Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
on 17 December 2015
As with many examples of classic children's literature over the years, 'Coraline' offers the younger 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 just 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 appear, is it any wonder that a bold and curious young girl like Coraline should want to go adventuring - exactly as a haughty black cat asserts his right to go wandering far and wide about the place, as though he owns it?
It's then that Coraline 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 to another house, which looks very much like her own. It also leads to another kindly father and another doting mother, neither of whom can seemingly do enough for lonely little 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 that - with the help of one very formidable black cat, as previously mentioned - tries endlessly to return 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 distinguished and 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 something more of a blight than a blessing. 'Coraline' can, in fact, be rightly celebrated for being a joyously restrained creation - a book about which no parent need concern themeselves too much when it comes to letting their children read it independently. 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!