Monday, November 11, 2013

Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house

My October reading was pretty slim on creepy stories. I thought I should fix that and people have been saying lots of good things about Coraline AND it's a children's story so it's on the short side so it seemed like a good choice. Bookish internet, you have such good taste.

I know I've called it a children's story, but it is a seriously creepy story. Coraline recently moved with her parents to a new home in a once mansion/now apartment building. There are no other children around and only so much entertainment she can get from the elderly (and slightly crazy) neighbors. Her parents work from home but they both work from home and are too busy to play with her. One day she finds a door in the drawing room, but when her mother opens it it just leads to a brick wall. Until one day Coraline opens the door herself and there's a hallway that leads to a replica of her family's apartment. It's complete with Other Mother, a woman who seems to be just like Coraline's mother except she has big black buttons instead of eyes. She and other father want Coraline to say with them.

Things in the Other Flat seem nice at first. I mean, except for the fact that everyone has buttons instead of eyes. But things moved from unsettling to creepy to sinister pretty quickly. Ghosts and monsters and of course Other Mother wants Coraline to stay with her. Forever.

It's a modern fairy tale. In a way. There are no princesses but there are quests to complete and monsters to overcome. And Coraline is just the right heroine. She's a child, but not a precocious one. She seems like a real child. She's brave and she's scared. She wants to go exploring. There's a quote early on that sums up Coraline nicely
There was also a well. On the first day Coraline's family moved in, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible made a point of telling Coraline how dangerous the well was, and they warned her to be sure she kept away from it. So Coraline set off to explore for it, so that she knew where it was, to keep away from it properly.

I haven't (yet) seen the movie version of this, but just from reading it I'm pretty sure they picked the perfect medium. This feels like it was made for stop-motion animation, especially done by the same team that did Nightmare Before Christmas. Even when it's about cheerful things stop motion has an eerie quality to it.

This was the perfect Halloween read and it was short enough to finish in about an hour. I've had mixed feelings about Gaiman. American Gods was not my thing but I loved Good Omens. So I went into Coraline unsure of what I'd be getting. I knew people had very good things to say about it. But so far the only Gaiman work I liked involved having Terry Pratchett at the wheel as well. After this book I trust Gaiman if a) he's writing with someone else or b) if he's writing a children's story.

In the names post I mentioned I liked the name Coraline so much because it's like Caroline except twisted. It's a simple change that makes the name so fresh. And guess what? Gaiman came up with the name because he mistyped Caroline, and what a lovely mistake.

Title quote from page 3

Gaiman, Neil. Coraline. Harper Perennial, 2002.