In the introduction to Coraline, Neil Gaiman states that he started writing the book for his then five year old daughter, who loved scary stories, but finished it six years later, just in time for his younger daughter to read. But I just cannot imagine how a four or five year old will be able to read it without clambering under a blanket. Then again, I’m easily scared. Well, that’s an understatement. So, that’s that.
But the reason I even felt the faintest doubt about how a child would be able to read it is because Neil Gaiman, as usual, has done a fantastic job of creating a scary scary story. It’s not scary in the way a Stephen King novel would be. It’s not creepy either. It’s just convincingly dark. It consumes you. The story just wrapped itself around me in the 2 to 3 hours I spent with it. And I kind of felt blinded by the real world when I stepped out of that darkness.
This book is yet another testament to Neil Gaiman’s brilliance. He knows that he’s not writing a Neverwhere, Good Omens or an Ocean at the End of the Lane for fantasy-fiction lovers. He knows he’s writing it for children who have the resilience to sit through a scary book and enjoy it. And enjoy it they will. As much as I say that I was scared, I loved every bit of the book.
From the introduction, which was also by Neil Gaiman, where he describes how he started writing the book and the inspiration behind it; down to the last chapter, which had me chewing my nails, every part of the book managed to elicit some emotion, some feeling, some reaction from me. And I loved it.
The book touches on the fear a child faces when s/he feels abandoned, fears the supernatural yet feels the responsibility to face the fear and overcome it. It’s a story of courage, acuity, sense and sensibility. It’s a story of a child who doesn’t know she possess all these powers, but channels them to take charge of her circumstance – a scary one.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Even if you are like me, and not sure that a scary fantasy book is the right pick for you, I would recommend that you give this a shot.
Now I can’t wait to watch the movie version of this book!