Book Review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman


Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: January 1st 2002
Paperback: 165 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.


On the back of the copy that I have, Neil Gaiman says:

“I don’t think you can be too old for Coraline.”

I believe he is right; you can never be too old for Coraline. I watched the movie first and loved it. I thought that the concept was original and creepy. It honestly felt like a Tim Burton film even though it’s not and I feel like that’s why I like it so much.

The book is not about fluffy teddybears or cute orphaned ducklings, but about dark, scary monsters that try to eat you whole in a bite or two, it is about the persistence of evil and the need to stand up and fight against it. It is not a coincidence that the quote selected by Gaiman as an opening gambit is from G K Chesterton. Good fairy tales have important lessons to impart to the readers:

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” 

Coraline has a ‘dragon’ to slay, and she has only herself to blame for the troubles she finds herself in. The issue starts when her parents don’t pay attention to Coraline on a rainy day. She’s left more or less to her own devices, and what she loves best is to go exploring. And the most enticing things are of course those that are forbidden, or locked – the mysteries, the secret places, the white spots on the maps of far distant lands. In her old house this means a locked door that leads to an unoccupied apartment in the same building.

Neil Gaiman uses the plot device of portals that can be found in the most ordinary places: inside a cupboard, under the stairs, down a rabbit hole, inside a metro station, behind a gate in an ancient stone wall. They take you into a alternate reality existing side by side with the ordinary world. Coraline accidentally on purpose steps through into such a world, apparently a copy of her real house and family where her every wish can be granted. But pretty soon, she discovers that the price she has to pay to have her fun is much too high, and she will need all her courage, and boldness and inventiveness if she wants to survive and to help the people she loves most dearly. With a little help from her friends (among them a wonderful sarcastic), she might prevail, but not before the reader is thoroughly scared.

There are a few illustrations on this book and they are creepy but so enjoyable! I really really enjoyed this book. It taught me so much in such a few pages.


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