Thursday, July 1, 2010

Review of Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline Coraline lives with her preoccupied parents in part of a huge old house--a house so huge that other people live in it, too... round, old former actresses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible and their aging Highland terriers ("We trod the boards, luvvy") and the mustachioed old man under the roof ("'The reason you cannot see the mouse circus,' said the man upstairs, 'is that the mice are not yet ready and rehearsed.'") Coraline contents herself for weeks with exploring the vast garden and grounds. But with a little rain she becomes bored--so bored that she begins to count everything blue (153), the windows (21), and the doors (14). And it is the 14th door that--sometimes blocked with a wall of bricks--opens up for Coraline into an entirely alternate universe. Now, if you're thinking fondly of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, you're on the wrong track. Neil Gaiman's Coraline is far darker, far stranger, playing on our deepest fears. And, like Roald Dahl's work, it is delicious.

What's on the other side of the door? A distorted-mirror world, containing presumably everything Coraline has ever dreamed of... people who pronounce her name correctly (not "Caroline"), delicious meals (not like her father's overblown "recipes"), an unusually pink and green bedroom (not like her dull one), and plenty of horrible (very un-boring) marvels, like a man made out of live rats. The creepiest part, however, is her mirrored parents, her "other mother" and her "other father"--people who look just like her own parents, but with big, shiny, black button eyes, paper-white skin... and a keen desire to keep her on their side of the door. To make creepy creepier, Coraline has been illustrated masterfully in scritchy, terrifying ink drawings by British mixed-media artist and Sandman cover illustrator Dave McKean. This delightful, funny, haunting, scary as heck, fairy-tale novel is about as fine as they come. Highly recommended. (Ages 11 and older) --Karin Snelson

This was my first Gaiman, and although this novel isn't really targeted to my particular age group, I still really enjoyed it. I think he does a nice job of establishing a main character who readers of all ages can at some point to relate to: a young girl who isn't entirely content where she is and wants things to be more exciting, or at least different.

I thought that the story was very well constructed and that it had a valuable message behind it. It was creative but also sent chills down my spine--the plot is actually very frightening! As a reader I could definitely see Coraline develop throughout the book, and I hope younger readers enjoy this aspect of the novel. I also thought that this book was very well written, and a few of Gaiman's lines made me laugh. I guess I would describe his style as concise but still definitely adequately descriptive.

Carefully tied together and wonderfully imaginable, Coraline left me feeling satisfied in every way. I've only read one other Gaiman besides Coraline, namely Stardust, but I loved them both and certainly intend to read more.


  1. I read Gaiman's "American Gods" earlier this week. I highly recommend it. He has a fantastic imagination, literally, as he can't seem to write about anything else other than "fantasy" worlds that are just outside our own, but that's something he does quite well. "The Graveyard Book" is another one like "Coraline" that's intended for younger audiences and apparently is also quite excellent.

  2. I have read quite a few of his books. Coraline was the last one I read, and I really don't think it holds a candle to what he is capable of. It's a young adult novel... and reads very simply like one. I think, had he targeted adults and written this book for them, it would have been GREAT!

    Good Omens, American Gods... these are Gaiman at his best!

  3. Well, I actually own American Gods, Good Omens, The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere, so I have lots more Gaiman to enjoy :D

  4. What a great review! :) I admit, I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan. And I've read some of his books, like Neverwhere and Anansi Boys, a few times over. :)



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