#214 ~ Coraline

Cover of Coraline

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline, a vivacious and curious only child, has moved with her parents into a large old house that has been subdivided into four units.  She has odd neighbors whom she occasionally visits, but she feels alone for the most part.  Her parents, although home, seem always to be working, and there are no other children around.  It is while following her father’s suggestion of counting windows and doors throughout the house that she discovers a little locked door in the one room in the house that is rarely used.  Her mother finds the key, but it opens only to a brick wall separating sections of the house – or so Coraline thought at first.  What Coraline later finds in the dark and without her parent’s knowledge is that this door leads to her other world.  Coraline’s other world is ruled by her Other Mother.  At first, she is charmed by her Other Mother and Father even though their eyes are simply black buttons.  They take great interest in her and make true home-cooked meals.   While she might enjoy the attention, she soon discovers how sinister Other Mother is and she is forced to save herself and her true parents from the world through that little door.

Coraline was a much different reading experience for me than The Graveyard Book or Neverwhere.  While Other Mother is a creepy, evil character, she isn’t developed in the same way as Gaiman’s other villains.  Her edge comes from her physical presence, while the ghouls or Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemaar make themselves apparent through their dialog.  I found more delight in the Vandemaars and Bishops of Bath and Wells, but writing the Other Mother this way did bring spunky Coraline firmly front and center.   What wasn’t there for me in the way of banter, Coraline made up with her bravery and ingenuity.  She is not afraid to get up and chase a shadow through a strange house and, when push comes to shove, she puts others before herself.  She takes responsibility for her own problems and throws a thrilling tea party, too.  In those ways, she was very real to me.

neverwhereWho can remember daydreaming about having the perfect parents?  I most certainly can.  The parents in this fantasy fluctuated from kings and queens to Luke and Laura (yeah, I’m dating myself here).  While I never had a problem with my mother’s cooking like Coraline did, there were many things that my Other Mother would have done better and with more finesse.  What Coraline points out so beautifully is that often the characteristics and actions we prescribe to our “perfect parents” would in fact prove detrimental to us, at least to some extent.  One of the things I remember longing for in my parental dream team was the permission to stay up as late as I desired.  Had my parents allowed me to do that, they wouldn’t have been parenting at all.  There’s no possibility that I could have performed at my best at school if I was exhausted all of the time.  Regardless, getting whatever you want eventually loses its luster precisely because it’s not what you really need.  You need parents who love you, take care of you, and provide you with the discipline you need to lead your most healthy, productive life.

Coraline reaffirmed my preference for reading a novel before seeing the film.  We rented and watched “Coraline” a couple of months ago.  I enjoyed the movie a great deal and loved what Tim Burton did with the animation.  However, there was a character in the movie that played a prominent role that did not exist in the book.  I spent a third of the novel waiting for him to arrive on the scene only to realize that he would never come.  It was a distraction and I wished that I had come to this novel with a clean slate.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed this novel a great deal and read it in less than 24 hours.  I look forward to the day when I can read this with my daughters – and not just to put the fear of the Other Mother in their hearts (hey, they probably think they’ve already got one… LOL!)

To enter for a chance to win the prizes for this theme month, leave a comment here and then go to the Neverwhere and Beyond page and use the following code: N&B-R3.


I won my copy of this novel from a contest hosted by Bermudaonion’s Weblog.  Thanks, Kathy!

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  • At 2009.11.20 19:13, Kathy R (Bermudaonion) said:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this book, because I thought it was great! I enjoyed the movie, too, but agree that you really should read the book first.

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    • At 2009.11.20 19:16, Sandy said:

      None of us read the book around here before the movie. Standing alone, I thought the movie was brilliant (disappointing to hear the deleted a character!). The button eyes were really scary! Hey I use the threat of the Other Mother around here now and again, and once in awhile she even turns up!

      • At 2009.11.20 19:54, A Bookshelf Monstrosity said:

        I also watched this movie without reading the book. I saw it on the bigscreen in 3D which was quite a visually stimulating experience. I’m looking forward to giving the novel a try, though.

        • At 2009.11.20 22:21, Veens said:

          I have read great reviews about this one and am glad this one worked for you as well.
          Funny, I have dreamed about the perfect parents too 😀

          U r right, book must be read b4 the movie 🙂

          Great review!

          • At 2009.11.20 23:09, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said:

            Luke and Laura!!! Absolutely, the perfect parents, indeed.

            What’s even funnier is that this is the second Luke and Laura reference I’ve read in two days.

            Cue up Christopher Cross’ song “Laura” … (still one of my favorites).

            • At 2009.11.21 01:02, Lisa said:

              That is a good reason not to watch the movie first. But if I read the book first then I spend the whole movie annoyed that they’ve changed so much!

              Maybe this is the Gaiman I should read to convince me that he’s not as offputting as he was for me in Fragile Things.

              • At 2009.11.21 19:43, Zia said:

                I loved Coraline. I did read the book before I saw the movie and I’m glad I did.

                • At 2009.11.22 17:48, bookworm said:

                  I enjoyed reading Coraline. I didnt enjoy the film too much though. I know what you mean, adding the character was distracting. I forget his name now….but I kept wondering, ‘is he in the book?’.
                  The Other Mother was creepy with her button eyes.

                  • At 2009.11.22 20:06, Melody said:

                    This is one of my favourite Gaiman’s book! Glad you enjoyed it too! I haven’t watched the film adaptation but I’ve the DVD on to my wishlist!

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                    • At 2009.11.22 22:45, Michael Herdegen said:

                      the review is great, niel is now one of my faves

                      • At 2009.11.23 10:02, Pam R. said:

                        I haven’t seen the movie or read the book. In fact, prior to reading your review, I didn’t even really know what the premise of either was. As an adult I realize that my “Other Parents” wouldn’t have been as perfect as I imagined them; in fact, they were similar to the parents others I knew had and when I realize that many of them ended up jailed or very unhappy and my brother and I are the opposite, my parents were perfect as they are.

                        • At 2009.11.23 14:14, Tracie Yule said:

                          I listened to this book on CD with my boys when we were taking a road trip/vacation and it was so very memorable. The boys were definitely really creeped out (and so was I).

                          • At 2009.11.25 11:22, Amanda said:

                            Oh I liked this one too and loved what the movie did. I am glad I read it before the movie or I’d have been waiting for the boy to show up too.

                            By the way, I’m participating in The Dream King Challenge which runs through the end of this year. Thought you might find it interesting.


                            • At 2009.11.26 00:17, Donna S said:

                              Thanks for sharing you thoughts on this one. I enjoyed the book, and really want to see the movie.

                              (Required, will not be published)

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