coraline by neil gaiman
coraline is bored. its the school holidays and she has nothing to do. she’s explored her new flat and all the surrounding grounds. she’s also visited her neighbours, the rather rotund miss spink and miss forcible, and mr bobo who lives upstairs – but no-one listens to her and they all call “caroline”.
then one day, while exploring, she discovers a locked door. her mother unlocks it, only for coraline to be confronted with a brick wall. on the other side, her mother tells her, is the flat in the house that has still not been sold. however, that night coraline finds the door ajar and sees a shape dart through the doorway and the next day when coraline opens the door she finds the bricks missing and a dark passageway stretching before her.
waiting for her at the end of the passage is her other mother… and another world. everything from her world is duplicated in the other world – only things appear better. her other parents have time for her, the food is delicious, there are loads of things to do and the neighbours get her name right! but things which at first appear so good aren’t quite what they seem… the paintings on the walls look wrong, the now-thin miss spink and miss forcible are a bit disturbing, everyone has black buttons for eyes and theres something rather hungry about the way in which her other mother loves her…
i enjoyed coraline quite a lot and i found it rather chilling at times. its such an original story that it was a treat to read something as fresh as this. and yet it feels very much like a traditional fairy tale – but the good kind, with all the scary bits left in. the story is satisfying and there are some interesting turns and nice surprises.
there are some wonderful moments in this book and much of what lingers are the images of the world at the other side of the door – the way that they are either gross or subtly chilling perversions of the real world. my only reservation is that i don’t find the narrative particularly memorable. by that i mean that i do, of course, remember what happens but that the story in itself isn’t particularly memorable. there are many memorable moments and some wonderful images, but the story somehow lacks meaning in my mind – it doesn’t echo in my head. however, its a mark of the quality of the book that this is my only criticism and the images and moments definitely make up for it.
the real quality in this book, though, is the characters. gaiman has such a talent for creating original and interesting characters! the other mother is a fantastic horror creation, she has depth and is very believable, whilst still being enigmatic, and thus scary. i really liked mr bobo, and found miss spink and miss forcible very funny; even the other father has more to him than one at first suspects. and then of course there are the mice! it also amazes me how he manages to lend depth to coraline’s parents even though they only appear fleetingly in the story. the characters are so rich that the book is worth reading just to experience them. dave mckean provides artwork for each chapter which is, as always, atmospheric, beautiful and seems tailor-made for gaiman’s work.i would say that i’d recommend it to any gaiman fan – but then i’m sure they don’t need any convincing. this is a very enjoyable story and i’d recommend it to anyone who likes gothic horror or fairy tales, or anyone who can remember what it was like being young and bored…!p.s. i cannot wait for the film. it is such an imaginative and colourful story that i’m sure it’ll look wonderful in animation. and i’m really looking forward to seeing these rich and interesting characters come to life on the screen!