Coraline, Neil Gaiman

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4 Stars

An easy-going, refreshing read, perfect for a chilly autumn afternoon and a stroll down memory lane.

Coraline is a 2002 dark fantasy novella.A modern fairy tale. Gaiman said he had embarked upon writing it for his older daughter and finished it off for his younger one. So it had taken him quite some time.Having children as the target audience,the book is written in a simplistic, almost skeletal fashion, steering clear of specifics and on-the-nose description; story comes first and it’s only to be expected.

In brief,

the heroine of the book is Coraline. She’s fond of exploring the surroundings and hates it when people butcher her name. So I’m gonna say it again, so that we won’t have any problems. CORALINE -never Caroline.In vacation, bored and having just moved into an old house is just the perfect pretext for her surveying the vicinity.The old house is divided into apartments. Her family’s got the second floor,and her neighbors include some bizarre Mr. Bobo (who lives on the third floor and claims he runs a mouse circle) and Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, two former actresses, now two elderly ladies living on the first floor with a pack of terriers.

So she sets out to explore every nook and cranny of the house and she stumbles upon a locked door as she does so. She asks her mother to unlock it, raring to see what it is that’s behind. Thing is, there’s nothing behind except for a brick wall, build upon splitting the old house into flats.

There must be something with this madcap door, right? Home by herself, Coraline gets the keys and unlocks the door. Plain as day, the brick wall is gone, and in front of her lies a corridor. Despite Mr. Bobo’s , Miss Spink’s and Miss Forcible’s warning her not to open the door and the ill- omened signs, she does just that. She walks down the corridor and winds up in a flat identical to her own. There’s also someone looking like her mother, only she’s got two sizable glossy black buttons for eyes and long sharp nails. This is her ‘other mother’. There’s also some ‘other father’ and this is, as you most certainly figured out for yourselves, a parallel universe. Anyways, she returns home eventually, despite her other mother’s entreaties.

The bottom line is that her ‘other mother’ is a monster of a sort and deftly contrived this whole world as a duplicate of Coraline’s. And she wants her. Doesn’t take kindly to Coraline’s turning her back on her so she kidnaps her parents.

What follows,needless to say, is Coraline’s little Odyssey as she seeks to get her parents back from her other mother’s clutches.

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The purpose of the book is plain to see: to give kids a model of courage, someone capable to get the better of their fears. Albeit written for children, Coraline is a surprisingly fun read. Overly adorned writing is anathema to me, frankly.  Literature is not a showboat contest.Therefore this book, all but devoid of description and as vague as it gets makes for an easy, laid-back read that works wonders for people only seeking an entertaining, engaging but not tiring, book.

The novella was also turned into an animated movie in 2009. I didn’t see it but, for what it’s worth, it’s got a 7,7/10 on IMDb.