“Because,’ she said, ‘when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.”
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline
You see, horror books are not exactly my preference, but I still read them from time to time for the sake of seeing how the disturbing and unsettling woven sentences are able to deliver one’s self the chills and the frightening images that constantly appear inside their head. I started “Coraline” with the same mindset, and although it is not downright frightening, this is probably one of the spookiest books that I have read. And it’s originally intended for children.
“Coraline” is about a girl with the same name and her desire to venture out into the world for something interesting to do. Inside their flat, with parents constantly being busy, depriving Coraline of much parental attention, Coraline loves to explore, and it has come to her attention that one of the doors on the hallway is very mysterious. Out of curiosity, Coraline asks her mother where the door leads to, and after being opened, she finds out that it leads to a wall of bricks. Sometime later though, when Coraline unlocks the door again, she is not greeted by red bricks, but rather, a dark passageway that leads to her other house, the exact same house. There, Coraline finds her parents, who are loving and seems perfect, but harbor a dark desire to sew Coraline’s eyes with buttons and obtain her soul.
As an eleven-year old girl, being exposed to such unsettling circumstance is certainly not your everyday phenomenon; Coraline has to escape the damned place to avoid having buttons replacing her eyes, and to make things worse, she has to free her parents’ souls and three other children’s who are the victims of Coraline’s ‘other mother’. A little bit of digression: the setting of having a normal girl in an abnormal world reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass”, and it is all the more so when Coraline has a cat to give her advice from time to time. Though there is quite the gap between Alice and Coraline’s age, the fact that Coraline has more to deal with in a way more serious note is something that makes it even.
Gaiman uses simple narratives that are easily understood, and because of its widely accessible nature, “Coraline” triumphs in reaching out to every part of society and frighten them in an effective manner. With disturbing elements such as a cold, quiet setting with slightly weird tenants, and the utilization of rats, which are animals often associated with ‘not-so-good-happenings’, Neil Gaiman has written a book that frees people from perplexing over the complex meanings of a certain paragraph, resulting in them taking the messages from the book more effectively.
The most prominent message of the book is an idea concerning fear. When the adventurous Coraline ventures into the unknown, going against her psychotic other mother that is not even human, Coraline is certainly very afraid. Gaiman doesn’t give us a Protagonist that is fearless and is able to overcome all threats before them flawlessly simply with the power of determination. Coraline is a book where the Protagonist is simply a brave, witty, normal little girl. When Coraline is fearful, she still decides to do what is right for her, and while doing so, it is apparent that she is still deeply terrified. This does not only apply to things like dark corridors or rooms, but also for us to do the things that is right according to us despite the fear of failure.The symbolization of the other mother as everyone’s object of fear (as it is literally something to be feared) is just brilliant 🙂 .
Provided with the simplistic, yet disturbing illustrations by Dave McKean, “Coraline” illustrates the already unsettling images of the world behind the door by imposing even more unpleasant images throughout the pages. With the accessible narrative, wonderfully dreadful illustrations, and the courage of a little girl, “Coraline” is a perfect read for a horror story.
You will be rooting for Coraline during the story, but during the process, you will probably realize that you are also rooting for yourself.
Rating from me: 4/5
What do you think of “Coraline”? Were you terrified by the other mother?