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Coraline by Neil Gaiman is a book I meant to read at the start of the year. I loaned it to my family who also wanted to read it, thinking I could find a copy in my library. With the movie still relatively new, the book was always checked out. By the time I had the book back I had other things I was reading. Eight months passed before I finally got it read.
With my husband and mother in law both having read it and loved it I came to the book with exceptionally high expectations. I had also read and loved a number of other Gaiman books this year. It has all the elements I normally enjoy: an adventure involving an old house, a secret door, "other" versions of characters, magic, danger, ghosts and so forth. But somehow it just didn't knock me over like The Graveyard Book did.
Coraline and her parents have moved into an old house that like so many old homes in Britain has been divided into flats. It's summer but an unusually cool and rainy one and Coraline's parents are too busy to entertain her as she's cooped up inside. In exploring the house she comes to meet the other neighbors, none of whom can remember her name; they all call her Caroline. She also finds a locked door that leads to a brick wall.
Locked or bricked doors are never an obstacle for long in this sort of book. Coraline does find her way to the other side of the door and encounters a magical but off putting interpretation of her own world, populated with "other" versions: Other Mother, Other Father, and Other Neighbors. Despite some alluring qualities to this other world, she quickly realizes she had best stick to her own world.
Again, trips through portals are ever that simple. Coraline like Richard Mayhew (of Gaiman's Neverwhere) finds that things are not right in her world and the only way to fix them is to go back. Coraline has a lot of similarities with the older Neverwhere. There are doors to places that most people don't know about and doors where doors shouldn't be. There are mice and rats who bring messages. There is an ordinary protagonist who must give up everything to be a hero.
But there is something lacking in Coraline too. Although it is maybe a third the length of Neverwhere, it took me three times as long to read it. It did not hold my attention. I had to go back and re-read long sections to see what had just happened. Had I not been planning to see the film, I would have left the book unfinished.
I did want to see the film, having listened to the haunting sound track by Bruno Coulais. The film is very different from the book; a new setting, scenes moved around and the back story flushed out. The narrator is replaced by a new character named Wybie who serves to turn much of the lengthy descriptions into dialogue. So the book moves from Britain to Ashland, Oregon and the time of year to winter. I liked the changes between book and film and plan to get a copy for my DVD collection.
Comment #1: Wednesday, September, 23, 2009 at 18:26:59
Thanks for the review! I'm not tripping over myself to read this book, but I think I will at some point.
Comment #2: Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 17:30:46
Coraline is worth a read sometime and the movie is worth watching if you haven't seen it yet.
Comment #3: Thursday, September, 24, 2009 at 10:07:52
I remember seeing the movie advertised. Don't know that I'd buy the book, but I might look for the movie. Thanks for the review.
Comment #4: Monday, September 28, 2009 at 11:25:36
You can easily enjoy the movie without having read the book. If you do watch the movie, I recommend listening to the commentary after you're done. The director explains the changes he made and the reasons behind them.
Should you change your mind about the book, it's popular enough that your local library will probably have a copy.
Thanks for stopping by. I've given you an award.
Comment #5: Saturday, September, 26, 2009 at 17:17:26
This is one of those books that I've almost picked up so many times, that it's not even funny. I also wanted to see the movie, but it passed me by.
Thanks for the review - will check out the book/movie sometime soon (hopefully).
Comment #6: Monday, September 28, 2009 at 11:29:03
When you're ready you can easily rent the movie as it's so popular and your local library should have a copy of the book for the same reason.
Comment #7: Sunday, September, 27, 2009 at 10:35:14
This is a great review! I knew relatively little about Coraline and appreciated learning more. Thanks!
Comment #8: Monday, September 28, 2009 at 11:32:41
Thank you for the compliment. You've made my day!
Comment #9: Tuesday, September, 29, 2009 at 16:00:57
Just finished reading it yesterday, and really enjoyed it. Thanks for the review - I think that + finding it in a bookstore on Sunday did the trick. My review is here, if you want to stop by!
Comment #10: Friday, October 2, 2009 at 17:34:46
I'm glad you enjoyed the book. After I posted my review my son read the book with his dad. He LOVED it. I think we'll have to get him a copy of the film for Christmas. He thinks the "other mother" is the most awesome monster ever.