Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house.
Neil Gaiman doesn’t offer you any trivialities. The first line tells you what you are signing up for, pressing enough to make you invest. Every other sentence in Coraline is significant. There is nothing that is impertinent or superfluous.
Coraline Jones, a young girl and a single child, moves into a new house – an old apartment. Her neighbours Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are former actresses, and an old man (whose name is revealed in the last few pages), had run a circus earlier. Coraline’s parents do a lot of work on computer, the narrator says. Despite working from home most times, her parents seem to neglect her once in a while, leaving Coraline restless and bored during her holidays. So, she goes about exploring. Also, she has those cute little chats with Misses Spink and Forcible, who have a couple of dogs. She acquaints with the kind old man upstairs, who raises mice. His plan for the mice: To make them perform in his circus. He wants them to practise rendering a particular song. But, they have other plans, you see. 🙂 Coraline’s conversation with her neighbours, although a bit short, is an absolute delight to read. And, they all have an adorable tendency to pronounce her name wrong. She is Caroline to them.
Just around the time when Coraline discovers the door in her house, she receives a couple of warnings. She has to refrain from going through the door. But, she is an explorer. So, she ignores the warnings, and unlocks the door… Bam! There is an eerie-looking replica of her own apartment, on the other side of the door. Also, there is an other mother and an other father. One of the most disturbing, yet fascinating points is this: They have two black buttons for eyes. From then on, things get darker, scarier, and more intriguing.
A sarcastic, bright black cat bumps into Coraline often. The talking feline, although haughty and aloof, gives her sage advices at crucial junctures. My highlighter kept running on most parts of their conversations. An excerpt from one of their enjoyable dialogues:
‘We… we could be friends, you know,’ said Coraline.
‘We could be rare specimens of an exotic breed of African dancing elephants,’ said the cat. ‘But we’re not. At least,’ it added cattily, after darting a brief look on Coraline, ‘I’m not.’
The story becomes a wee bit predictable once Coraline begins to fare well in her rescue mission. However, that’s not a complaint at all, for I was already hoping for the young girl to triumph. Coraline’s setting is like that odd dream that doesn’t escape your memory. Strange things happen in the other apartment. But, they are surreal and fascinating all the same.
The names are the first things to go, after the breath has gone, and the beating of the heart. We keep our memories longer than our names.
It is astonishing just how much of what we are can be tied to the beds we wake up in in the morning, and it is astonishing how fragile that can be.
Coraline, the girl, just like every other kid, is vulnerable on a few occasions. But, like many inspiring adults, she confronts the evil force with commendable determination. I buy Miss Spink’s opinion on Coraline. ‘What an extraordinary child!’
I wish I had read it when I was as young as Coraline herself.
PS – Coraline is my first book of Gaiman. My copy has also got some beautiful illustrations by Dave McKean. I am planning to read The Graveyard Book next.