Coraline – Neil Gaiman

Posted 29 October, 2008 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 30 Comments

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Title: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Date Finished: Oct 19, 2008 #62
Pages: 161
Published: 2002
Rating: 4/5

What a deliciously creepy book! This was my last for the read-a-thon, and even when my eyes were growing increasingly droopy, I was still thoroughly frightened! This is my third Gaiman book this year, and though I liked Stardust better, I think this is Gaiman at his best.

Coraline is the story of a curious girl who yearns to explore her new home and its surroundings, but during a particular rainy day her mother insists she must stay indoors. So she explores her home once more and finds a peculiar door that does not go anywhere. When her mother unlocks the door for her, she sees that it has been bricked shut–once upon a time her flat and the empty one next door were joined by this doorway.

The next day, Coraline is once again bored and itching to do something to occupy her time. Her mother has left to run errands, so Coraline takes the key to the door and opens it. Instead of finding a brick wall like she expected, she finds a dark hallway. She enters the hallway and discovers that it leads to a flat just like her own–except that it is better than her flat. And in the kitchen she finds a woman who is just like her mother–just like her mother except for the buttons sewed onto her eyes. She has discovered her Other Mother.

At first glance Other Mother is wonderful. She cooks the food that Coraline loves, she pays her lots of attention, and she promises to love her forever and ever. After spending some time there, Coraline goes back to her own home, but her parents aren’t there. And they don’t come back that night. When Coraline is awakened by the strange neighborhood cat, she begins searching for her parents. She finally sees their reflection in the hallway mirror–as if they are stuck within and cannot get out. Upon seeing her trapped parents, Coraline knows she must go to the Other House to rescue them from Other Mother. But will Coraline be able to escape the clenches of her soul hungry Other Mother and save herself and her parents?

First–kids must have a higher tolerance for scary stuff than I do because this book plain and simple freaked me out! I don’t do scary, and I’m a little embarrassed to report that while reading this book at 3 am I had to cover the illustrations with my hand so I wouldn’t have nightmares when I finally crawled into bed. Even now when flipping through a book I landed on a particularly scary picture Other Mother that made my heart skip a beat.

But the illustrations are only a small part of what makes this book so bonechilling. Gaiman does a wonderful job of creating the other world where our fears feed upon more fear until they become out of control and consume our beings. I know that the more I think about how frightened I am, the worse the situation becomes and the smallest sound will send me right out of my skin. But Coraline is such a brave girl and she must separate her fears from what she believes to be good in order to make sense of the other world and her world so she can make things right.

I would recommend this little book–especially as a Halloween spook, but I can’t imagine reading it when I was younger! (of course I am the supreme wimp!) Do you get scared while reading books? Do you enjoy being frightened?

They also read it: (let me know if I’ve missed you–I have trouble catching them all when the book is so widely read…)
Biblioaddict, Chris (Book-a-Rama), Rhinoa, Kim L., Stephanie, Joy, 3M, Terri B, Raidergirl3, Eva, Nymeth, Valentina

30 Responses to “Coraline – Neil Gaiman”

  1. I listened to this, but I would have had problems with the illustrations for sure. As it was, the audiobook had Gaiman actually making the creepy singing rats sing in this squeaky voice that was pure nightmare fodder. *shudder*

  2. It sounds so creepy. I can’t read scary books. My husband’s favorite part of Halloween is watching scary movies the entire week leading up to it- he convinced me to join him this year but then I have to stay up another half hour reading nice, pleasant books to get the images out of my mind!

  3. Wow, that sounds absolutely fascinating!! Is it gruesome? I don’t mind scary, but I don’t like gruesome. I think one of the big problems with today’s media (books, TV, movies, etc) is that we’ve forgotten how terrifying NOT showing all the gore can be, haha! I get much more freaked out about mirrors and clowns and buttons on the eyes – just reading that part of your review was chilling! :D

  4. *Bermuda – Keep in mind that this is a YA book (maybe even younger than that depending on your definition). I defintely wouldn’t classify it as horror (I DON’T do horror–or crime!). I’m a little bit of a wimp. ;)

    *Fyrefly – Even when I was writing my review I accidentally flipped to a particularly scary picture and got frightened! I bet this one would be fun to listen to–but definitely with the lights on!

    *Jeane – Like I said to Bermuda, I don’t do scary. I don’t even like to read suspense books. When I was little I loved RL Stine, but when I couldn’t get to sleep at night I had to put an end to it. I get so tense!! Good luck with the movies this week–what will you be watching?

    *Amanda – No, it’s definitely not gruesome–really the only part of it that is terrifying (other than the illustrations!) is the fear that is caused by Coraline’s world being turned upside down. And the buttons are very very eery! There is a stop motion film currently being made based on this book–I almost put a clip of it on the post, but you can them on Youtube.

  5. Ooh, I think a movie might be a little TOO creepy for me, but I think I’m going to pick up this book. Eerie is good, gorey is bad (in my opinion), so I’m glad to hear it’s in the former category. Thanks Trish.

  6. 3M

    I think Coraline is just soooooooo good. I’ve read 3 by Gaiman and loved them all — Coraline, Stardust, and The Graveyard Book — but Coraline is my favorite!

  7. This was the first Gaiman book I ever read…before I’d ever heard of Neil Gaiman. A few years back, Annie picked it up at a thrift store, but then was afraid it would be too scary so she made me read it first. So glad she did! It really is just a delightfully creepy, yet fun book!

  8. Oh, I LOVE this book, Trish! It’s one of my favourite Gaiman’s books!!! I also enjoyed The Graveyard Book too!

    You know, I think I’d be frightened if I read this as a kid… I think it’s kinda creepy even from an adult’s perspective, but maybe that’s just me, hehe….

  9. “First–kids must have a higher tolerance for scary stuff than I do because this book plain and simple freaked me out!”

    I actually think they do! Also, for me the things that make the book so creepy work at a level that younger readers may not understand until later. What creeped me out was not so much the mice or the buttons for eyes (though those ARE creepy), but the Other Mother’s concept of maternal love. She wanted to own Coraline. She wanted to hoard her, to keep her forever, to stop her from growing up and having a life independent from hers. And when I think that there are mothers who actually have that attitude towards their children, that’s when I get disturbed!

    Anyway, I’m really glad you enjoyed the book so much, Trish.

  10. I would love to read this. I don’t like straight horror, but I enjoy a good creepy read. I’ve never read Neil Gaiman, but from what I’ve heard, it sounds like he knows how to create a suspenseful atmosphere.

  11. Eww… I am creeped out just by the review. The mirror images remind me of the Bloody Mary, that I so thank your mother for bringing to my knowledge… I definately don’t do scary at all. I watched the Excersism of Emily Rose, and had to wake Houston up at 3:00am cause I was scared… Such a baby…

  12. *Amanda – I think the movie might be too creepy for me as well, but we’ll see. I think it will kind of be along the lines of The Corpse Bride or The Nightmare Before Christmas (and maybe a tad more scary)

    *3M – I think I prefer the love story in Stardust to this, but I think this is one of the better written books I’ve read by him.

    *Debi – Too funny about Annie! What did she end up thinking of it?

    *Melody – I’ll definitely have to check out The Graveyard Book after hearing so much praise lately!

    *Nymeth – Yes, I completely agree with you about Other Mother being more frightening to adults. I don’t think I have a good gauge on how kids react to young adult books–sometimes I feel that they are more suited to adults anyway?

    *Charley – You should definitely check out some Gaiman! I just recently “discovered” him and I’ve really enjoyed reading his books and look forward to readingmore. I definitely would not classify this one as horror, though.

    *Michelle – LOL–After I saw Sleepy Hollow (with Johnny Dep) I had to crawl into bed with Kim because I was so scared. :) Now I just avoid scary stuff altogether!

  13. So far we’ve watched The Grudge, Blair Witch Project and American Werewolf. Next up is the Exorcist and Mirrors (or something). So far the scariest one for me was Blair Witch- because it felt so real! I read afterwards all about how the filming was done. Wow, talk about ingenious.

  14. I’m glad you really liked this, Trish. I listened to it, so I did not get the benefit of the illustrations. This genre is not my favorite genre, but I still want to give The Graveyard Book a try.

  15. *Jeane – I do worse with visual kind of scary–so I can hardly even watch previews for The Grudge! I watched Blair Witch when it was in the theatre and man what a headache afterward! I haven’t seen it since. I can’t believe how many you’ve watched–your husband must really love those types of movies!

    *Samantha – This is a good place to start, but the nice thing about Gaiman is that everything he writes is so different (at least what I’ve encountered).

    *Bethany – unfortunately it was really tough to stay up during those hours! I finally got up to walk around and was able to do better the second half of the book–but the illustrations definitely made my heart jump a few times!!

    *Joy – It’s not necessarily my favorite genre either, but it’s nice sometimes to reach out a little bit. I do better with fantasy than some of the other genres I ignore, though. Like romance? No thank you!! :)

  16. He does. Scary movies and gangster movies are his favorites. Drama and nature documentaries are mine. We keep challenging each other to stretch and try new things!

  17. I didn’t read your review, just checked out your rating. So many of you like this book. I’m going to reserve it at the library and get it read.

  18. I really enjoyed this book when I read it a few years ago…when Other Mother gave her the buttons and needle and thread for her eyes it totally freaked me out!!

  19. *Jeane – My husband and I tend to disagree on movie selections as well. I like a few romantic comedies and then the really weird art-house flicks and he likes action and bang bang shoot em up movies. Luckily he doesn’t really do scary either–I don’t think I could do what you did last week!!!

    *Dar – Definitely check it out! I can’t remember–have you read anything by Gaiman yet? I’ve also heard that his new book The Graveyard Book is really good (maybe even better than this one)

    *DreamQueen – YES!! Those button eyes were terrifying and the thought of having to sew them onto your own eyes? Eeks! Glad you enjoyed it–have you seen previews for the movie coming soon?

  20. No, I haven’t read anything of his yet Trish but The Graveyard Book is one that’s really caught my interest too. Both Nymeth and Softdrink gave it such good reviews.

  21. it was the perfect readathon book wasn’t it? I thought it was creepy, but I wasn’t too freaked because I read most of it in the morning. I think I enjoyed the Graveyard Book more, probably because it’s longer and I got more attached to the characters, but I’m sure it’s gonna be among the favourite reads of the year, one I will like to return to in the future, maybe next halloween:)

  22. I loved this one, wasnt it super creepy?? Once I started reading, I couldnt put it down. That Other Mother freaked me out, and the illustrations…yikes!
    Yes, I do enjoy being frightened by books…needless to say I read alot of Koontz and King.
    great review.

  23. This was a creepy book! I listened to it on audio, and the song that the rats sing was very freaky. I had it in my car, so at the very least, I wasn’t listening to it right before bed. I couldn’t have handled it.

  24. *Dar – Yup–I’ve heard really good things about The Graveyard Book lately! Hope you like whatever you decide to pick up!

    *Valentina – Yes, definitely a perfect read-a-thon book! I’m going to have to pick up TGB after hearing so many great thigns about it!

    *Naida – Other Mother was really creepy! I’ve never read anything by Koontz and King…not sure I could handle adult horror/suspense. Thanks for coming by!

    *Amanda – Yay! :)

    *Kim – You’re the second person to mention the creepy rats singing! I think this one would definitely be fun to listen to–I remember reading your review and thinking I should pick up the audio version.

  25. just saw a clip for a new movie. Here is the link

    Creepy. I will definately read then watch the movie then pee my pants in that order!!