and he offered to order it for me now that it was in the Minerva system. I jumped on his offer and only a week or so later, I had it in my possession. I was surprised by how hefty it was, but when I opened it I was pleasantly surprised to see that instead of normal pages, the publishers had printed this book on glossy photo paper that really made the illustrations look gorgeous. The book has some graphic on almost every page- pen and ink drawings clutter the margins, and sometimes an illustration takes up an entire two-page spread. It was an almost cinematic atmospheric trick.

The main character of the book is thirteen year-old Conor, who wakes from his usual nightmare at seven minutes past midnight to find a monster at his window. As it turns out, Conor’s been expecting a monster, but not this strange, old one that seems to have grown from their yew tree. He finds it difficult to fear this thing when he’s seen so much worse. As it turns out, the monster doesn’t even seem particularly interested in eating him alive. Instead, it promises, it will return for three nights, and each night it will tell Conor a story of a time when it walked the earth before. When he’s told his three stories, he expect Conor to tell one to him- the truth.

Conor’s life is anything but easy as his mother seems to be suffering from an undefined cancer, his father lives in America with his other family, and he is bullied at school. On top of all this, every night when he goes to sleep he has the nightmare- one that involved darkness, screaming, falling, and a monster much scarier than the yew tree. Yet, it’s what happens at the end of this nightmare that the yew tree wants to hear about, and Conor is scared to death to tell him.

I found this book remarkable in it’s darkness and honesty. It’s an unusual telling of the story of a young child with an ill parent and circumstances he can’t control. The writing was both heavy and humorous, Conor both bold and frightened. It was a quick read, yet very provocative. I know I’ve posted this video before, but just watch it.

Published in: on November 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

If you’re around the online bookworm community much, this isn’t the first time you’ve seen this picture. The Night Circus has been getting a lot of hype recently, and for very good reason! So when I saw it sitting on display in my library, I snatched that baby without a second thought- without, in fact, even realizing that I had grabbed the large print copy. Oh well.

Needless to say, I read it anyway (not only because it would have been slightly embarrassing to return to the library and swap them, after how excited I was to have my hands on it), and it was so fantastically worth it. The book is about two children who are bound into a game by their instructors- a challenge of skill and magic. The kids, a boy and a girl, are raised and trained separately- one by her father, and the other by the strange man in the gray suit who found him in an orphanage- waiting for the day their mysterious game will begin. When they are young adults, the boy, Marco, is hired as an assistant to an eccentric man named Chandresh (I honestly can’t remember what Chandresh does, professionally, which probably says something about the way I read), who uses his wealth and influence to design and bring to life an unusual circus- one that only opens at night.

The first entertainer they hire is a contortionist with a wry smile and bizarre tattoos. Later, when they are looking for a skilled illusionist fit for their show, Marco meets Celia Bowen and knows he has found his competitor. He is the only one who knows that her amazing tricks aren’t tricks.

The competitors have met, and their playing ground is established- they can do whatever they want within the circus. In the book, the game is often compared to chess, quickly to be followed up with some explanation of how it’s not like chess at all. There’s no logic. As the young magicians get closer, however, their spark turns to love. Now they want out, but they quickly realize that you don’t just quit the game. Thanks to the powerful binding magic that was performed on them when they were young, the lovers have no choice- and the consequences can be deadly.

The Night Circus was one of the best books I’ve read in quite a long time. I was constantly putting it down, just so it wouldn’t go so quickly, and I would use that time to go and pester my family about how completely amazing this book is. The writing was fantastic and the characters were fantastic and the story was fantastic and everything was fantastic. Just what you would expect from a night circus.

And there’s a book trailer for it!

Published in: on October 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

If a book has been made into a well-known movie, it becomes next to impossible to find a nice picture of the actual cover of the book. It’s very annoying. Mine looked like this:

Girl, Interrupted is the memoir of Susanna Kaysen, who, when she was 18 in 1966, was committed to a mental institution. Questioning her sanity with unlikely clarity, Susanna familiarizes herself and us with the cast of patients living in her ward.

The story is told as a series of vignettes; each short chapter focuses on some element of life in the hospital, or a patient with an interesting story. Susanna tells us about Polly, who set herself on fire; Janet, an anorexic; Georgina, a schizophrenic and pathological liar; Valerie, the head nurse; and Lisa, the sociopath whose domineering charisma dominates life in the ward. Moving in something slightly resembling chronological order, Susanna paints for us a picture of life in the days before being committed, the over-two-years she spent in the hospital, and just a little bit of what she did in the 25 years between being released and writing her memoir. Her narrative is sprinkled with insights into what crazy and sane are, and why people react the way they do when they hear that she’s been in a mental hospital. She even describes some of her more insane episodes (such as the time she became convinced that there were no bones in her hand) with a dry noncommittance that borders on creepy.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while, because I broke one of my cardinal rules- seeing the movie first. (Note: there are some exceptions to this rule. I don’t actually intend to read Bambi.) I think I can be forgiven, as I had no idea at the time that the movie was based on a book. Needless to say, the two are… very different. I really enjoyed the movie when I saw it, and I also really enjoyed the book, but the two actually have very little in common. I’ll try to illustrate this with as few spoilers as possible.

For one thing, where the book is told sort of as a collection of short stories, the movie transforms them into a film with a coherent storyline- a progression from A to B to The End, if you will.

While the movie includes a few tiny things that Susanna mentioned (wristbanging, for example), and nodded towards events that they chose to exclude entirely (the bone incident), they did weave elements of the original story into what was almost a new story entirely. If anything, the movie fleshes out characters that are held somewhat at a distance in the book. The movie focuses very strongly on Susanna’s destructive relationship with Lisa, while the book made Lisa seem more like a force of nature- she was there and she was powerful, but she wasn’t the villain. She wasn’t blamed.

Then there were some elements of the movie that were completely fictionalized. Honestly, this annoyed me a little. I just try to distance the movie from the book and it’s all fine. As I’ve said, they’re both very good.

Here’s the trailer for the movie:

Also, it turns out you can watch the full movie on Youtube. Here’s the link.

A final note: The memoir gets its title from the painting Girl Interrupted at Her Music by Johannes Vermeer. In the book, Susanna ties a great amount of significance to seeing this painting at an art museum shortly before going to the hospital. Years later, she returns to the museum to see it again.

Published in: on October 18, 2011 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a preview for the movie adaptation of this novel (coming out at the end of this month) which, before, I’d never heard of. The trailer freaked me out in a weird way, where I was also impossibly intrigued. The trailer mentioned that it was based on a book, and oftentimes I can read about things that I couldn’t watch, so I decided to go for it. It was even available at my own library, not inter-library loaning necessary!

The book is a first-person account of the life of a boy named Kevin Khatchadourian, told by his mother in letters to his father, several months after Kevin unleashed fire on his schoolmates at age fifteen. The novel is meant to be an exploration on the nature-versus-nurture question- basically, how much of Kevin’s blow-up was Eva’s fault? Would things have gone differently, had she been a different sort of mother?

The novel is told through a series of letters, and is a pretty good representation of why I’m not fond of novels told through letters. I feel like the way people communicate through letters in novels is not how they do it in real life. Considering that each chapter was a letter, and each chapter could be over twenty pages long, it didn’t feel like Eva was writing letters to be mailed off. It felt like she was writing a novel for an audience of one. At the very end of the book, though, something unpredictable is revealed and it all makes sense. I commend Lionel Shriver, because once I read this final bit, the way Eva was writing felt perfect. There was a reason behind it.

I thought this book was fantastic. Admittedly, it is 400 pages and the first 100 or so weren’t very gripping, it made a complete heel-face turn and was utterly fascinating for the entire rest of the book. I did not want to put it down. I spent far too many nights sitting up thinking, “You are going to be so tired at work in the morning” and not being able to stop.

The message, nature-versus-nurture, is a subtle undertone of the entire thing. It’s never addressed outright, but Eva’s guilt over the events is clear enough to put your mind to it. It’s true that she is not the best mother in the world, but it was also clear, from the moment of birth, that Kevin was not a normal child. It’s hard to say where his nature came from, but where both are involved, the book very neatly refuses to answer this question. At inspection, it feels like there’s nothing much Eva could have done differently. At closer inspection, she really wasn’t a very positive force in Kevin’s life and perhaps being born to a different mother would have changed him.

I enjoyed this book immensely and yes, it is going on my list.

Here’s the trailer that started it all. After reading the book, I’m even more nervous to see the movie, but now I know that I almost definitely will. I can’t let the story go that easily.

Published in: on September 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm  Comments (3)  
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Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

This has been a big week for me: landed a second job and got my driver’s permit. Here’s hoping I warm up to driving, because it would be kind of terrible to hate something that I’ll undoubtedly have to do quite a lot of in my life. I care more about having the job, anyway.

So, for those interested, in the Winthrop area, I’m now a waitress at Tubby’s, and you should all come and see me. I enjoy this job much more than housekeeping (I’m not giving that job up, by the way- I’m keeping them both). Even if I hated the activity of waitressing (which I don’t), this job is still preferable because there are people around me. And, of those I’ve met so far, every one of my coworkers is very cool.

That’s all.

Oh my god. I was completely rational about writing this review up until the last fifty or so pages of the book, which came completely out of nowhere and blew me so far away that I can’t even think right now. Geeze. Deep breaths, okay.

Everything is Illuminated is a very strange book by Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, about a young man (also named Jonathan Safran Foer) who’s recently been given a photograph of his grandfather, standing with a woman named Augustine, who reportedly saved him from the Nazi’s during WWII. This took place in Ukraine, in a small nothing town known as Trachimbrod or Sofiowka. Sixty years later, Jonathan returns to Ukraine to try and find Augustine and Trachimbrod.

To help him on his quest is Alex, another young man from Ukraine who speaks a stilted sort of intelligible English, and will act as his translator. They’re accompanied by Alex’s grandfather (also Alex), who will act as their driver, and Sammy Davis Junior, Junior, Alex Sr.’s “seeing-eye bitch.” Go ahead and work that one out.

The story is told in three styles. The current action- the story of Jonathan searching for Augustine in the present day- is narrated by Alex, who is writing it as a book. This is portrayed in Alex’s excessively formal English, which was jarring at first. You get used to it quickly.

The second part is the story of Trachimbrod in the 1780’s-90’s, beginning on the day Trachim B’s wagon went into the Brod River- Trachim’s body was never recovered, but he became a legend to the village and they would celebrate him every year on Trachimday. Somehow from the wreckage, a baby was found- a young girl, eventually adopted by the “disgraced usurer Yankel D” and named Brod. This is the book Jonathan is writing.

The third part of the story is told through letters that Alex writes to Jonathan, after he has returned to America and they are both writing their books. Presumably, Jonathan is writing back to Alex, but we never see his letters. Alex tells Jonathan about his family- his brother Little Igor, whom he thinks the world of; his grandfather, who has become obsessed with Augustine; his father, who is strict and cold; and his mother, whom he only wants to be close to. Meanwhile, Alex comments on Jonathan’s story- paralleling, in many places, exactly what the reader is thinking of the action.

This is just a curiosity- but I felt, very sincerely, that this story took place in the exact same universe as The History of Love. I’m not sure how to explain this, except that I felt certain that while Jonathan and Alex were hunting down Augustine, Leo Gursky was biding his time in New York, watching his son from afar. I’ve never had this feeling with a book before. It’s odd, but I’ve never come across another novelist who writes like Nicole Krauss, except Jonathan Safran Foer- in my head, they automatically click (it’s only one of life’s perfect ironies that they’re actually married).

So this book is odd, but it was also incredibly gripping. I enjoyed reading it- though there were a few moments around 180 pages in that it slowed down a bit, it only became that much more amazing when he revealed the truth of everything. All I could think was that this was one of the most mind-bending, unbelievable, powerful things I had ever reader. I was in awe of was JSF did with the ending. I spent the last fifty pages or so just trying to breathe evenly around my accelerated heartbeat (though there easily could have been, there were no liquid tears).

As far as JSF goes, I thought that this book was much better than his other (which I liked quite a lot, so). If you have even the slightest amount of time, read this book. I’m going to add this to my rec list and buy a copy for myself, that’s how highly I thought of this book. That’s all I can say.

There’s been a movie made, starring Elijah Wood. I watched the trailer, and to be honest, the tone of the movie looks very different from the tone of the book. The movie looks much more fun- odd in a Sunshine Cleaning, Little Miss Sunshine kind of way. I have to say that I’m not sure I would watch it in conjunction with the book, but as a movie it looks interesting. Here’s the trailer, if you like:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This weekend has been exciting, though from this point forward the week itself doesn’t look very promising. I have driver’s ed and work to worry about. I might have to make extra trips to the library just to keep my spirits up.

That doesn’t matter right now, though. This Friday, Much Ado About Nothing opened at the Theatre at Monmouth, and my sisters and father and I all went to the opening night performance, and it was wonderful. Though I must admit I’ve never been particularly fond of this play (at that point I had just seen Shakespeare repeat himself too often to be impressed, and quite frankly it annoys me to no end how this prank that their friends play on them somehow manifests itself into genuine love), being at the theatre again makes me happy. There was a wonderful reception and we left feeling good.

Tonight, they opened The Compleat Works of Shakespeare, Abridged. If you’re on of the unfortunate sort who haven’t seen this play, do so now. There’s a DVD of it being performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. It’s one of the most fantastically hilarious plays I’ve ever seen- it’s every play Shakespeare’s ever written, condensed into one three-man show. Half of it’s improv, and the other half is kinda-sorta the works of William Shakespeare. I love it endlessly. They’re putting it on three more times this summer, and I want to see every one!

Every time I dress up to go to the theatre, I feel like I’m going on a date or about to meet my prince or something. It hasn’t happened yet. For the record, in case anyone was thinking of asking me out anytime soon (just a thought), I think movie dates are lame, but I would totally accept a theatre date. Just so you know.

Moving on.

I’ve been hearing a lot about this novel since, I suppose, around September. The school librarian used to recommend it to me every other week or so, but for some reason I never listened.

Never Let Me Go is about a world in which science has found a way to clone humans, specifically for the purpose of harvesting their organs. For all that that sounds very 70’s B-movie sci-fi, I didn’t actually realize that this book was sci-fi until about halfway in. The inside cover description did not tell you any of that, even though it’s in every other description of the book anywhere. I actually found out on Wikipedia, and I felt like I’d been spoiled. Says the spoiler-phobe.

The book is told from the perspective of Kathy, a clone who is now around thirty years old and working as a ‘carer’ in a facility for recuperating ‘donors,’ clones who have already begun donating their organs. The story is told in flashback, for the most part, thought it’s not actually that simply linear. Every time you’re settled comfortably into one direction, she’ll bring introduce another line and explain this line and then how it relates to the first and then complete the first and really, if it wasn’t so good, it would be completely infuriating.

Now, the idea is, since clones can’t actually donate until they’re adults, and they think and act exactly like normal humans, they need to be raised from infancy, through childhood, until they can be on their own. Kathy did her growing up in a ‘school’ called Hailsham, with her friends Ruth and Tommy. Her flashback begins when Kathy remembers a day at Hailsham where she, with her group of friends, are watching the boys play football and Tommy throws a tantrum after the other boys play a trick on him. When they were young (around ten or eleven in this flashback, I think) Tommy was famous for his temper, a joke throughout all of Hailsham. On this day, it was Kathy who went up to him in the middle of the football field and talked him down.

Tommy grew out of his temper. What he didn’t grow out of was the inability to create art- something which was a very big deal at Hailsham. The students were heavily encouraged to be ‘creative,’ and were rewarded by being able to exchange their work for others’. Before ever Exchange, however, Hailsham would be visited by a mysterious woman known simply as Madame, who would select the best of their work and take it away. Thought the students theorized about what Madame could want with their work, they were never given any real answers.

Much of the student’s lives are surrounded by this sort of crypticness, though Kathy and the students are much less bothered about it than the reader is. The thing is, they know what their purpose is. They’re told what they are, what they’re for. With this kind of background, you would be expect this to be a story about one student who decided to buck the system and live as a human being, but it’s not. At all. Not a single one of the students ever seems to mind that this is their future, to gradually allow themselves to be killed for a plague of people who don’t even want to think about their existence. Even to Kathy it never occurs that their might be something else.

So, this is basically a book that tells the story of three friends living out their lives exactly as they always knew they would, without any complications or rebellions at all. That explained, I don’t know how to tell you that this book is not boring in the slightest, not for a single sentence on a single page. It’s mostly about the relationship between the three main characters, and a study into humanity. As the friendship between Kathy and Ruth evolves, we see them grow around each other, sometimes clashing, in exactly the same way that real friends will do once they’ve known each other long enough. When Ishiguro writes it, it makes perfect sense, the way you can be completely self-righteous and ready to tear her a new one at one moment, then all of a sudden and without any help from her suddenly realizing exactly why she’s been doing this annoying thing and trying at least to be supportive. There are be-the-bigger-person moments, and I-really-don’t-want-to-deal-with-you-right-now moments, and they’re all very genuine and believable and everything we’ve experienced before.

Then, of course, the story is interesting because, though Kathy and her friends are growing up exactly as they knew they would, it’s still very different from the way a normal human child grows into adulthood. This is an entirely different world- though it’s never stated what era it takes place in, the tech they mention makes it feel like the eighties, perhaps nineties. Around when Kathy is thirteen, Walkmans (Walkmen?) for tapes come on to the scene (I make that distinction because when I was about ten, portable CD-players were called Walmans, and were the coolest thing I’d ever owned).

Anyway, the narration is told in three parts: the first part is Hailsham, the second part the Cottage, and the third part Kathy’s adulthood- being a carer, basically. The book ends before she becomes a donor. It’s interesting, but there are some questions about their lifestyle that Ishiguro never answers. For example, when Kathy is a carer, where does she live? It’s never suggested that clones live in the same sort of houses as regular people- there’s always been someplace set off for them. This is never explained. Also, Kathy has been a carer for twelve years (longer than usual), and clones are given ‘notices’ when they’re expected to make a donation. Once you’ve started donating, you’re no longer a carer. At the end of her twelve year, Kathy is going to be asked to step down as a carer, but she hasn’t gotten a notice asking her to begin donating yet. So where will she go now?

On the other hand, there’s a very powerful emotional scene at the end of the book where all of the big questions, the things that the students themselves wondered about their existence, those are answered. And that is very satisfying.

I must admit that after all the hype I’ve heard for this book- well, it deserved every word. It was wonderful and I’ll add it to my personal rec list. It made me think, it was never boring, and I felt very strongly for the characters. There’s not much more I can ask from a book I decided on a whim to finally read.

Now the truth is, though I know it may be frowned upon, I’m very fond of movie adaptations. I know, they’re never as good, but they can still be good, you know? If I liked a book, I will be interested in seeing the movie- unless strictly told not to, as is the case for such novels as The Time-Traveler’s Wife and Girl with the Pearl Earring. Both books I loved, that a good friend more-or-less forbade me to see as films. Anyway, Never Let Me Go has been made into a movie with a fantastic cast. For your pleasure, here’s the trailer to the film staring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley, which was released last year and I am now quite eager to see:

Oh, and speaking of movies, I’ve officially got plans to attend the midnight showing of Deathly Hallows Part 2 on Thursday night? Did not see that one coming. The slight kink in this plan is that I’ve not yet seen Part 1, but my friend promises this will change between now and then. Righto. Also opening this Friday is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which I reviewed a while back. Now that’s a movie I’m excited to see!

Published in: on July 11, 2011 at 1:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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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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