Thursday, October 18, 2012

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline Jones and her parents have moved into a new flat. They live in the middle of the converted house. Two elderly ladies, Miss Spinx and Miss Forcible, live on the ground floor. Above Coraline, beneath the roof, lives a crazy old man who said he was training a mouse circus. No one can see the mice because they aren’t ready. All three call her Caroline even after she corrects them.
Coraline began exploring soon after. For two weeks, she searched the garden and grounds. Then it began to rain and Coraline was stuck inside. Bored, her father suggests that she explore the flat. She counts everything blue (153), the windows (21) and the doors (14). Thirteen of the doors could open and close. The fourteenth door was locked. It was a “big, carved, wooden door at the far corner of the drawing room.” When she asks her mother about the door, she tells her that it goes nowhere. Coralline doesn’t believe her until she finds the door key and unlocks it. On the other side is a brick wall. Her mother explains that there is an empty flat still for sale on the other side. Coralline comments that her mother didn’t lock the door back. Her mother tells her that there is no need.

Later that night, almost asleep, Coraline hears a noise. She climbs out of bed to investigate. Seeing nothing more than a shadow, she follows it to the drawing room where it darts to the far corner. Turning on the light, the only thing there is the old door from earlier that is now slightly ajar. Remembering that her mother closed the door, Coraline opens it to the brick wall and shuts it again. Going back to sleep, she dreams of “little blacks shapes with little red eyes and sharp yellow teeth.” They sing to her in a whiney, whisper voice that makes Coraline uncomfortable.

The next morning while exploring the garden, Coraline runs into the crazy, old man. He tells her that the mice have a message for her. “Don’t go through the door" and wonders if she knows what it means. She says no and leaves. Later in the day, a bored Coraline goes downstairs to visit Miss Spinx and Moss Forcible. They sit down for tea sand Miss Spinx offers to read Coraline’s tea leaves. She tells her that she is in terrible danger. Miss Forcible asks to see them. She agrees with what Miss Spinx saw and neither of the elderly ladies can tell her what she is in danger from.

After a morning of shopping for new school clothes, Coraline and her mother come home at lunch time to an empty refrigerator. Her mother runs back out for some food while Coraline stays behind. After a bit, Coraline decides to go back to the drawing room with the key to the door. This time when she unlocks it, the brick wall is gone. Instead she finds a duplicate of her own flat but with a strange, musty smell and things don’t seem quite right. Soon she runs into someone who looks like her mother but she doesn’t look quite human. Her eyes are big black buttons. She introduces herself as Coraline’s other mother and her other father is in his study. At lunch, they let her know that they have been waiting for her for a long time.

Afterwards Coraline’s other mother send her to her bedroom to play with the rats. There the rats form a pyramid and sing a creepy song in a whispery voice. The crazy old man comes to collect them. Coralline also meets the other Miss Spinx and Miss Forcible and the weirdness ensues. Finally her other parents ask her to stay and be a family with them. Coraline leaves back through the door and into her own flat. She locks the door.

Coraline’s mother isn’t back from the market yet so she makes herself some toast. Neither of her parents is home for dinner or at her bedtime. They weren’t at home the next morning either. Alone the entire day, Coraline goes to bed but wakes up crying in the middle of the night. She falls back asleep in her parents’ bed only to be woken up later by a cat. The cat takes her to her parents but they are only reflected back to her in a mirror. Their only communication is HELP US written in their side of the mirror.

Coralline decides to be brave and go back through the drawing room door. Face to face with her other parents, they tell her that her real parents don’t want her. Knowing that it is a lie, she refuses to believe her other parents. Angry, her other mother locks the door, trapping her inside the other flat.

What does Coraline’s other parents really want her for? Will Coraline not only be able to escape herself but free her parents? And what part do the rats play in everything?

There is a very detailed graphic novel version as well.

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