The one with the button-eyed parents

Neil Gaiman, Coraline (2002)

I’ve finished reading this book in November, and I have this unfinished post draft for more than one month, so what’s been stopping me from hitting the “publish” button until now?

It’s not really as if you were eagerly waiting for my review to discover what Coraline is all about. But the fact that there are about 10,000 reviews (not, actually, 11,044 reviews and counting) on Goodreads for this book make me wonder if anything I’ll write hasn’t been already written 11,044 times before.

Once I’d dipped my toe into Neil Gaiman’s weird world, I knew I wouldn’t stop at just one novel, because the depth and the wealth of this author’s imagination made me crave for more.

The local library had nothing else by him but Coraline. I’d loved the Ocean, but I was still reluctant about Coraline. I thought it was too childish for my taste. Childish it is in a sense, but rather in a good way. I found the portrayal of the young narrator of the Ocean more complex, but Coraline is still an amazing, plucky little girl. I found myself rooting for her parents, because of course they are terribly busy and don’t pay enough attention to their daughter’s whereabouts, but I’m sure that it isn’t an easy task to keep her engaged and close by. I’m sure that she wouldn’t content herself with playing with her big box of Legos for the afternoon. (I chose to not read this book as a guilt trip for parents who don’t spend all their time with their kids – but it still lurked at the back of my mind… talking about a nightmare).

But then what child hasn’t pretended that his parents aren’t really his and that other parents were waiting for him elsewhere?  Like in the best fairy tales, an alternate world just coexists next to ours and it just needs one step aside… How Gaiman develops this fantasy of sorts is quite creepy, and he has the skills to never fully define the horror that awaits Coraline on the other side of the house. It reminded me of Roald Dahl, where kids’ adventures are never sugar-coated and that even nice happy ends can’t make up for unknown dangers still lurking in the corners.

In short, Coraline couldn’t match the sense of wonder and dread that The Ocean at the end of the lane opened for me, but it was pretty close. It’s the kind of book that I’d love my son to read one day, but I think I have still a few years to wait, otherwise he will have nightmares for sure!

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7 thoughts on “The one with the button-eyed parents

  1. I think I must go back and re-read this. I read it when it first came out and was completely underwhelmed by it. It isn’t that I don’t like fantasy, I do, but Gaiman just doesn’t seem to speak to me. I did find ‘American Gods’ interesting, but not enough to take me back for more.

  2. I haven’t read Coraline, but I admit the movie creeped me out! I agree with you that Ocean at the End of the Lane is incredibly moving. I loved it. I also listened to The Graveyard Book on audio last year, read by Neil Gaiman himself, and it’s a fantastic audio experience. I highly recommend it –
    really thrilling and also touching.

  3. I still have nightmares after reading Coraline, though as an adult I admit I am better equipped to cope with them than I would have been when little. The buttons for eyes things has never ceased to creep me out in all the years since Coraline arrived on the scene. I should reread! I like the cat!

  4. I haven’t read this one yet. I saw the movie version a few years ago and it creeped me out so much I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the book. I will eventually!

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