This book made me think of fairy tales.
No, not the Disney-fied fairy tales that we’re all so familiar with. I mean the oldest and most unaltered ones, the ones that aren’t afraid to be scary or gruesome or cruel. The ones in which Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off their heels or toes so that their feet will fit into the glass slipper, or the three pigs trap the Big Bad Wolf in a pot and cook the flesh from his bones.
Coralineis like that. The title character innocently steps through a door in her new home to find herself in a place very much like that home, but more “interesting,” where an “other mother” with button eyes longs to keep Coraline for her very own. It doesn’t take Coraline very long at all to figure out that it is not a pleasant place. Bad things happen there: parents disappear, children lose their souls, familiar faces melt and morph into horrifying caricatures. Like the darkest fairy tales, this story is unabashedly and unrelentingly dark, off-kilter and sinister. Here, however, there is no handsome prince to save little Coraline. She must rely on herself and the erratic help of a very catlike cat.
Like most fairy tales, for those paying attention, Coraline has a lot to say about life and the world around us. It may even have a moral. The movie ads come right out and say it, with the cat intoning solemnly, “Be careful what you wish for,” but the book is never so obvious. I found myself musing on the nature of evil, the relationships between children and adults, even symbolism (I’m lousy at deciphering symbolism, but I’m pretty sure this book has it in abundance).
Finally, in the end, like the best fairy tales, this story has a happy ending. This book may be in the children’s section of the library, but it has a lot to offer adults, too. 4.5/5 stars