Monday, 2 March 2009

‘Coraline’ – Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury)

When I bought a copy of ‘Coraline’ back in 2002 this is what the cover looked like...



A few years on, and one forthcoming film later, ‘Coraline’ now looks like this...



Quite cool I think, I’m notoriously bad at getting round to going to the cinema but I can see myself checking this one out (but then I always say that...) It’s been a long time since I last read ‘Coraline’ and when this edition arrived in the post I found myself really looking forward to the re-read. My anticipation proved well founded as I enjoyed ‘Coraline’ just as much as I did last time round...

When Coraline decides to explore her new home she finds that her wandering takes her further afield than she intended. A mysterious door leads her into another house just like her own (but different) with parents just like hers (but very different...) Her ‘parents’ want Coraline to stay with them for ever, Coraline will find that getting home is easy, going back again is more difficult and getting home for the final time could well be impossible...

My copy of ‘Coraline’ weighs in at a mere one hundred and eighty four pages long and this is obviously a large part of why it is such a quick read. However, the plot, setting and the constant sense of danger all play their part to make ‘Coraline’ a compelling read that I just had to finish. The plot is clearly laid out with very definite milestones for the reader to work towards before they can find out what happens next. As soon as you meet Coraline’s ‘other mother’ it’s also very clear how high the stakes are and this level of tension is maintained throughout the book, even when you think the danger has passed...

It could be said that the plot is a little bit too simplistic (certainly for my tastes) but even though the outcome is never in doubt, Gaiman still manages to throw a few surprises our way, the encounter in the cellar still makes me jump! It’s Gamain’s characterisation and settings that really made the book work for me though.

Although ‘Coraline’ does have a message that it wants to get across (your parents do love you, appreciate them) Gaiman puts a clever spin on it by making Coraline a little girl unlike any other you’re likely to meet in a children’s book. You see, Coraline knows that her parents love her and that she wants to be with them. This way we get to skip the almost obligatory ‘revelation piece’ and get on to what’s really important, Coraline getting back to her real parents. Coraline is a very brave little girl.
Coraline’s ‘other mother’ is also deliciously scary, no more so than in this passage (which still makes me shiver)...

“How do I know you’ll keep your word?” asked Coraline.
“I swear it,” said the other mother. “I swear it on my own mother’s grave.”
“Does she have a grave?” asked Coraline.
“Oh yes,” said the other mother. “I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back.”


The setting, against which everything plays out, is haunting to the extent where the real world is almost as spooky as the world through the door. It’s in the other mother’s world though that Gaiman really allows his imagination to run wild in a riot of colour and weirdness that sits on top of the evil underneath. And what is it that lives in the tunnel between the worlds? There’s another story there, I’m sure of it.

I had some pretty cool books when I was a kid but my shelves really missed out by ‘Coraline’ not being on them. I’ll be making up for this though by reading ‘Coraline’ again and again in the future...

Nine out of Ten

9 comments:

angelshimmery said...

My copy of Coraline also looks like yours, but I'll be buying the new one for my daughter as I've promised we'll go see the film if she reads the book first.
As per usual a fantastic review from yourself.

ediFanoB said...

I look forward to see the film.
Last week I read The Graveyard Book.

gav (nextread.co.uk) said...

Dilemma - movie or book first?

Choices!

Great review.

Graeme Flory said...

Thanks guys! I do want to see the film now but, knowing me, I've got a feeling I'll end up missing it. 'Watchmen' is the priority film at the moment... ;o)

Bookarmy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ali said...

Mine looks like this cover - kind of in between the two above really! I'm with you Graeme - Watchmen is the priority film - just caught the trailer on youtube and it got me a little bit excited! That's tonight sorted anyway, maybe I'll get round to Coraline soonish...

Hagelrat said...

I love love love this book and have been meaning to get it for ages (I borrowed it read)so now have the movie tie in cover. I like it much better than most tie ins.

wend said...

I can't wait to see this ... absolutely loved the book when it first came out. I wish I had some spare loot to buy a bendy doll set too; they look gorgeous.

Ditto on Watchmen!

lilmzgee said...

I know this comment's a little late, but if you haven't seen the movie, GO! It's directed by Henry Selick, the genius behind Nightmare before Christmas. The movie captures the book's essence. To see it in 3d is even better.