Review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

This is my 2nd read and this time I read it in this gorgeous 10th anniversary edition illustrated by Chris Riddell with a forward by the author. It was gorgeous and beautifully made an I just really enjoyed it. It definitely holds up to reading a 2nd time.

I was surprised I didn’t do a review the first time! One thing that stayed true to the re-read was that as I read it, I can hear Neil Gaiman reading it to me. He has an amazing voice, and I don’t mean the one you hear with your ears – the one you read the book in. It’s especially obvious in this and in The Graveyard Book. It’s somehow a tangle of nostalgia, fairyland, and rooted in the real world. Coraline’s parents aren’t awesome. They’re preoccupied. Her father is a terrible cook, at least according to Coraline, who hates recipes. They tell her to go away when they are busy and she’s bored. So you know -real life.

Coraline and her family have moved into their new place – but it’s part of a place. It’s a huge old house split up into flats. There are two sweet old ladies who used to be actresses, and a weird smelly old man up in the attic who claims to have a band made of mice, who aren’t ready to play publicly. As a result of the division of the house into flats, there is a mysterious door that goes nowhere. Until it does.

I finally got to use my creepy Book Depository bookmark!

When her father goes to London and her mother goes to the store, Coraline snags the key to the door to nowhere and opens it. And it doesn’t go nowhere – it goes somewhere – and there she finds her other mother and other father. They are much more attentive, the food is amazing, not from a recipe, cooked by her mother, her toys are alive and her room is brightly painted. Only, her mother and father have papery dry, pale skin, and her other mother’s hands are long-fingered and spidery. The other tenants are there, as well. The only thing that stays the same is the cat. He’s very Cheshire – not overly helpful, very sarcastic, just helpful enough to seem like he’s not being helpful. Her other mother and father want her to stay. Only, they have black buttons for eyes instead of you know, eyes, and if she wants to stay, she needs to have black button eyes, too.

Coraline’s like, nah. That’s ok.

And our story begins. Because the other mother wants Coraline to stay and the other mother is used to getting what she wants. And she doesn’t play fair. When Coraline goes back to her own house and her regular mother and father, well, the other mother comes and snatches them. She tries to get help from the police, the neighbors, but she’s on her own. She has to go back and face the other mother and find some way to find her parents.

This manages to be darkly serious and delightfully fun all at the same time. I have no idea what age Coraline is supposed to be – old enough to be left on her own and make her own microwave pizza but young enough that her parents are still Mummy and Daddy. Young enough to still have a  sweet innocence about her, to still tell the truth, but old enough to listen to her instincts. I really enjoyed this and I’m glad that I read it in regular book format this time, with illustrations.


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