Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
O.K., I'm finally going to post a review -- well sort of. It's been so long since I actually read Coraline that I'm afraid I may not be able to do it justice. I didn't take notes or mark passages as I usually do, so I'm pretty much going to just tell you briefly what it's about and give you my feelings about it.
Coraline is a children's book according to Gaiman, but it didn't really feel like a children's book. Of course, good children's books should simply be well-written and tell a good story just like novels written for adults. This one fits the bill nicely. This was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman after having heard rave reviews of his work all over the blogging world. He didn't disappoint. I will definitely be reading more of his work in the future.
The edition I read has some nice supplementary material in the back, including an author interview, some biographical information, and his reasons for writing this particular book. He began writing it for one of his daughters over ten years ago. He says, "I started to write a story about a girl named Coraline. I thought that the story would be five or ten pages long. The story itself had other plans." He goes on to say, It was a story, I learned when people began to read it, that children experienced as an adventure, but which gave adults nightmares. It's the strangest book I've written, it took the longest time to write, and it's the book I'm proudest of."
Coraline moves with her family into a large, older home that has been divided into individual flats. The residents of the other flats are a little on the eccentric side to say the least. There's the man upstairs who lives with a group of mice who play instruments and talk to him. Then there are the elderly sisters who used to be in the theater and who can read fortunes in tea leaves. But, for Coraline, the most intriguing aspect of her new flat is the locked door that opens onto a brick wall. Her mother explains to her that it's simply due to the reconstruction. However, Coraline senses something is not as it seems. One day, when her parents are out, she gets the key for the locked door and literally opens a door into another world -- an alternate world. On the other side of the door, there is a flat that looks exactly like her flat, but better. In fact everything seems similar but better in this new world, including her parents. Coraline's room is prettier in this new world and is filled with toys and books that seem to be alive. But, things change quickly and it's obvious that her new parents don't exactly have her best interests at heart. As Coraline explores, things begin to deteriorate quickly, and she fears that she'll never get back to her real life in her real home with her real parents. In fact, she eventually discovers that she may be banished to live behind a mirror forever.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was creepy and fun all at the same time. The edition that I read also has some wonderful black and white drawings that are quite scary. It's a short book that can be read quickly, and I highly recommend it. I can't wait for some more Neil Gaiman. Many of you are experts on him, so what do you think? Where should I go next?