Coraline: What An Extraordinary Child

IMG_20150301_112557Some books mean business from the very beginning. Like Coraline. The first line itself warns you to start paying close attention.

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.

IMG_20150301_112737 (1)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.

IMG_20150301_112821Internet tells me Coraline was written for kids. With profound thoughts like these, the book is a great read for children-stuck-in-adults’-body too. 🙂

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.

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7 thoughts on “Coraline: What An Extraordinary Child

  1. I finished reading Coraline yesterday. Read it – thanks to to your recommendation. Otherwise I wouldn’t have known Neil Gaiman from Adam. I do agree that Coraline is an extraordinary girl, however there was nothing extraordinary about the book. There was nothing to fault about the writing; the narrative was gripping enough to hold the reader’s attention, and yet it left me unsatisfied overall.
    Written in the Alice in Wonderland mould, it lacked the richness of of Alice – richness of situations and richness of dialogue. I was looking for a message or an allegory, but I couldn’t discover any. Furthermore the evil “other” mother, did not have enough of a reason to be evil – she did not have anything to gain by keeping Coraline or the others whom she kept imprisoned – she was not convincing.

    The biggest plus that I could perceive is that it could be an excellent resource for a story-telling session, or for adapting into a play, where the situations can be embellished by an imaginative story-teller / screenplay writer.

    The theme of being brave stands out, and in that sense Coraline was an extraordinary girl!

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    1. Thank you for coming back, The Visitor. 🙂 I am glad you read Coraline. And, I find it unfortunate that it didn’t quite agree with you. 🙂

      I am a fan of children’s literature, and so, I found it intriguing, and touching at some junctures. I agree with you that the there are no many outstanding aspects about the story. But, I particularly liked the surreal aspects, which were as good as Murakami’s imagination. It was even more surprising to learn that Gaiman could bring such bizarre aspects in a children’s book. The writing, of course, was simple, and not as great as Lewis Carroll’s (And in some interview, Gaiman had dedicated the book to Carroll, who had been one of his greatest inspirations). I wouldn’t say that his writing was as charming as EB White’s or AA Milne’s, but it was still better than many adult writers’s. 😉

      I had a discussion with some of my friends, who found ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ better than ‘Coraline’. But like I mentioned in the former’s review, I have a special place for children’s literature in my heart, and so, for all we know, I might be misleading the readers in my reviews (which I prefer to call my ‘thoughts’). 🙂

      I particularly liked Philip Pullman’s review of the book, for it seems to convey what I couldn’t articulate skillfully. 😉 http://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/aug/31/booksforchildrenandteenagers.neilgaiman

      And, just like Murakami, on many occasions, Gaiman seems to leave some sub-plots open, and refuses closure. His determination doesn’t appeal to a lot of readers. A good friend of mine doesn’t have a palate for such open ends. It will make a great topic for an interesting discussion, and I am curious to learn about other authors, who share this trait. 🙂

      I am looking forward to learn your opinions on ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, if you choose to read. 🙂

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      1. I read Pullman’s review just a moment ago – his review opened up different perspectives and interpretations of Coraline that I had earlier overlooked. Thanks for pointing me that review.
        That said, my own impression and thoughts about the book resonated with is review on Goodreads: Karen’s Review.

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      2. Nice. Thank you for sharing, TV. I completely understand your perspective. Some authors refuse closures. I wonder why. 🙂 Maybe, we should ask Gaiman. He responds to tweets quite often. 🙂

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  2. I’m reading Talking of Muskaan and I’m loving it; it’s for YA, though not for children. Thought I should tell you. Want to try it?

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