on 27 November 2006
I discovered this book a little over four years ago. It was the first Gaimain novel I had come across, and remains--despite my delving into the fascinating depths of Neverwhere's London Below, the dangerous beauty of Stardust's Faerie and all the rest--my absolute favourite of all his works. His clear, unconvuluted style is really allowed to shine through here as this story is primarily for children, giving a wonderfully bleak, chilly feel. Also, Gaiman's masterful tendency of leaving much unexplained and not feeling the need to rationalise the extraordinary is, no doubt one that will appeal to children greatly.
Admittedly, the basic idea of a 'Looking-Glass' world is not original, but the intricacies of the storyline certainly are. This novel has that feel that so many horror films try (and largely fail) to obtain with their demonic children and evil dollies; Coraline is awash with a kind of twisted innocence that is infinitely eerie.
Black buttons have ever since made me edgy.
on 19 December 2005
I was attracted by the amazing artwork on the cover of this book, but was totally unprepared for the surprise inside. It is a pleasure to read out loud and was chosen as a bedtime story for our 8 year old child. OOps - very scary indeed, talking animals, rats singing cautionary tales, haughty cats, an impossibly long key, souls of dead children, the truth seen through a stone with a hole in it...... a girl trapped in a parallel world unable to leave until she rescues her parents.... The Other Mother and Father with large black buttons sewn on their eyelids, waiting to stitch up Coralines eyes..... I'm such a fan, can't you tell. Anyway, some clever person has bought the film rights and I can't wait. There's also a great website.. mousecircus.com Look out for and click on the rats when they scurry over the page, they will sing their chilling song for you. Enjoy if you dare.
on 17 October 2002
Neil Gaiman is a fantastic writer and this latest book conjured from his warped imgination proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The story is definetly written for children in mind but Gaiman manages to create an ambience so eerie and chilling that it will have any adult reading with the hairs on the back of their neck standing up.
You'll follow Coraline (Not Caroline!) into a world exactly like hers but counterfeit and with counterfeit parents. A world which wants to keep her there forever and always offering everything a child could wish for. But she's no fool and soon figures that there are things that are just too good to be true. Be it in this world or another.
The book is within the same genre as alice in wonderland but has many original ideas which will dare you to put the book down and not read it in one sitting. I was not up to this dare and finished it within one read. I am now currently reading it to my partner who is enjoying it almost as much as I did!
I'll be buying a copy for all the children and fantasy loving adults I know.
on 21 October 2009
My first thought about this book is that I almost wish it wasn't marketed as a children's book. It is very dark and grisly, and had I watched or read this when I was a young girl, I'm pretty sure I would have had nightmares.
A brief synopsis: Coraline Jones moved into part of an old, pink house. Her parents are busy and often neglect her, and she is discontent and lonely. The new house has very strange neighbors, such as a crazy man trying to train a mice circus, and two aging retired theatre actresses who own many Scottie dogs and dream about their lost youth. Coraline finds a small door in her flat that during the day opens up to a brick wall. Yet that night she opens it again and it leads to a parallel world, where she has an "other mother" and "other father" and everything seems to be a dream come true. Yet this world is a twisted, evil mirror world, and once she has fallen into it, she discovers it is very dangerous for her and for her parents.
I love the imagination of Neil Gaiman, even if he does follow the same format over and over--girl or boy stumbles into a hidden mirror world: London Below in Neverwhere, the world in Mirrormask, gods who are actually in the real world like in American Gods and Anansi Boys and The Sandman, the world of magic in The Books of Magic, and the almost separate world in the graveyard of The Graveyard Book. Yet this was a very tidy book--the motifs tie into each other well, no loose ends are left untied, and it definitely develops a sense of suspense in the reader. Gaiman is very good at creating an atmosphere and entertaining his readers.
As with many examples of classic children's literature over the years, 'Coraline' offers the young reader a few measured doses of mystery, suspense, and fear - and particularly the latter, though in moderation, since children absolutely adore being a little bit frightened, as we must surely all remember!
The story, of course, centres around the summer-holiday adventures of its titular heroine - young Coraline Jones - who, along with her mother and father, has moved into one of the flats in a ramshackle old house in the wilds of the country. Coraline's parents work from home but are busy people; and as I suspect is the case with many youngsters nowadays, they often don't seem to have enough time in the day to spare their daughter the attention she craves. Her mother automatically buys Coraline 'sensible' clothes - never the clothes her daughter actually wants to wear; and her father - a worryingly clueless sort of 'home husband' - is an experimental but terrible cook, and never serves anything to table that Coraline wants to eat.
The upstairs flat is occupied by the eccentrically acrobatic Mr Bobo - a moustachioed Eastern European with a penchant for training a troublesome musical mouse circus; the downstairs flat is shared by two ageing but rather highly strung former thespian spinsters - Miss Forcible and Miss Spink - together with their phlegmatic Highland Terriers, Hamish, Andrew, and Jock. But diverting though these neighbours may at first have appeared, is it any wonder that a bold and curious young girl like Coraline should want to go adventuring - exactly as a haughty black cat insists on wandering far and wide about the place, as though he owns it?
It's then that she becomes captivated by the carved, brown wooden door in the drawing room - a locked door, which when released shows only a plain brick wall...or does it? In fact, the door leads to another world entirely - and another house, which looks very much like her own; it leads to another kindly father and another doting mother, neither of whom can seemingly do enough for lonely Coraline - providing her with feasts of delicious food and the brightly coloured clothes she has always most desired; but just one thing:
Why do these alternative parents both have large and shiny-bright black buttons, sewn into place where their eyes must once have been...?
I won't go into much more detail about the plot because that would surely spoil the experience for those coming to the novel afresh. Suffice it to say that Coraline has quite a torrid time of it in trying to escape from her 'Other Mother' (otherwise known as the mysterious 'Beldam') and - with the help of one very formidable black cat, as previously mentioned - get back to her real mother and father, with whom she now desperately longs to be reunited.
'Coraline' is, of course, a typically imaginative piece of fiction from the distinguishedly individual mind of Neil Gaiman. What really works in its favour, I think, is that Mr Gaiman thankfully refrains from those sensational excesses that too often find their way into his adult fictions for no better reason than their shock value, but which often end up being a blight rather than a blessing. 'Coraline' is, in fact, something of a joyously restrained creation and no parent need fear too much about letting their children read it by themselves. I must also commend the illustrations by Chris Riddell, which grace the 10th Anniversary Edition that I bought - though perhaps the confined reading medium of my Kindle didn't quite do them justice!
A guaranteed page turner!
What a strange and disturbing little book! At a time when many children's authors are jumping on the fantasy bandwagon and producing clones of existing popular books, this weird tale comes as a refreshing change.
The story is a surreal one; imagine 'Alice through the Looking Glass' with a contemporary twist, written in a style that makes the dark humor of Roald Dahl seem tame by comparison. Coraline lives with her parents in one half of a block of flats; the other half is empty and the door connecting the two is bricked up. However, one day the bricks vanish and Coraline finds her way into a parallel world that mirrors her own, but with some very, VERY disturbing differences.
Some reviewers have grumbled about lack of depth to supporting characters - but I think they are missing the point. This book is quite short, (largish print) and no time is wasted on superfluous details about Coraline's neighbours. The emphasis of their characterization is on dark humor - all we really need to know are their peculiarities and foibles to appreciate their skewed mirror characters in the alternate world Coraline gets herself trapped in.
I like children's books to take me somewhere new, unique and different - and to give me a few laughs along the way. This book certainly gets into my top ten favourites, despite being like one of those hideous nightmares that you can't seem to wake up from!
If you enjoy something dark and different, check out 'Speed of the Dark,' by Alex Shearer.
I am falling more and more in love with Neil Gaiman's creations. Coraline. Such a quirky, fun, adventurous young girl with huge imagination who sees right from wrong in a weird world of old houses, brick walls behind the doors, empty snowglobes and buttons instead of eyes. Did I mention singing mice, bat-dogs and a talking cat?
And the hand in the end! You just have to read it to find out all the quirky stuff. And it will only take you half a day. This creepy, a bit frightening tale is an absolute pleasure to read. It is fast paced and very well written. I highly recommend to share "Coraline" with children - but beware, there might be a few sleepless nights in store for them. Compared to The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which I absolutely loved!), I think Coraline is much more suitable for younger readers (I found the slow-motion film was actually scarier than the book).
Enjoyed and recommended!
P.S. I wish I had a paper copy of the book to treasure - the illustrations are beautiful.
on 6 September 2002
This is a BRILLIANT book- chilling, freaky,unpredictable, haunting but also VERY enjoyable. It's suitable for anyone really, its DEFINITELY not exclusively a children's/ young adult's book. Lets just say black buttons will never be the same again! A treat to read! Get it now! Neil Gaiman is a fantastic writer!
on 16 October 2015
Neil Gaiman's one of those people who was just born to write. He's written more stories than I've had hot dinners, and many of those stories have gone on to be adapted into other mediums. I've been meaning to read Coraline for a while now, especially as I love the film adaptation so much - but how could I not when it was directed by Henry Selick, the man who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas?
Now this could be a pretty unpopular opinion, but I'm going to start off by saying that I enjoy the film just a little bit more than I enjoyed the book, but that doesn't mean the book isn't brilliant. The film took an already amazing story and fleshed it out, not to mention I have something of a soft spot for stop motion films. Again, blame it on my eternal love for The Nightmare Before Christmas.
I love Gaiman's stories. From American Gods to Stardust to The Graveyard Book he just has this wonderful ability for creating stories you feel as though you could step into, each with that signature weirdness that no one can quite describe but is unique to him. Needless to say, Coraline is another story I love; if I'd read this as a child it would have had me sleeping with the light on for weeks, because frankly the Other Mother is probably one of Gaiman's creepiest villains.
Reading this very much reminded me of my childhood, reading fairy tales and other children's stories that began my love for speculative fiction and magical realism, but it was this fairy tale quality that also caused the biggest problem for me. Because Coraline read very much like a fairy tale, there didn't seem to be much depth to any of the characters which was a shame. Having said that, I still really, really enjoyed the story and I'm glad I finally read it. If I ever have children of my own, I'll definitely be reading this to them before they go to bed...
on 6 April 2006
This book is fantastic! I wish I was younger to enjoy the terror aspects more. The illustrations are perfect for the tone of the book and unlike many books enhance the narrative, not just illustrate it.
However if your child is of a sensitive nature and is easily frightened I would recommend reading the book for yourself first.
Coraline is a strong and inspirational character for children. She is intelligent and armed with street-smarts but also a approachable character.
The book also carries an important, albeit subtle, point namely beware of strangers; a point made poignant by the ghost children - a reminder that children do die from abduction.
My main criticism is that the narrative is a little distant - a bit movieish and The language is a little ambitious in part for children to read alone - I had to look up a few words myself!
All in all a strong children book piece. A very dark fairy tale as all good fairy tales should be. If you are interested in this kind of book to encouage sytaxical and lexical growth I also can recommend Haroum and the Sea of Stories by Rushdie.