Review – “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman

Whenever there is a recommendation for a new author which I come across on my readers’ group, I usually either find them a one-book wonder (debutants or otherwise) or find their books repetitive (mostly romcoms) or they are such authors whose books I don’t pick in the fear of falling into a comfort zone if I like them too much. Neil Gaiman, however, is unlike all of the above categories for me. I have now read two of his books and found both of them good, and neither have I found him repetitive nor have fallen into a comfort zone reading his works, so his books work well for me. They are fun to read and feel like fairy tales for adults, lol. I don’t know if Neil Gaiman wrote Coraline only for kids, but I liked it as much as any other kid would have. Also, if I had known about him when I was a kid myself, it would have been more fantastic. You see, I belong to the Harry Potter fan club. I’ve grown up reading the series multiple times and still read it when I want to refresh my memories.

Coraline is the young protagonist whose story is told here in this book. An explorer and seeking adventure, Coraline one day gets entrapped in a world that is so like hers but is not hers. What she does to get herself back to her world is what forms the story.
The other-mother, as she called herself, and wanted Coraline to call her too, seemed so good. She cooked her a delicious meal unlike her own mother who usually heated ready to eat, or her own father, who tried out weird recipes. The other-father actually looked up from his desk when Coraline called him and talked to her directly when her own father didn’t even bother to turn around. The only difference between Coraline’s own mother and father, and the ones she called other-mother and other-father were their eyes. The other-parents had buttons sewn where the eyes should have been. But why did she have to leave them? They were so good, not like her own mother and father who never had time for her. Buttons, yes, button eyes. Those weren’t supposed to be normal eyes, were they?
Coming back to her own house, Coraline finds that her parents haven’t returned from wherever they had gone to. Strange, she thought, but managed for a couple of days before venturing again to look for the other-mother and other-father. Although she had her doubts about them, she couldn’t pinpoint what. Now stuck with them, Coraline must find a way out for herself all the while looking for her own parents and trying to save a few other souls. Will she succeed without losing herself?

Neil Gaiman is starting to become a favorite now. Before I get on with the last part of my review, you all must know that I loved the book, so the review is going to be all praises but with dissection like I always do. Starting with the writing, it was lucid. Pretty easy for young readers as well. More childish than the other authors I usually read. It was fun for me, so much that I read it in one sitting, sacrificing my sleep time (you see, I have a toddler). I relived my own childhood days via this book meant for Gaiman’s daughters, getting lost in the fantasy laden mystery. As a young girl, I had always loved magical stories, from Harry Potter to those Barbie cartoons that Disney made, I watched and read them all. Having grown up on a decent dose of books and movies, especially the ones I mentioned just before this sentence, I was nowhere as brave as the protagonists or Coraline when I was younger. I don’t even know if I am brave now. The courage to save oneself, let alone others take a lot of willpower and Coraline doesn’t lack it a bit. Despite a short story and limited space for side plots, the character building is commendable. Maybe because I can identify with them in some way or the other, but it is done well for even characters who have under 5 scenes. The real parents of Coraline are the same as we see today, unbothered and unconcerned. No time for their daughter who needs their attention. Who can blame them, or Coraline for that matter? It’s an entire debatable topic in itself. The theatre ladies, they are an era gone by in themselves. Glitz and glamour don’t leave you easily, does it ever? Did they never teach them, beauty is on the inside? Then there is the other-mother and her need for Coraline. Her longing for a child is so heartbreaking yet dark in the ways she traps Coraline. The only thing actually laughable is the helplessness of the other-father in front of the other-mother, very much like the real fathers in front of the real mothers.
Coraline gives out different messages to children and adults. I wish that I had read it as a child and again as an adult to really understand its value. And I’ve also just realized that I’ve written a very long review for a very short book, so I’ll stop.
Read, enjoy, and stay quarantined until the virus passes.


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