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Neil Gaiman’s Coraline:


Spoiler free | Rating: 5 out of 5 stars | Read: 17th March 2018. 

Neil Gaiman has somehow done the impossible: I actually liked a piece of children’s literature. I hardly ever read this genre, and that’s because I hate it. The characters are, understandably, childish, and the overtly simplistic language annoys me. However, this one was different. I knew I’d enjoy it because I love the movie, but I didn’t expect to like it this much. It follows Coraline, who’s recently moved to a new house. However, something seems off. It’s not the mist, or the lurking cat, nor her strange neighbours who read tea leaves and have a circus of mice. It’s the Other house; the one behind the door, home to the Other Mother and Other Father who have buttons for eyes and skin as white as paper. They wish Coraline to stay forever, and it might happen if she doesn’t get back through the door.

To begin with, I was slightly worried about how this would translate on paper. I love the movie so much, and I didn’t want the book to be a disappointment. However, I was pleasantly surprised. There were slight differences between the novel and movie (for example, despite playing a huge part in the film, Wybie wasn’t included in the novel at all), but for the most part it was the same. Occasionally, it felt like I was reading the script it was that accurate. Despite the language being simple, Gaiman used such beautiful metaphors and such sophisticated language to create this story. He has the ability to write creepy stories that are suitable for children, yet also appeal to the adult’s imagination. I think this may be a main reason why I liked it so much; it didn’t feel like I was reading a children’s novel. It was sinister and intense, yet incredibly friendly.

Coraline was, without a doubt, my favourite thing about this novella. I tend to get rather irritable when it comes to reading children’s literature; this usually boils down to the young characters (I just hate children in general, to be honest). However, Coraline was different. She was all the things that lack from fictionalised children: she was quirky, intelligent, brave and curious in the best type of way. She felt much older than she actually was, which allowed me to connect to her character on a more personal level. I liked how easily annoyed she got at adults; they never took her seriously, and she fought against this. For young readers, I think she is a marvellous character. She doesn’t necessarily teach any morals, but she does embody all things children are. She embarks on this adventure, one that you’d imagine a child to make up in their head, and grows into a strong person from it. This is something that appeals directly to child, thus making it a brilliant story for them.

However, one disappointment, which, thankfully, didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the novel, was the lack of backstory for the Other Mother. Gaiman left so many questions unanswered here: what was the Other Mother? Why was she collecting children’s souls? and who were the Other children she had collected? In the movie, we get some clarification. She is the sister of Wybie’s grandmother, but this was omitted from the novel. As I said, this didn’t ruin the story for me at all. Instead, it actually added to the mystery, and made the novella even more creepy. Normally, something like this would annoy me, but, once again, Gaiman managed to make it work for him. Everything was resolved concerning the Other mother, despite us never finding out what she was and why.

I think Coraline would have truly disturbed me when I was younger. I mean, it managed to creep me out now, so that’s really saying something (not even adult fiction can do that). I just really loved this story. The characters were depicted so beautifully, the setting was perfect for this sort of story, and the plot unfolded effortlessly. I’d definitely recommend this, even if you don’t like children’s literature. It was wonderful; definitely a new favourite of mine. I think, because it’s that unnerving, I might make it a tradition to read every Halloween. I will definitely be picking up some more of Gaiman’s novels in the future!

Have you read Coraline? What did you make of it? 

Thanks for reading, Lauren X


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