Book Reviews

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline tells the story of a young girl named Coraline – adamantly not Caroline; people just can’t seem to get her name right!

Coraline Jones, along with her mother and father, move into an old, large house that’s been refurbished into apartments. The one next to the Jones’ apartment is empty, and the only thing connecting the two is a bricked-in doorway.

Cover of Coraline, a book by Neil Gaiman
My copy of Coraline, purchased from Thriftbooks

Discovering the doorway empty of bricks one time, Coraline goes through the passageway and enters an identical apartment on the other side – with an Other Mother with eyes of buttons waiting for her.

When the Other Mother kidnaps Coraline’s parents and Coraline finds the spirits of three children, she knows she must act, and fast.

Will Coraline be able to find the children’s souls and her parents, or will she be trapped with the Other Mother, ultimately having buttons sewn into her own eyes?

In the mist, it was a ghost-world. In danger? thought Coraline to herself. It sounded exciting. It didn’t sound like a bad thing. Not really.

The Other Mother, the beldam, is a unique and interesting beast. She craves attention and self-satisfaction – and is ruthless.

“I swear it,” said the other mother. “I swear it on my own mother’s grave.”
“Does she have a grave?” asked Coraline.
“Oh yes,” said the other mother. “I put here in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back.”

As a rule, Coraline is brave not because she has no fear, but because she knows that bravery is the way to deal with fear. It doesn’t necessarily make you less afraid once you’re on the other side, but the outcome is worth the distress.

Gaiman’s descriptions of the cat throughout are also entertaining. “There was something irritatingly self-centered about the cat, Coraline decided. As if it were, in its opinion, the only thing in any world or place that could possibly be of any importance.” As a cat owner – Smokie, Kenneth, and Michael are their names – I know this to be true. But cats are always there for us when we really need them, as Gaiman deftly demonstrates.

I love the movie Coraline, as well. I have taken many naps while Coraline played in the background, and have played it at night to help me fall asleep. An unusual comfort item, perhaps, but I know I’m not alone.

Coraline resonates with a lot of people.

Neil Gaiman has mentioned in interviews that readers young and old love Coraline’s bravery. For me, more than the courage-in-face-of-fear element of the story, I love its weirdness. It makes me feel like my weirdness is okay – like that episode of Friends where Phoebe gets married and Mike, her fiancée, says that she is so “wonderfully weird”. I love anything that makes me feel like I’m loved for being wonderfully weird.

Having now read the book and seen the movie, I can say that I like the changes they made for the movie. Adding the character Wybie gave the plot an extra something, especially since they had one of the spirit kids be his grandmother’s long-lost sister.

I also loved how the secondary characters/other apartment residents – Mr. Bobo, Miss Forcible, and Miss Spink – were brought to life.

To learn more about Neil Gaiman and his works, visit his author website, and as always, check out Goodreads.

Let me know in the comments what your favorite Neil Gaiman story is!

With micro-bites of discourse, Oak + River Books goes beyond a ratings system.


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