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  • Ananya Ak

Coraline Book Review

I had actually heard about Coraline by Neil Gaiman quite a while ago (much before I ever read Stardust, my first Neil Gaiman book). But somehow, the story didn’t appeal to me at the time.

I mean, a haunted house but not exactly a haunted house? Talk about weird.

Anyway…the entire concept of children’s horror just seemed off to me, so I let it be. There were so many other books to read, after all!

But then, when I read Stardust, I fell in love with Neil Gaiman’s writing style. And bookstagram was all praise for Coraline, so I thought…why not?

I’m happy with my decision. This book has Neil Gaiman’s signature weird ideas and a pleasing writing style that I really enjoyed.

So what’s the book about?

Well, it’s about a girl, Coraline (as you might have already guessed), who finds another world in her new home. Not a good world, like Narnia, but a creepy world with mirror images of the people she knows…

Only, the mirror images are not really like the real people at all. Sure, the “other parents” (as they ask her to call them) look similar to her real parents back home, but they are a little bony and their hands are like claws. And their eyes? Their eyes are not eyes at all, but black buttons.

And they want Coraline to stay with them forever and ever.

Understandably, the little girl doesn’t want to stay with the creepy people with buttons for eyes (especially since they ask her to sew buttons into her own eyes, too). But then her parents go missing and she knows…she just knows that they’re somehow trapped in the spooky mirror world.

But if she goes to that world to rescue her parents, she may never come back…

My thoughts

First of all, I need to get this off my chest: children’s horror is a weird genre. Why does it even exist? I mean…why the heck would anyone want to creep kids out? There’s a reason why horror movies have that “A” rating to them, you know.


It’s been a long time since I read a children’s book. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read one since I was a child myself. I thought it would be a little too childish for my taste.

But it wasn’t juvenile or immature or childish or any of that stuff. If not for this book’s refreshing quality of being much easier to read and understand than a typical adult novel, I probably wouldn’t have pegged this as a children’s book at all!

I read this book almost in a single sitting! I probably would have actually read it all at once, except that I started reading it at night and I don’t read horror at night (it gives me nightmares).

But honestly, it wasn’t all that creepy or horrifying. In fact, it wouldn’t have given me any horror vibes at all (more like fantasy) if not for the super-creepy (but absolutely brilliant) illustrations by Chris Riddell! Seriously. The illustrations gave that spooky touch to the book.

Just look at these:

Anyway…as usual, Gaiman’s writing left me spellbound. His simple but elegant description of the mirror world and all the ways it’s eerie is amazing.

In this tiny little book, I became friends with Coraline and got to know her parents through her innocent little eyes. I came to hate the other mother and admire Coraline for her bravery.

My favourite character was none of these people, though…it was the sassy cat that Coraline meets in the other world. Totally savage and unflinchingly badass, the cat had my heart from the time he said:

“…you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”

I mean, seriously. That statement made me feel attacked. I feel attacked even now, as I’m typing it out. There’s so much wisdom in that savage statement that it just left me speechless!

Okay, enough gushing.

The point is, that cat is my favourite character in the book, even though cats in real life irritate me.

As I read the book, I went on a journey of self-discovery with the little girl. The mirror world is a great metaphor for life. It gives a whole new perspective to the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side”. Reading some of the truth bombs in the book made me realise that this is not just a book for children – it’s for parents as well (you’ll know it when you read it)…

Needless to say, Coraline has made me more determined than ever to read all the books Neil Gaiman has ever written. I’m not a Gaiman fan yet, but I can tell that I soon will be…

However, even though I loved this book, there’s one thing I want to say: children’s horror – still a weird genre.

Some fun facts

So…the edition of Coraline that I have, came with an introduction by the author. I read it and found so many cool facts about the book that I simply had to share. So…here we go!

  1. The author had started writing the story for his elder daughter, Holly, in 1992. But he got busy, and by the time he got back to it, Holly was too old. So he finished it for his other daughter, Maddy.

  2. It was meant to be “Caroline” but then there was a typo and it ended up as “Coraline”. Apparently, the name just sort of clicked for Gaiman and he wanted to know what happened to Coraline. Also, (my own observation) the name “Coraline” actually has significance in the book because everyone except her parents get her name wrong and she keeps correcting them and that’s fun.

  3. The house in the animated movie Coraline that came out in 2013 is actually Neil Gaiman’s house in America. Talk about serendipity.

  4. A lot of the props we see in the book – the grandmother’s uncomfortable furniture, the pointless painting of the fruit, the drawing-room door – Gaiman just picked up from his own England home (where he lived when he first started writing the book).

  5. Neil Gaiman says the book conveys a message about bravery and whatnot. For me, it was just a fun read, but for a kid, yeah…it probably does.

Okay, that’s it.

Bottom line, I loved the book. It was tiny (just 190 pages) and I finished it in almost one go. The awesome illustrations were a nice bonus, and Neil Gaiman’s writing is, as usual, exemplary. I recommend this to everyone who likes fantasy and doesn’t mind reading children’s books. Also, it’s a great book for beginners!

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