Review: Coraline

by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Coraline / 978-0-06-164969-1

I was unaware of the existence of this wonderful book prior to the existence of the "Coraline" movie. Having seen the movie on a lark one weekend and being instantly blown away by how incredibly deep and creepy it was, I rushed on to Amazon to buy the book. Hence a lot of this review will be for people like me, who came to the book AFTER they watched the movie.

This slim little page-turner grips the reader powerfully from the beginning and hold on until the very end, likely much later that same evening. I was deeply impressed at the integrity maintained between the book and the movie - the changes made for the movie version seemed fully in the spirit of the original book, such as the seamless addition of "Wybie" who serves as a foil to Movie-Coraline's personality, which is a little stronger and a little older than Book-Coraline's.

When I try to compare this wonderful book to another in memory, I cannot help but describe Coraline as a creepier, more horrific descendant of Alice in Wonderland - Coraline contains the same detached-dreamy feel as our young heroine trips quietly through a fantasy world that threatens to turn and devour her at any moment. The narration is delightfully subtle, never imposing, and maintains a light, tripping touch which strikes the perfectly balanced tone, allowing both reader and heroine to remain calm in the face of the complete horror of being trapped in a world where a powerful creature seeks to devour your very soul. Gaiman particularly makes good use turning the ordinary into the macabre, such as the two actresses entwined in a single misshapen being.

The characters are realistic and warming - of particular amusement is the scene when Coraline reports her missing parents to the police and the officer tenderly recommends a warm glass of milk for her nightmares. Both heroes and villain show a shocking depth of meaning and character in such a short book - the Beldam is a textbook study of a needy, vampiric sort of person who feels they must be "completed" by the love and devotion of another, who can never live up to their demanding and impossible expectations. And the cat is...well, a perfect cat. With no names, because (as is explained) cats do not need names to come to dinner. Book-Coraline, unlike Movie-Coraline, is younger, smaller, quieter, less rebellious, and a little bit more frightened by her surroundings, but her spirit is the same, her determination to save herself and her parents is unyielding. Truly, I think this may be the best book-movie adaptation I've ever seen, and I highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoyed the movie.

~ Ana Mardoll

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