Book talk : It’s CORALINE, not CAROLINE

Some years ago, I found the movie Coraline in the DVD store, bought it, loved it. It became one of my favorites and it got me into Tim Burton (well, Coraline and the nightmare before Christmas). However, I had no idea that it was also a book so when I saw it on Instagram, it became an instant bucket list item! And because I have zero patience, so I ordered it the same month.

Coraline is a girl who wanders into an alternate universe and meets her ‘other mother’, who is everything her real mother is not: attentive, always available and loving. Or so it seems…And Coraline has to learn to be brave, even when she’s alone and scared. While getting to know herself and her ‘ old’ life, she also manages to help some old souls and give them the closure they need.

The main character is obviously Coraline, a smart, headstrong girl who likes exploring. Her parents just moved into a new house, and her new school hasn’t started yet. Her parents work a lot, and therefore Coraline is often left to herself. This made her very independent, to the point she heats up her own pizza when her dad made a ‘ recipe’, Coraline doesn’t eat recipes. 

The other characters include: 

  • Her parents: loving but busy. According to Coraline, too busy. They work from home, but never seem to have enough time to spend with their daughter.
  • The sisters and their dogs: they share the house and are obsessed with theater, but never got their big break. Their counterparts in the ‘ other world’ did get their big break, at least for their dogs.
  • The Russian guy in the attic: Training his mice to perform but without much luck. 
  • Cat: Nameless, because cats don’t need names. He moves in and out of the different worlds, as cats do, and functions as a wise guide and friend for Coraline.
  • The other mother: a being of the alternate universe. What she is is unclear, how long she’s been there as well. All we know is she likes games and lures people into her world by rebuilding the world they now and making it better. She starts off happy and kind, but the more Coraline is objecting to her world, the falser she gets.

She had the feeling that the door was looking at her, which she knew was silly, and knew on a deeper level was somehow true

Neil Gaiman – Coraline


Adults are just big kids

Coraline is a book written for children, which becomes really apparent in the characters (which are shown back or white) and the writing style. The sentences are short and to the point. The descriptions of places are solid and unelaborate, but very clear. Gaiman talks to your imagination, but without loads of space for reading between the lines. However, it does not get condescending and is still definitely a darker story, borderline horror (although I’m not sure what the real definition of horror is, so it might be actual horror, but a delightful kind). 

He spends a lot of time describing Coraline and her life, so you really get space to identify with her and start to know her inside out. It might take a couple of pages, but each sentence feels like it’s needed and adds something to the story. 

The moral of the story: you can only really be brave when you’re scared is something not only kids can’t hear enough. Coraline is pushed to her limits (which would also be mine limits, especially that basement scene…) and still pushes through. In the end, she comes out wiser and even starts eating her dad’s recipes.


All in all

I loved the movie and I loved the book. They are pretty similar, except that the movie has an extra character in the form of Wybie, who does not exist in the book. Besides that, the book obviously offers some more insight into Coraline and her life, which is something I always love about books! So my conclusion is: read the book and watch the movie. And then again, and again, and again…