Saturday, November 22, 2008


Neil Gaiman's Coraline is nothing if not a little gem of children's literature. How it isn't more famous defies understanding as it completely brightened my day. The story in the form of a novella (about 70 pages long) introduces Coraline, a little girl who lives with parents a bit oblivious to their daughter's thirst for knowledge. She's bored and she wants to explore. One day, she goes exploring the wrong room, the one nobody enters. She opens a door and enters another world where everything is exactly like her own world : in this second world, she has "another" mother, and "another" father, but what happens when the other mother (who is quite odd) wants to keep Coraline for herself, as part of her possessions ?
What a lovely surprise ! Gaiman's depictions are above all poetic and the atmosphere is impeccable. The story chilled my spine towards the end : it never gets gruesome but it is excellent food for thought. The characters -from Miss Forcible and Miss Spink her two neighbours, to the cat which will remind you of our dear Cheshire- are superbly drawn, something you wouldn't expect from such a tiny story. However, I think the greatest writing emerges when Gaiman depicts Coraline's thoughts and actions. This is one intelligent little girl and she moves in words that are never demeaning even in a children's book. It made me think of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland of course, and there are many references to it (Coraline goes down a hole, the cat). Some lines also reminded me of A Series of Unfortunate Events (of which I've only read the first three books and plan on reading more, please don't spoil me !) and the way the author has to explain some things knowing he'll be adressing an audience of children. In the end, though, Gaiman has such an original voice I found it hard not to slow down in order to read some of my favourite passages out loud, just to know how the words would sound like juxtaposed the way he does juxtapose them.
The movie will be released next year. Beautiful discovery, I highly recommend it to all.