Apr 26, 2007

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

“Fairy Tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
- G. K. Chesterton
I really love this quote, which can be found at the start of Coraline. I think it sums up what Coraline achieves rather perfectly: like the best fairy tales, this story is unsettling, but also comforting in a way. By materializing our nameless fears, by giving them a name and a palpable existence, it manages to dispel them somehow.

Coraline is a short book, and it tells the story of a young girl who goes through a door in her house that had been hiding nothing but a brick wall before. What she finds on the other side looks exactly like her own house at first. There, her Other Parents greet her. They look just like her parents, except they have big black buttons for eyes. Little by little, Coraline begins to realize she’s gotten herself into a very dangerous situation, and that to get out of it she can only rely on herself, and on the occasional help of a talking black cat.

It had been far too long since I’d last read this book. So long, in fact, that I had even forgotten all about the wonderful Mouse Song! There’s nothing like the joy of revisiting a favourite author, and it’s particularly nice when their work manages to be even better than you remembered.

I realized something I hadn’t realized before: this book is the prototype of my concept of what a Neil Gaiman book is. The voice he uses in this book is particularly Neil. Until now, I wouldn’t usually recommend it to people as an introduction to his work, but I think I’m going to from now on.

There are many things I love about this book, so if I were to name them all this post would be much too long. But just to name a few, I love the black cat - I love how he manages to embody the very essence of catness. The scene where Coraline is holding the tense cat could only have been written by someone who knows cats very well indeed. I also love how things in this book are creepy in just the right amount. The sense of wrongness on the Other House is subtle at first, and it increases over time, but it’s never over the top, and it manages to be even more disturbing exactly for that reason. And of course, I love Coraline herself. She’s clever and wise beyond her age, and she shows us that courage is not the lack of fear, but rather the determination to not let fear paralyse us.

Last but not least, I love Dave Mckean’s wonderful illustrations:

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Another thing I had forgotten was that this book had blurbs by three of my favourite authors: Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones. And then I remembered that it was exactly because of his blurb in this book that I decided to start reading Philip Pullman. It reminded me of what Carl V. said in a recent post of his: I can track so much of what I love these days back to Neil Gaiman.

I recommend that you all visit the wonderful Mousecircus if you haven’t already. There you can listen to Neil Gaiman reading the first chapter of Coraline, and I guarantee that it’ll be very much worth your time.

Finally, I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am about the upcoming Henry Selick movie adaptation!

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Other Blog Reviews:
Bold Blue Adventure
Booknotes by Lisa
Melody's Reading Corner
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Tip of the Iceberg
Bombastic Bagman
Becky's Book Reviews
Stainless Steel Droppings
Once Upon a Bookshelf
Out of the Blue
Rhinoa's Ramblings
Biblio Addict
Valentina's Room
Trish' Reading Nook
Bart's Bookshelf
Peeking Between the Pages
Fizzy Thoughts
Desert Rose Book Blog
Kristina's Favourites


  1. I can't wait for this movie. Have you seen some of the sets on Neil Gaiman's blog? It looks like it's going to be great!

  2. What a nice review! I just loved Coraline when I listened to it, and I can't wait to see the film!

  3. Agree. Nice blog, interesting posts!

  4. I love this book, and I know what you mean about there being a particular Neilness to this book. It's wonderful.

    I love his reading of it on the audiobook too - highly recommended.

    Dave McKean's illustrations are fantastic, as ever.

    I'm pretty excited to see how the film goes too.

  5. I haven't read any Neil Gaiman yet, but have been meaning to, and Coraline is actually sitting on my bookshelf right now. I'm debating adding it to my roster of books for the challenge, and substituting it for one of my others. You've made it sound like it will be something I will thoroughly enjoy. :)

  6. Oh wow...what a wonderful review! I adored this book, but never could have about it so eloquently!

  7. Chris: I have! It really does look like it's going to be fantastic!

    Robin and bizwhiz: thanks!

    Quixotic: It really is wonderful. I haven't actually listened to the whole audiobook, just to the sample from the site. I need to get it one of these days. He's such a great reader, on top of everything else.

    court: Do add it to your list! As I said, I think it's a perfect introduction to Neil Gaiman, and it's a really quick read, you'll only need about 3 or 4 hours to get through the whole thing.

    debi: I'm sure you could have, but thank you!

  8. Since I began reading book blogs, I have heard so much about Neil Gaiman. You have just given me one more reason to read his books.

  9. Hello fellow Geeker :) you have such an impressive list of reviews.. and a number of them are still on my tbr :)

    I have linked to your reviews and stole the links of other reviews from your posts :) hope you don't mind ;)


    The Other Boleyn Girl:

    Memories Of My Melancholy Whores:


    Bridge To Terabithia:

    and Charlotte's Web:

  10. Hello fellow geek :D Links added! I don't mind at all - that's part of why this is useful, actually. We spare one another future work :P

  11. This is so fun!!


  12. I've watched the movie! I really like it aside from the fact that I really love 3D animation, the story, its perplexity, the staggering truth that yeah2 sometimes we wish for another "mom" or "dad" haha anyway, I can't wait to buy a copy of this book even though I myself have already watched it. ^_^/


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.