The Other Mother; ‘Coraline’ by Neil Gaiman

Are Introverts life’s losers? Longman’s online dictionary describes an Introvert as someone who is quiet and shy, not enjoying the company of others.Longman’s Online While I consider myself introverted I would never be termed shy, and I am fairly certain, dependent on the situation, that I am not particularly quiet. Susan Cain wrote an article recently for the Guardian online on the importance of Introverts. My childhood was a myriad of being told to speak up and attempts to coax me from my shell. What Cain cleverly asserts is that from a very young age we are taught to be extroverts, rather than considering this internal nature as a benefit to society. This is an inaccurate and negative assessment of anyone introverted. I am often asked if I am bored if I am not saying anything or appear expressionless. This is not boredom I either have nothing in particular to say or am over stimulated by my surroundings.

While I consider myself introverted I do not know for certain, I learnt long ago that self-diagnosis is 99% inaccurate; I shall leave assessments to the experts. However, in the spirit of self-diagnosis I decided to Google a few quizzes after I had read the article to see if the internet could inform me. Long story short, a quiz told me I was indeed an introvert. However, I quickly became distracted as the BBC neatly diverted me from here to another more interesting test.

Watching three seasons of ‘Lie to Me’ in a row does two things to a person; you develop weird crime solving dreams and are suddenly convinced you are an expert at reading micro-expressions. This new quiz offered me the opportunity to see if I could tell a genuine smile from a fake. I scored 20 out of 20 (I know to look at the eyes, not the mouth) and after smugly boasting my results for a few hoursminutes my little grey cells got to thinking about Coraline by Neil Gaiman, which was rather handy considering this blog has been sitting here lifeless for a few weeks. I pondered the depiction of the eyes in fiction and how Gaiman utilises their importance in his novel.

Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts the harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.Synopsis from Goodreads

I found no fault with Coraline; it was a wonderful little story. I read it in a matter of hours, did not feel the need to skip ahead or put it down; yet I did not feel inspired. I wonder if I am becoming harder to impress, the more I read the more I come to expect from a book. While Coraline was anything but boring, it is not something I feel will stick with me for years to come. A statement which makes me feel a little guilty, I consider Neil Gaiman to be a genius.

The buttons for eyes were my favourite part of the story. It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul, so it made me gleeful to discover the ‘others’ were without them and therefore had no soul. It was a beautifully simplistic method of changing a world from an arid good to a delicious evil. Gaiman captured childhood curiosity wonderfully, playing with the everyday and ordinary.

As wild as imaginations are, the ordinary can seem very colourless when young. Coraline, ignored by her mother and father, is left to entertain herself; her only form of adventure behind the mysterious door in her flat. Yet she is punished for investigating, punished for wanting something better. I am unsure if this suggests we should reject the need for more than we have, or to be grateful for the ordinary; perhaps neither. Ultimately Coraline discovers a love for what she has, and that is the moral of the story.

Even while forgettable Coraline is still a book worth reading, especially for children. While it has not added anything to my reading life, I do not feel that I have wasted any time reading it.

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What a coincident. I’ve just commented on a book review of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking and then I came to your blog here. FIrst, thanks for commenting on Ripple Effects, second, thanks for letting me know about the key of looking into the eyes…