Book Review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring…. 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 never let her go. Other children are trapped there as well, lost souls behind the mirrors. Coraline is their only hope of rescue. She will have to fight with all her wits and all the tools she can find if she is to save the lost children, her ordinary life, and herself.
I know, I know–reading anything by Neil Gaiman and reviewing it is a total cop-out. I mean, he’s one of the most prolific authors of our time. And there’s a reason for it: his books are magnificent.
But it’s Halloween. And the animated film is one of my favorite Halloween movies to watch (yes, it’s not exactly Halloween themed, but it’s creepy, and that’s close enough for me). I’ve always wanted to read the book that inspired the movie, so I figured now would be an excellent time.
The first thing that struck me was how similar the book and it’s film adaptation are. There are minor differences (like the color of Coraline’s jacket) but the film almost exactly copies the book. Which makes sense, given how short it is–the filmmakers didn’t have to pick and choose what would make the final cut. But it flows almost exactly the same in both mediums.
I couldn’t decide if that was good or bad. On the one hand, it was nice to see a story I’d already fallen in love with through a different lens. On the other hand, it was weird to see a story I’d already fallen in love with through a different lens. It was like pulling on what you thought were your favorite pair of worn jeans–how they molded to your legs perfectly and you knew every loose thread and frayed edge. But then when you slid them on, you found out they weren’t your jeans. They were just a new pair.
It sort of felt like that.
Not to say the book wasn’t good–it was fantastic. Creepy, whimsical, heart-warming, creative. Everything I loved about the movie was born in that book, and I could see that in every page. If anything, the creepiness was more apparent in the book because of the illustrations and the more solitary nature of reading versus watching a movie. I just find myself wishing I’d read the book before seeing the movie. Then again, I’m not sure I would want that.
Life’s funny when you want and don’t want something at once.