Coraline by Neil Gaiman
4 stars – I liked it; it was good
I was horrified by the movie of this book when I was a kid – mainly because it was when it first came out and I caught a glimpse of it on the TVs in Superstore at the 1-hour-25-minute mark (scariest part of the whole movie!). All these years later, I’ve come back around to watching the movie and reading the book.
Read: Dec. 17 – Dec. 18, 2022.
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Creepy and Inspiring!
Coraline and her family have just moved into a new flat, and she spends most of her summer exploring the house and surrounding land. What she’s most interested in is an old wooden door in the drawing room, behind which is bricked up – though not always. Sometimes it leads into a world that seems to mirror her own, with another mother and another father and other neighbours. If only little Coraline knew what she was getting herself into.
I mentioned that I caught a glimpse of the movie when I was very young. Since then, I think, I have hated horror movies, but at the beginning of 2022, I took a Masterclass with Neil Gaiman, the author, then a couple of weeks ago, a movie reaction channel I watch on Youtube reacted to the movie, so I thought I’d give it a go. After listening to the reaction, I tried the movie out for myself, and I liked it, so when I saw the book, I decided to buy it.
It’s been on my shelf for a little while now, but it’s a short enough book that I decided to read it between other books. To start off, the book revolves around Coraline, and though her actual age isn’t specified, it’s implied that she’s young, about eleven years old. This means that while she is clever, curious, and an explorer, the adults around her (parents and neighbours) don’t take her seriously. Her neighbours are constantly getting her name wrong, though she keeps correcting them, and when she tells them about what happens behind the door, they think she’s playing make-believe.
Otherwise, the writing, being for kids, is fairly simple, and the diction (word choice) makes for a spooky and mysterious tone. Neil Gaiman does an excellent job of portraying the uneasiness we should feel when Coraline enters the other world. There are moments that get your heart racing and send shivers along your spine. It’s a perfect mix of creepy and exhilarating.
I like that the cast of characters was kept small, and each of them is distinct from one another (aside from Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, who I kept mixing up, but they’re a package deal anyway). There is Coraline, her parents, the old man upstairs (who isn’t named until the end), the aforementioned Misses Spink and Forcible, the cat, and all the mirrored characters in the other world. Only Coraline and the cat don’t have other selves, and they build a tentative friendship as Coraline explores the other world.
Trigger warning – There was one line, however, that really hit me hard. It was when the other mother says something that she doesn’t actually mean (though I won’t include it here). I heavily identify with Coraline – especially because our names are so close – so this specific line hit me hard. I almost closed the book then and there because of the memories it shook loose.
Though it’s written for children, it is still a slightly scary book – the message being about courage and what it means to be brave. The only thing I recommend is if you’re a parent planning to read this to a child, know who your child is and if this might scare them. Otherwise, I highly recommend this book because Neil Gaiman is a wonderful author. I have other books of his that I plan to read in the coming months.
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