Robert Beveridge's Reviews > Coraline

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
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's review
Jan 21, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: finished, cle-pub-lib

Neil Gaiman, Coraline (Harper, 2002)

I'm not exactly sure what to say about this minor gem. It's a kids' book, but not really a kids' book. It's a fantasy/horror novel, but not a fantasy/horror novel. It has minor similarities to about a hundred books to be found over the ages, both children's and adult, but nothing strong enough to be called an influence (at least, not one that wears its heart on its sleeve). About the best thing I can come up with would be a much darker version of Roald Dahl's Matilda with a leavening of The Secret Garden, a touch or two of Neverwhere, and a dash of Wendy Walker's The Secret Service just for flair. And a large number of flavors running underneath you will sense but not really be able to put your finger on.

Coraline is a girl who's pretty much bored with the way things are. While exploring, she discovers that a door in the drawing room, behind which has always been a wall of bricks, now has a tunnel to what she assumes is the flat on the other side. But when she goes through, she finds a weird alternate universe where her parents have buttons for eyes, things are interesting, and the world ends beyond the garden...

Gaiman mentions in an interview after the book (found only in the ebook edition) that Coraline is usually seen by children as an adventure story, by adults as a horror novel. Both are correct, of course. It is a lovely rendition of both, told in an almost classical children's-book style (consider the diction in older children's books, from the depression or before, and then consider Coraline) but without ever talking down to its target audience. Coraline is a wonderfully well-drawn character, as are most of the book's creations. There is a great deal to enjoy here; this is easily Gaiman's best aside from American Gods. If you've been avoiding it because you thought it was a kids' book, think again. ****
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Dana Salman Gaiman wrote the book for his 5-year-old daughter Holly, in 1990. By the time he'd finished the book in 2002, Holly was 16 and he was very nervous on what she would think of it. When he asked her if she was too old for it, she answered, as Gaiman said in an interview 'Dad, you're never too old for Coraline'. That statement holds true because I first read Coraline when I was 11. I could tell it was a horror book and I hated being scared. But despite that I was interested. I flipped to the middle of the book and began to read, all the way to the end. It scared me shitless and I vowed to never open it again. About four months ago my brother told me they were making a movie into it. I looked it up and became anxious to read the book again. I was worried that it wouldn't scare me anymore (by this time I enjoyed being scared) and that I'd grown too old for it. But I was mistaken; Coraline is every bit as magical to me now as it was when I was 11.

message 2: by Miriam (new) - added it

Miriam hmmmmm, I will have to read this. I think that Coraline in now in Theaters, or has already been out of the cycle. That's how I first came to hear of Coraline. I had no clue that it was a book. I saw the trailer and I agree with both of your guys posts. I would like to read this now. :) I hope I like it.

Robin I agree with both of you, Robert and Jack, I was about 11 when I read this book and I had to sleep with the light on. If I would have read this any younger i would not have been able to finish it I would have been so scared.
This book falls in just about every category, and now realizing that I wonder what section they keep it under at the book store... I will have to find out. I absolutely love this book!

message 4: by EeeJay (new) - added it

EeeJay It was weird movie too - couldn't make up my mind whether to love it, hate, love to hate it or hate to love it...


Collin Jones Great review. Any particular reason you gave it four stars instead of five, Robert?

Jenifer Love this sentence from your review. "a large number of flavors running underneath you will sense but not really be able to put your finger on." Well said!

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