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Customer Review

on July 3, 2002
Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller. His diction is perfect. He does not waste words, but is not miserly with them either. His descriptions never fail to rouse a knowing nod and smile from the reader. Even when writing a quick throwaway piece in his journal...his style is impeccable.
For this novel, Neil sets his eyes on another audience: young adults. He gives children (or, as he has said, 'strange little girls of all ages and genders' - a nod to his friend Tori Amos and her 2001 "Strange Little Girls" album) a deliciously creepy novel about a girl, a new flat, and her other mother.
Coraline (not Caroline, even though all of the adults who live in the other flats keep on saying it that way and ignoring her corrections) and her parents move into a new home. One day, she pesters her father one too many times, so he sends her off on an expedition: find the water heater, count everything blue, count all the doors and windows. She does so, and is shocked to find that there are 13 doors that open and one that doesn't. She asks her mother what is behind the 14th door, and is told that it was bricked over when the house was broken up into flats. Her mother unlocks the door to show her this, but doesn't lock it again.
Later, Coraline creeps back, and finds that the door opens into another flat. It is just like her own, but not quite. In her room (green and pink, not boring like her own), she finds the sorts of clothing that she thinks she would have if she could pick out her own wardrobe -- not a grey school skirt, but costumes. In the kitchen, she finds her other parents -- not her real parents who work and don't play with her, but other parents who cook real food (not something from a "recipe" involving tarragon and butter beans) and dote upon her. Coraline knows that this is not right, and returns to her own flat.
Thus begins Coraline's adventure. The other mother steals Coraline's parents. Coraline returns to the other flat to get them back. Along the way, she makes friends with the most sarcastic of cats and finds the ghosts of other children who were stolen away by the other mother.
Gaiman's mastery of timing has never been shown so well than in this novel. Just when things are getting really scary, he breaks in with a droll and dry line that makes the reader laugh. This is a novel that is just begging to be read aloud -- as Neil Gaiman himself did on 02 July 2002 in Berkeley, California. His audience, around 500 people, hung on his every word. The adults in the audience were just as delighted as the children to have someone read such a delicious story to them. If you dislike reading aloud, you can always buy the audio CD (complete, unabridged) version of this story.
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