||[28 Dec 2005|10:35am]
Hello. I wrote a review of Coraline:
This book is amazing. Neil Gaiman has such a wonderful imagination (you wonder how he comes up with these ideas), and I've always admired his work, but out of all his novels, I love Coraline best.
This is a "children's book," but I can't imagine anyone not enjoying it or at least appreciating its creativity, unless they simply had poor taste. Actually, I could imagine young children not particularly liking it; Coraline isn't scary, but it is eerie, especially when the world of the other mother is breaking down (the other father stumbling around in the cellar and Misses Spink and Forcible stuck together in that cocoon were probably the creepiest parts).
Coraline does not leave you with a gloomy feeling, however; maybe that has something to do with it being suitable for children, but I've read plenty of children's books that were depressing (The Chronicles of Narnia, for example). I loved the world on the other side of the wooden door as well as Coraline's little insights (ex. "They weren't making much sense; she decided they were having an argument as old and comfortable as an armchair, the kind of argument that no one ever really wins or loses but which can go on forever, if both parties are willing."). The fact that all the adults ignored her and didn't really appreciate her for the clever, unique girl she was probably had something to do with her discovering the world on the other side of the door in the first place (I'm sure the door doesn't just open for anyone); she wanted to find it.
The other mother and all the people in the other world understand her and appreciate her, and the other mother created them all basically to entertain her, and that's part of what appeals to Coraline about the other world. In fact, the other mother loves her, in her own strange, inhuman way, which she expresses ("'Thank you, Coraline,' said the other mother coldly, and her voice did not just come from her mouth. It came from the mist, and the fog, and the house, and the sky. She said, 'You know that I love you.' And, despite herself, Coraline nodded. It was true: the other mother loved her."). And the other crazy old man upstairs tells her, "Nothing's changed, little girl... And what if you do everything you swore you would? What then? Nothing's changed. You'll go home. You'll be bored. You'll be ignored. No one will listen to you, really listen to you. You're too clever and too quiet for them to understand. They don't even get your name right. Stay here with us... We will listen to you and play with you and laugh with you. Your other mother will build whole worlds for you to explore; and tear them down every night when you are done."
But Coraline doesn't want to have everything she wants, and the people in the other world could never understand that. She wants her boring old life, and the boring old flat, and the parents who are preoccupied with staring at computer screens all day but love her in a way the other mother never could. If there's a "lesson" in the story, it's that; appreciate the life you have.
Her normal life is so staid and quiet compared to life on the other side of the door, but it's only because she's there that it's so exciting; like she perceived, the other parents aren't really in their bedroom except at the moment she enters, and the other people who live in the house only serve to amuse her. I'm not particularly sure why the other mother wants her; perhaps she's just a covetous creature that collects strange little children for diversion. Perhaps she gets lonely sometimes. She goes to great lengths to win over the children who stumble or are lured into her world, and then she plays with them awhile, tires of them soon, and tosses them into the closet like the remnants of old rag dolls that have ceased to amuse her.
One of the most endearing parts was when Coraline was telling the cat about her father saving her from the swarm of wasps when she was very young ("'And he said that wasn't brave of him, doing that, just standing there and being stung... It wasn't brave because he wasn't scared: it was the only thing he could do. But going back again to get his glasses when he knew the wasps were there, when he was really scared. That was brave.'"). She truly loves her parents, and she's brave enough that she goes back into the other world and plays a risky game with the other mother to get them back. Reading it, you feel like throwing yourself into the arms of your parents like a little child again, the parents you don't love as wholly or simply as you used to now that you've started to judge them as people.
When I was little, I lived in a big old house, too, with three stories, each of which was inhabited by a different family (we lived on the first one, and we didn't call them flats because we're not British). And at the end of our kitchen was a door, and on the other side of it was just a brick wall. The door used to connect to another part of the house, my mom told me, when it was all one house and not separately rented sections. On the other side of the brick wall lived an old man who played opera music too loudly at night (it floated, ghostly, down the vent in my room sometimes), and whom we hardly ever saw and I might never have known existed. I liked to think that it was another world living, breathing on the other side, though, waiting for me to find it and give it a purpose for existing. But I never did, obviously. And I wasn't any Coraline, either. I just made up my own worlds in which to play, some of which are intact to this day.
So here's to Coraline, the most interesting little girl I've never met, to the other world, the spookiest world that wasn't one of my dreams, and to Neil Gaiman, one of the best authors I've ever had the pleasure of discovering. Last of all, to the sense of wonder and imagination, the feeling you get when you're creating new worlds, that never really leaves you as a child or adult.