Friday, December 4, 2015

Coraline Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Novella
Series: Standalone
Pages: 208

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We Keep Our Memories Longer Than Our Names

This is one of the rare instances in my reviewing of things where I saw the movie first and then read the book later.  I didn’t have the highest of hopes for Coraline after seeing the movie.  It was a visual masterpiece, but the story felt stretched, which was largely due to trying to turn a novella into a feature length film. From a story perspective, the book out does the movie in leaps and bounds.

Coraline Jones is a young girl who’s just moved into a flat with her family.  Oftentimes she finds herself alone as there are no kids nearby to play with, and her parents are too busy to spend time with her.  One day she discovers a door in the flat that leads to house that looks exactly like the one she lives in.  There’s another mother there and another father, and both of them want her to stay with them forever.

The name Coraline came to Gaiman after an accidental misspelling of the name Caroline during the initial drafting stages.
“I was typing “Caroline” and it was coming out wrong. Larry Niven, the science fiction author, said in an essay that writers should treasure their typing mistakes.  Once I typed it, I knew it was somebody’s name, and I wanted to know what happened to her.”
A brilliant and distinguishable name is just the tip of the iceberg of the greatness that can be found in Coraline. Gaiman’s writing style reflects the whims and thought process of a child. Her decisions, her frequent shifts in attention, and her blunt honesty are not only endearing but are very accurate traits to a character of Coraline’s age. One of my favorite parts in the book is the short story Coraline spontaneously writes on her father’s computer:
It’s the little things like this that really separate Gaiman from other writers and it really demonstrates his ability to craft great characters.  Coraline’s not only realistic, she’s also very inspiring. She doesn’t always know what to do – a feeling that I’m sure a lot of adults can relate to – yet she always tries to make the right decision. No matter what happens she always keeps on going.

The other great character in this story is the other mother.  With buttons sewn into her eyes and the most pleasant demeanor imaginable, other mother is one of the creepiest villains from a children’s book I’ve encountered.  I’d be willing to be bet she’s a lot more unsettling for the adults reading this book than the children.

The other mother’s continued attempts at getting Coraline to love her and give her what she wants sets up an interesting conflict about how beneficial it is to “not” get what you want all the time … a lesson that’s just as beneficial to adults as it is to children.  It’s perfectly described in one of my favorite quotes from the entire book:
“I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted just like that, and it didn’t mean anything? What then?”
Gaiman also refuses to take sides in the inevitable conflicts that come between children and adults, and this is an aspect of the story I really respected.  Coraline’s parents may neglect her, and they certainly won’t be winning parents of the year, but Gaiman doesn’t condemn there actions either.  Coraline is needy and frequently gets underfoot, yet she never comes off as a detestable spoiled brat.

Coraline will appeal to both children and adults. It’s a quick read, one that can easily be knocked out in a day, but written beautifully enough to be appreciated for a lifetime.

Score: 9.6

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