Coraline is a delightfully creepy children’s book and I am glad to have finally read it. I’ve not read much of Neil Gaiman’s work, but I’ve been intrigued by Coraline since the film adaptation came out in 2009. I still haven’t watched the film, but at least I’ve read the book now. Perhaps in another ten years’ time, I’ll get around to watching the film.
Coraline and her parents have recently moved into a flat that is part of a large, old building. Coraline discovers that the fourteenth door in their flat is usually locked and only opens up to a brick wall, which separates their flat from the unoccupied one next door. One night, Coraline finds that the door has been left open. She walks through and finds herself in a world that is similar, but also very different, to her own. Here she meets her Other Mother and it initially seems a much more exciting place to live. The food is better, there is more to do, the animals talk, and her Other Parents have more time to talk to her. All is not as it seems though and Coraline learns that she needs to act quickly and cleverly to save herself, her real parents, and the old souls of some lost children.
I adored Coraline. She is smart, witty and courageous. I empathised with her from the moment we met her. She is incredibly brave; I particularly loved the moments when she kept going despite being scared. She may just be a new favourite children’s book character. Sometimes authors struggle to get the balance right and end up creating a child who feels nothing like a child, but that was not the case here. Coraline is wise and quick-witted, but I never once forgot that I was reading about a child.
Coraline is a book about understanding yourself, your family, and the world around you. It is a reminder that we should listen to what children are saying when they speak. It is a book about how a family may not be wonderful, but they are your family and, at the end of the day, an imperfect family is better than a perfect, but fake, copy.* This book reminded me of those times in my childhood when I wished for a more fun family, a more exciting family, or a family that let me do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Part of growing up is learning that your family may not be perfect, but it’s yours and you can learn to love its imperfections.
I listened to this as an audiobook that was narrated by Neil Gaiman, which was a perfect way to consume this book. His narration was spectacular and it was fun to listen to the eerie songs that were peppered throughout the book. I always enjoy listening to authors narrate their own book, as you know that it is being read in the exact tone that they wished to convey. I’ve read that the physical book has beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell, which I imagine also elevate the reading experience. The audiobook worked perfectly for me though.
If you enjoy children’s books that are a little bit scary, a little bit funny, and extremely charming, then I’d recommend Coraline. It was a fun, quick read that provided me with a few hours of escapism. It was a joy to listen to.
*I must specify here that I am excluding abusive or toxic family members from this. Cutting out harmful family members is an incredibly difficult thing to do, but can also be important and necessary. I’m referring to loving, but not perfect, families.