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Classic book review: Coraline

Neil Gaiman's instant classic follows young Coraline into the ideal family living right next door.

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[The Monitor occasionally reprints pieces from its archives. This review originally ran on Oct. 31, 2002.]

If you open a door that's normally bricked up and a mysterious passage appears, slam that sucker shut and run.

"Don't go in there!" has been standard advice for every fairy tale and horror character since Bluebeard first got married.

Happily for readers, no self-respecting heroine since Bluebeard's wife has been able to withstand the lure of a locked door. Coraline, the bored young girl at the center of Neil Gaiman's beautifully spooky tale, Coraline, proves no exception.

She and her distracted parents have just moved into a big old house that's been converted into apartments. Left to entertain herself while they busy themselves, she meets the quirky neighbors, all of whom get her name wrong – "It's Coraline, not Caroline."

She explores the grounds to find the well she's been ordered to stay away from, and she counts everything blue. But then she runs out of things to do.

One afternoon, while her mother is out, Coraline opens the bricked-up door in the drawing room, finds a secret passage, and walks inside. On the other side is an apartment that looks almost exactly like hers, and a woman who looks almost exactly like her mother – "only her fingers were too long, and they never stopped moving, and her dark red fingernails were curved and sharp." And she has large black buttons for eyes.


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