Friday, 31 January 2014

Devouring Books: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

"'I don't want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and it didn't mean anything. What then?'"

Before I started blogging, I had no idea who Neil Gaiman was. I had never heard of him, at all, which is ridiculous because I was aware of the movie version of Coraline, and I'd seen (most of) Dogma, which is based on a book he wrote with Terry Pratchett, and just, there are things that I should have known him from. Then, as time went on and I got to know more bloggers, they started reading Neil Gaiman books, to which at first I went 'who?' and then, as these posts kept becoming more and more frequent, 'this guy again?' Every time I left a comment, everyone replied that I would definitely love Gaiman, or that they thought I already did love him, and so, peer pressure prevailed again and Coraline I have read.

It didn't hurt that over Christmas I acquired... *quick count* 5 Gaiman books in a matter of days, so I thought, I'm going to have to read the bugger now.

So! Coraline! It was my Christmas present from the lovely Bex, and I had it near me because I thought I might read it for the minithon, so one Sunday afternoon, I read the whole thing all at once. Which didn't take long, because it's a children's book, and a short one at that, but I thought it might sound impressive... Anyway. Even though all of those things are true, I also don't think I would have wanted to read it in more than one sitting because OH MY GOD the horror. The horror.* And I am an extensive Stephen King reader, just to remind you.

I guess Coraline isn't out and out horrifying so much as very very creepy, but I'd imagine it's the kind of story that would have given me nightmares as a child. Coraline (in case you don't know) is the story of a girl on her summer holidays, bored out of her mind and fairly unindulged by her parents, or her slightly strange neighbours. One day she decides to explore a door-to-nowhere in her house, which now goes to somewhere, and she goes through and meets her other mother and other father, who are exactly the same as her real parents except that they have buttons for eyes and want her to stay with them forever and ever and ever... as long as she consents to having buttons for eyes too. Coraline doesn't really fancy that, and goes back to her real home, and that's when her troubles really begin.

I can't even tell you how freaky the buttons-for-eyes things seems to me, but it's not nearly as freaky as some of the other stuff in the book that I won't spoil for you. It was kind of amazing to me that the things that I found really creepy were things that Coraline just kind of shrugged at and then kept on going through, but I also thought that was really realistic- children are so much more resilient about weird things than grown ups are, and actually, in general, are so much more resilient.

Damn, I miss being a child...

Anyway! What really really struck me when I was reading Coraline, was how completely classic it felt. Which is not to say that it felt old- but just that it could almost have been written at any time, and that it will endure for a really long time (if this actually happens, I called it first). I found this especially exciting because it also felt really original, so it's classic-ness didn't come from it reminding me of other things, just that in its details and execution and everything, it felt enduring and simple and lovely. But also creepy. Never forget the creepy.

So. I don't know if this one book means I can call myself a Gaiman convert, but it does at least mean that I can breathe easy knowing that the other 4 Gaiman books I've got waiting for me are probably going to be alright. I just can't breathe easy thinking about the Other Mother and all the horrors that come with her world...

*I've actually just realised that I had a dream that was ostensibly about my nan, but also I think took some inspiration from Coraline. I won't bore you with the details because I know other people's dreams=SNORE, but woah. No wonder it was freaky...


  1. *whispers* Dogma isn't based on Good Omens, but it is influenced by it and Gaiman gave Smith some tips during the script writing process. Also, Dogma was the first script Smith wrote but put it aside to wait until he had enough pull to get the effects needed. I maybe really like Dogma and Dogma trivia.

    And since this is actually a Coraline review I'm going to say that that cover is TERRIFYING and I hope it isn't the one you actually have because how do you sleep with that in the house?!

    1. *whispers back* OK then, whatever you say! I actually still need to see the film the whole way through so WHAT DO I EVEN KNOW? (Nothing, is the answer)

      That is TOTALLY the cover I have, isn't it horrifying?! Sort of perfect though. I love that even Coraline looks terrifying on it, cause at least you know what you're getting with it!

    2. Oh thanks goodness you explained because it has been a while since I read Good Omens, and I could in no way mesh it with Dogma. Did not compute.

    3. Watch it all the way through Laura! Baby smug Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Alanis Morrisette as God, Snape as Metatron - it's the movie to end all movies!*

      *Well, it's maybe not that good. But still.

    4. I was thinking that about Dogma, cause I read Good Omens and MAN did not really enjoy it, but Dogma is basically just a big 2-hr ball of awesome.

  2. Yay! I sort of maybe converted you to the Gaiman awesome! It's the cover I have too, I have to hide it. And the buttons for eyes creeped me out beyond belief as well! What are the other 4 books?

  3. It's the FREAKIEST, dude. And ughhh the buttons for eyes... I think what really got me was the image of the buttons on the table with the needle and thread next to them... NO.

    The other books I have... Hang on... Ok, so Good Omens, The Ocean At The End of the Lane... *takes out Kindle* American Gods and Neverwhere. I know what I own, honest!

  4. You should read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, because it's the best thing he's written so far in my opinion. Neverwhere is great too, and I'm firmly in the 'people who love American Gods' camp, but there are lots of people who don't like it so much... Oh and Good Omens is obviously great, but it was never not going to be really.

  5. When I read it I couldn't help feeling like I had already read a story like this so it was a very déjà vu read for me and I didn't warm up to it the way other people did. I read lots of creepy books when I was in high school - I will have to see if I can ever figure out what it was that was a forerunner of this story.
    I did like how the book resolved that final problem much, much better than the movie though. Girls DO NOT have to be rescued by boys.

  6. I really liked Coraline. The Graveyard Book by him is also really, really good. Apparently I usually like Gaiman's kids books, but not really his adult books. I doubt that helps you at all, but there we have it.

  7. I haven't read nearly enough of his books but I own loads (that's always the way). I didn't rate Good Omens that much, thought Stardust the film was better than the book but really liked The Graveyard Book. I can't decide if I read Neverwhere years ago or I just watched the old TV show, I definitely want to read it again/the first time anyway.