I read this - my first Neil Gaiman book, actually - years ago when it was first released in hardback. I think I read it within a day or two. A few years later, I got the audiobook as it was read by Dawn French and I relistened to it just now, just to refresh my memory of it as all I have in my head link to this is the film (which is good in some aspects but awful in others.)…
Coraline Jones has just moved house. Well, actually, she's moved into a flat inside a house with her mother and father. In this new flat, there is a door that opens to a brick wall. However, when Coraline opens it a second time, it opens onto a corridor. A corridor that leads to her flat. But it's not her flat. It's looks like her flat, but it's not. It's similar, but not quite exact. And then, she meets her parents, who look like her parents and sound like her parents but aren't. Her parents don’t have shiny black buttons for eyes. No, these are her Other Mother and Other Father and they have been waiting for Coraline for quite some time. This new world Coraline has walked into is a twisted version of her own and now that she's there, her Other parents (especially her Other Mother) are reluctant for her to leave…
So… what do I think? Even though I'm a little outside the primary and secondary target audience (this is a pre-teen book. Maybe early teen as well [says nothing about his age. *cough* mid-twenties *cough*]), I quite like it. I am still trying to figure out how old Coraline is (late primary school? Just about to start secondary?) as they are times she acts really young for her age and, other times, she acts a little older than her age. It's hard to nail it down.
I remember reading it the first time and listening to the audiobook and thinking of how clever it was. For example, Neil gives all the clues of what is going to happen or ideas to the plot within the first chapter and that is so clever. It was the little things that are clever. I only clearly remember the shiny black buttons and the Other Mother's right hand, and those two things are chilling for reasons I won't go into. But I do think this book is a good read and might give children chills - and that's a good thing. Kids like to feel scare yet safe at the same time.
And, dare I say it, I think adults might like this too. It's Neil Gaiman. If you’re a fan of his work, you'll read thi and wonder how he could write this for children and get away with some of the scenes. And you can see his touch (I've only read this, watched the film he wrote Mirrormask and listened to The Graveyard Book [will relisten to that soon, actually!]) and it's quite gothic, but there's something fairy tale about it. Not sure if his adult books have the same feel but there's something about his writing in these that are nice and comforting. This is the same feeling you get from Neil's episode of Doctor Who - The Doctor's Wife. It's dark, gothic yet quite fairy-tale. Because of this, Neil's episode is my fave Doctor Who episode in this currect series!
Am not 100% certain if Dawn French was the right voiceover, but she did seem to get the Other Mother's voice right. She made it sound lovely when the Other Mother was acting all sweet and nice, but when her voice had to become colder, Dawn seem to handle that alright. But some of the other characters voices didn’t feel right. Maybe it's me, but am not 100% certain if the right reader was found with the lovely Dawn French.
Now, some of you know that Coraline was turned into a film a few years ago with the vocal talents of Dakota Fanning, Terri Hatcher, Jennifier Saunders and Dawn French and directed by Henry Selick, who was heavily involved with The Nightmare Before Christmas (did he direct that or did he produce it? Can't remember at time of writing). Now, I have the DVD of this film somewhere in my house (saw it AGES again), but now, listening to the story, I realise how wrong the film was. I mean, the film is ok to watch, but if you want the film to be like the book, then you got problems. Main thing - there is no character called Wybie in the book!
And, the more I think about the film, the more I think that the film doesn't really represent the book right. The film was stop-motion animation, which is fine, but doesn't seem to fit the soul of the book (apparently, I read somewhere that Neil Gaiman wanted Coraline to be a Live-Action film but the director was against it. Hence why neil Gaiman wants the film version of The Graveyard Book and the TV version of American Gods to be live action). Also, can someone confirm to me this but is Coraline black? The reason I ask is because, in my head, I have always seen Coraline and her father as black and this didn’t happen in the film (yet I could easily imagine Terri Hatcher being Coraline's real & Other Mother). And they American-izied the story. It even says in the book that Coraline's father had to go to London due to work.
Yes, I know that these are little things but the more I thought about the book/film relationship, the more I got annoyed over it. Out of the two, I would say go the book. I always seem to say that with book/film adaptians, though there are the rare occasion that I say the film is better than the film.
I go off course. The book - Coraline - is a fast, chilly read that will make you never look at shiny black buttons in the same way again…