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Coraline : Subtly horrific


Symposia : 8.7/10

Goodreads : 4.06/5

“In the mist, it was a ghost-world. In danger? thought Coraline to herself. It sounded exciting. It didn’t sound like a bad thing. Not really.”

Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’ redefined children’s fantasy, with a peculiar subtlety that intrigues the youth and terrifies adults. The very essence of the word ‘danger’ and its nuances play an important role in this book, by bringing a standard of fear that was previously unseen in children’s books. By pushing boundaries and exploring uncharted terrain in the genre, ‘Coraline’ continues to be the pinnacle of a genre I like to call children’s horror.

The book follows Coraline Jones, as she moves to a new house with her parents. As she explores her surroundings and acquaints with her neighbours, she finds a small door in her house. Where does it lead to? A seemingly alternate universe, where life is exactly how she wishes it would be. The constraints of the real world seem to be powerless in this one, and Coraline often wishes this was her permanent home. In this Other home, with her Other Mother and Other Father, she is in her utopia. But each day, as she crosses over to this seemingly magical and perfect world, her reality comes crashing down.

 As a thriller buff, Coraline sounds like the last book I would read. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how this book manages to captivate, terrify and engage, all while taking less than an hour to read. The writing is simple, but the plot is pure genius. It takes the idea of an alternate universe, a perfectly imaginary place and turns it into the stuff of nightmares. The graphic portrayal of the Other Mother is devilish in every sense. The contrasting personalities of the characters in the alternate world are crafted delicately, with each of them playing a small, but nefarious part in the workings of this book. If I say so myself, it is no minor feat to accomplish this while maintaining such a level of simplicity in writing. This book, at first glance, seems to be a naive and shy little thing, and then smiles a most wicked smile as it reveals its concealed fangs.

Gaiman’s Coraline is in every word, a cunning and diabolical book. But the question still remains. Why are children not scared of it, and why do adults run for their lives when they think of black button eyes? It is a simple psychological tactic that Gaiman may have unknowingly unleashed. Children relate to a world built upon the foundation of imagination, but adults link their thoughts with logic and base them upon reality. ‘Coraline’ is a book that is a work of pure imagination. It is in the unknown circumstances and the eerie descriptions of this book that scare adults, but finds children in a world of solace.

However, the very reason why this book is successful is perhaps why it might tend to be unpopular:

It is a children’s book. 

Nevertheless, in the spirit of Halloween and under the guise of Spooktober, ‘Coraline’ is perfect if you have maybe an hour to spare, and are looking for an efficient and fool-proof way to get a quick scare.

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