Coraline – Neil Gaiman: Book Review by Asha Seth

Author: Neil Gaiman | Genre: Fantasy, Horror | Pages: 192 | Publisher: Bloomsbury

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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.

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Occasionally you come across books that work like magic on your mind, like The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, Narnia, Harry Potter, and they remain with you forever, either through their plots or characters, and at times, both. Coraline is such a book.

“It’s Coraline. Not Caroline. Coraline,”

said Coraline.

Coraline is a young girl who is an ardent explorer and just when she has moved to a new house, the explorer in her takes her to places beyond imagination, to people she hardly expects meeting, and experiencing life-altering situations that a girl her age could hardly expect to find herself in. She not only has to save herself but also rescue others trapped without will.

“What’s your name,’ Coraline asked the cat.
‘Look, I’m Coraline. Okay?’
‘Cats don’t have names,’ it said.
‘No?’ said Coraline.
‘No,’ said the cat. ‘Now you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are.
We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”

This beautiful debut is a clever show of her wit, courage, smartness, determination, recklessness, and mindfulness. Her absolute power over things getting out of control, and her meticulous approach at getting out of tight spots is commendable. Now wrap all this up with touches of dark, magic, bizarre, and sinister, and you get a memorable tale of a girl’s rebel and valor done in the most profound and crisp manner.

“I have no plans to love you,” said Coraline.
“No matter what. You can’t make me love you.”

The language whilst being clever is also surreal and brings out the prowess of the fine writer the author is. This was his first book, and we can definitely expect great works from him, as was evident later through his other masterpieces such as Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the end of the Lane, etc. At less than 200 pages, it is the most engaging contemporary refurbishing of classic tales we have grown up loving.

Yes, this is children’s fiction but as adults, when have we not loved that genre? Try it, you won’t regret it – you have my word.

“Because,’ she said, ‘when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.”

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For a debut novel, this is an absolute masterpiece. Flawless writing, unforgettable characters, haunted settings, engaging plot, all sans gore, screams, or gritty and yet chills and thrills galore. Just the right amount of creep and bizarre to keep you glued to the page. Let me know if you don’t fall in love with Coraline.

Have you read ‘Coraline’? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy reading till we meet next. Until then, carpe diem! 

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