In Coraline's family's new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close.
The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own.
Only it's different.
At first, things seem marvelous in the other flat. The food is better. The toy box is filled with wind-up angels that flutter around the bedroom, books whose pictures writhe and crawl and shimmer, little dinosaur skulls that chatter their teeth. But there's another mother, and another father, and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to change her and keep her with them. . . Forever.
Review: Remember that old TLC song “Waterfalls”? Oh, poor Coraline; had she only listened. . .
Coraline is the only child of parents probably not unlike yours and mine. They are busy, working people who sometimes forget that a child needs to be engaged and interacted with. Coraline has a touch of loneliness and is gobsmacked with boredom. She is sick and tired of the grown-up people around her talking around her and not with her, of them telling her to go and occupy herself. Like any child (and more than a few grown-ups), Coraline goes in search of an adventure, of something new in her life, and so she sneaks an old key from her mother that belongs to an old door that leads to nowhere in her new home. Except that one day, it does. Coraline is delighted at first, but just like Alice and Dorothy before her, realizes that there is no place like home, for that is truly where the heart is.
This was my first Gaiman, and after reading Coraline, I certainly will be back for more. The book was a creepy tale of adventure and hard lessons learned. The fright factor is such that it is completely appropriate for children, but I think adults will gain just as much from it. The most wonderful thing about Gaiman’s writing style is that every word is truly used – there are no superfluous adages in his storytelling. Consequently, the story never drags and keeps a brisk pace.
Central to the book is the development of Coraline’s sense of family and the importance of her parents in her life, and hers in theirs. Coraline also learns about the importance of courage, commitment to others, understanding and tolerance of others, that appearances can be deceiving, and that the grass is not always greener on the other side. This is a simple book, but a grand adventure – it’s a perfect story to make a part of your family’s Halloween tradition.
The cat yawned slowly, carefully, revealing a mouth and tongue of astounding pink. “Cats don’t have names,” it said.
“No?” said Coraline.
“No,” said the cat. “Now, 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.”
For a moment she felt utterly dislocated. She did not know where she was; she was not entirely sure who she was. 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.
“I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I really wanted? Just like that, and it didn’t mean anything. What then?”
-Coraline, pg. 120