This article is interesting. I'm not sure whether I agree wholeheartedly with the thesis or not, but it's inspiring, and there is no question that Canadians have been cleaning up the various literary awards in recent years. And many of these writers are landed immigrants. Perhaps this bodes well for Erin?
Erin returns from her Chicago trip today. I've missed her. The wedding went very well, I'm told, and a lot of people asked after me. I'm sorry I couldn't attend, but work did pin me down. I had a chance to relax this weekend, but the trip would still have been fun.
To close, I've had the pleasure to read Neil Gaiman's new childrens' novel, Coraline. It is an excellent book that make many adults question whether or not the story is suitable for children, but which children will love, nonetheless.
Be warned that this review contains spoilers.
The story follows young Coraline, who lives with her too-busy but very-loving parents in a large English house that has been subdivided into separate flats. Coraline has no-one to play with, but she has her imagination and her inquisitiveness and, fancying herself an explorer, she quickly discovers all of the nooks and crannies of her home. She finds a door that opens onto a brick wall, but when she looks again, she finds a corridor that takes her into a reflection of her home, containing parodies of her parents who promise to play with her and pay attention to her, but who have buttons for eyes. To stay, she need only have buttons sewn into her eyes.
Coraline very quickly realizes that her "Other Mother" and her "Other Father" aren't there for her benefit, but before she can get home and lock these parodies away forever, she must rescue her kidnapped parents, and the souls of other children who have fallen victim to the Other Mother's web.
Neil Gaiman is a master of the Gothic genre, known and respected for such works as the Sandman graphic novel series and the Hugo Award winning book, American Gods. He, like M. Night Shyamalan, knows that things unseen are more frightening than things seen. Moreover, he has a taste for the surreal that makes his works stand proudly alongside such landmarks in dark fantasy as Sapphire and Steel and the best Gothic episodes of Doctor Who. Coraline creeps you out with its dark, off-kilter imagery, and this is helped by the children's literature writing style that Neil Gaiman adopts. The language of the novel is beautiful in its simplicity, enhancing the surrealism and the horror throughout.
Parents should not be worried if their ten-year-old picks up this book. At heart, children love to be scared, and there is very little gore or other gross-out horror (save for the Other Mother eating bugs -- something I suspect children secretly enjoy, anyway) to send the kids genuinely screaming from the room. Moreover, Coraline is a marvellous heroine, perfectly written, with the right voice. She is as brave and stalwart as only children can be, and her outsmarting of the Other Mother never comes across as false or forced. Her intelligence and bravery make her an excellent role model.
My only concern with Coraline is with the story's structure at the end. After defeating the Other Mother at her game and escaping from the Other Flat with the souls of the three children and her parents, at least two chapters remain as Coraline takes a couple of days to recover, and then finally defeats the Other Mother's severed hand. This section comes across as anticlimactic because the action has been allowed to slow down. I can't think of how this could be solved, however. The Other Mother's Hand is an element that Coraline has to defeat, but it can't be beaten by a simple run down a transforming corridor. Coraline's plan to defeat the hand is nothing short of brilliant, and caps off this wonderful character nicely, but this section of the book does not match up with the intensity of the rest of the story, especially Coraline's climactic escape.
Coraline is a worthy addition to any library. It will chill the heart of all but the most hardened reader. (**** 1/2)