Trish from Trish’s Reading Nook reviewed this book recently. For some reason – probably because I read so little modern fiction – I’d never heard of it. Her review excited me, and I wanted to get my hands on this book immediately. Unfortunately, the copy at my local library was checked out, due back 11/1. I put the book on hold, and one from another branch shipped out to me. As of today, it still hasn’t arrived – nor has the copy at my library been returned. Grr. So today, after my editing group at Barnes & Nobles, I pulled Coraline off the shelf and settled into a big comfy chair for an hour. In that time, I read over a third of the book, and that’s when I decided to just buy it and bring it home. I only took me another hour or two to finish.
Coraline is a little girl whose world is somewhat stale and boring. Her parents aren’t the most attentive, and grown-ups in general ignore everything she says (they keep calling her Caroline, for instance). She’s moved to a new house, the middle flat in a three story home, and she likes to explore. In her explorations, she discovers that one of the doors in her house doesn’t open. Her mother unlocks it for her and shows her the wall of bricks behind it – apparently it used to lead to the empty flat across the way. Soon after, Coraline reopens the door to find the bricks missing. She crosses into a house that looks suspiciously like her own, only better. She has a mother and father there, as well, except that her Other Mother and Other Father have buttons on their eyes, and they want her to stay with them at all costs. Coraline must not only escape, but rescue her parents (who have been taken spiritually-captive) and the dead souls of other children trapped before her.
This is a fascinating book, a fast read, and quite creepy. Gaiman has a definite voice – something I’ve found lacking in many modern books – and the world he builds is convincingly terrifying. It’s a children’s book, but I’m not sure I’d want my kids to read it – nightmares might ensue… Honestly, I’d hoped it would be more grown up, or at least more parallel-reading, than it was. It lacked the duality that I’ve found in other juvenile fiction. While it was enjoyable, it was also very predictable in places (for example, I figured out where the parents were hidden waaay before Coraline). It also seemed like Coraline’s journey was a bit too easy. The focus was so much on the creepiness that it lacked a certain resistance typical of horror tales, though perhaps this was simply due to the age of the intended reader. Overall, I liked the book and don’t begrudge owning a copy because of my library system’s slowness. I will probably end up reading it again, and in the meantime, I’ll soon be checking out one of Gaiman’s adult novels to see if I can add him to the (very small) list of modern writers I like. He certainly has that potential; he passed the first test.
In a sidenote about Coraline, the illustrations were fabulous! The book was illustrated by Dave McKean (hmm…I wonder if he’s related to Michael McKean…nope, doesn’t look like it, but no wonder his name sounds so familiar – he illustrated albums for Stabbing Westward!). He starts with interesting but fairly benign pictures which become progressively more frightening. I loved them! They added so much to the book.
Another note: apparently there’s a movie of this book coming out in February.
Thanks, Trish, for introducing me to this one!!