Coraline lives in a flat in a modified house. She has strange neighbours whom she tries to befriend, and a haughty cat.
A little while after they moved into their new home, Coraline discovers a door — one that is never opened. An old house with an attic and a cellar and an unopened door is a mystery waiting to be unravelled. Coraline’s family owned only a portion of the house. There was Miss Spink and Miss Forcible on the ground floor, just below her flat and a crazy old man that lived in the flat above. He trains mice to perform, so he says.
Coraline’s parents worked from home “doing things on computers” and most of the time she is left on her own. The first couple of weeks she meets her neighbours and explores the garden and the grounds. She also meets a haughty black cat who looks at her patronizingly.
Then one day it is raining and Coraline cannot do any more exploration outside. Forbidden by her parents to step outside, she begins to explore the flat. She made a list of the things she counted.
“She counted everything blue (153)
She counted the windows (21)
She counted the doors (14)
Of the doors that she found, thirteen opened and closed. The other, the big, carved, brown wooden door at the far corner of the drawing room, was locked.”
Shadow of doubt
Curiosity piqued, Coraline asks her mother. But sadly, for Coraline there is nothing beyond that door. When her mother opens the door she finds herself faced with a brick wall. As if in explanation her mother tells her, “When this place was just one house, that door went somewhere. When they turned the house into flats, they simply bricked it up.”
For Coraline the story has just begun. The door is a constant enigma and she is determined to find out more about it. One night, she is awoken by a noise. Disturbed, she tries to identify the source and goes into the hallway. Something, a little more than a shadow, moves in the drawing room and then darts into the farthest corner of the room.
What lies beyond that door? Another time, the crazy man who lives upstairs gives her a message, claiming to pass it on from the mice — Don’t go through the door!
A deliciously chilling novel, subtle yet powerful that takes you into a dark world where anything is possible. It tells you about courage and persistence. It is difficult to tear yourself away from the sinister world beyond the closed door, one where evil exists and thrives. It is amazing how Gaiman has managed to show good and evil as two halves of a house giving you the choice to enter either. The illustrations by Chris Riddell further add to the spine-chilling text.
Coraline was first published in 2002. It won the Hugo Award of Best Novella, Nebula Award for Best Novella, Bram Stoker Award for Young Readers. Gaiman tells of a time when he was a small boy and people used to tell him not to make up things! But he never listened. And thanks to that we have books that take us way beyond the realm of imagination. Gaiman has written books for readers of all ages.
Gaiman credits librarians with fostering a life-long love of reading: “I wouldn’t be who I am without libraries. I was the sort of kid who devoured books, and my happiest times as a boy were when I persuaded my parents to drop me off in the local library on their way to work, and I spent the day there. I discovered that librarians actually want to help you: they taught me about interlibrary loans.”
Coraline is Gaiman’s first novel for young readers. It is a magical modern classic and was number one on the New York Times bestseller list.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Bloomsbury, Rs. 250