Blurb: Sometimes, a door is closed for a very good reason…
There is something strange about Coraline’s new home. It’s not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, nor the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It’s the other house – the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. For ever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back…
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Genre: YA, Dark Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal
This book follows the main character, Coraline, on her adventure to rescue her parents from the Other Mother and her twisted upside down world where children are trapped and people have black button eyes.
This was my second Gaiman read and once again, it didn’t disappoint. I’d seen the film adaption of this book a while ago and it definitely unsettled me so I wanted to see if the book did the same. There were several points during the story where I felt uneasy – where Gaiman describes the way that the Other Mother delights in eating the beetles and in particular, when Coraline sees what’s left of the Other Father in the basement.
What I loved most about this book is that it’s so imaginative. Despite the idea that something strange lives behind a door isn’t rare, the presence of a child capturing monster who sews buttons onto your eyes to keep you trapped in an alternative universe, I think is pretty spectacular. I also really liked the characterisation, especially when you compare Coraline’s actual parents to the Other Parents who are infinitely more upbeat and accommodating. It really lends to understanding why Coraline initially considers staying with them. The description of the Other Mother’s change in apperance is enough to help ramp up Coraline’s unease and urgency to get home – wonderfully helped by Riddell’s brilliant illustrations in this particular edition. Also, the description of the Other Father in the aforementioned basement scene was pretty chilling – all I could imagine was a large maggot crawling around on the floor, black button eyes staring blankly – gross! Coraline herself was also well written, I felt like she was so relatable in the sense of being bored in the summer holidays and wanting something exciting to happen. Not sure if I’d have dealt with her predicament as calmly as she did, though!
I also, again, have to praise Gaiman’s world building ability. The apartment building felt like such an interesting place to explore, especially with all of those odd neighbours. I loved the scenes with Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, both in the regular world and the Other World as they were so unpredictable and the writing really gave the feel that they’d known each other for a lifetime, much like sisters who can’t help but bicker. Gaiman really has a knack for developing a setting where you can simply imagine yourself being there with no trouble at all, making him a fabulous storyteller.
As for what I disliked about this book, there wasn’t really very much. The main thing was that I wasn’t as scared as I remembered being by the film. Now, this might be because it’s a YA novel and therefore typically aimed at a younger audience, or maybe even that I’m more of a visual thinker? Either way, still an enjoyable and very imaginative story, just not the one if you’re wanting/expecting to be terrified.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes YA with alternative universes full of murderous parents and strange goings on. Also, I’d also recommend this book to any fans of the film who haven’t read it yet – it’s an interesting comparison!
Have you read this book? Have you read anything else by this author? What did you think?