Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #36: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Adapted & Illustrated by P. Craig Russell

coraline_graphic_novelI’m not sure if it’s a credit or detraction to Mr. Russell, the adaptor and illustrator of this graphic novel, that I came away from reading it thinking, “I need to read more Neil Gaiman.” I suppose it could be considered both, but to be honest, it mostly stemmed from the fact that I liked the novel better and was reminded from that feeling that I need to read more Gaiman.

It’s not that this graphic novel is bad. It follows the same story of a bored girl who is looking for someone to play with, something intriguing, and also, people to respect her enough to call her by her real name instead of what they think it is (Caroline). She finds a mysterious door in her family’s new house and then finds a key to the door and goes through it. There she finds the Other world, which is a mirror image of her house, family, and neighbors, but…off. Other Mother has black button eyes, long spindly fingers with razor sharp nails, and just wants to love and adore Coraline and give her lots of rich foods and play with her. At first, this seems mostly cool to Coraline, who’s been looking for this kind of attention, but she soon realizes that getting what you think you want isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But when she tries to go home, she can’t find her parents. Turns out, her Other Mother has stolen and hidden them. The rest of the story is spent with Coraline trying to free them and get her real parents, a black helper cat, and herself back home.

The illustrations are quite creepy of the Other Mother and the Other side, in general, but I found that the way Gaiman described things left me more unsettled than the actual illustrations. The initial charm and subsequent oddness and ultimate fear all kind of blended to me. Seeing how jarring the Other Mother looked right off the bat was something that I think was a little too much for me.

The one thing I did really like was the intricacies in Coraline’s facial expressions. I think Russell did a great job with bringing her to life throughout the book, which is a definite plus since she’s, y’know, the main character. I think my lack of appreciation for the illustrations may just come down to personal preference. But I came away with it wanting to read more Gaiman, and really, that’s never a bad thing.

reginadelmar’s #CBR5 review #41 The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I read this book on holiday several weeks back. It was a lovely story that I imagine can be sliced and diced and analyzed, which is something I don’t do well. The narrator is a middle-aged man who has returned to the area he grew up in for a funeral. In a paragraph he sums up his adult life: divorced, two-kids, not dating, work is fine. He has a bit of time and drives back to the house he grew up in and the Hempstock’s farmhouse.

As he sits at the farmhouse he remembers events that started with his 7th birthday. He is a lonely child, not one of his classmates comes to his birthday party. He finds solace in books and in his new kitten. I’ve not read Gaiman’s children’s books, but this is a childhood with plenty of darkness, where adults cannot be trusted and his sister delights in being mean to him. His parents have some financial difficulties which cause them to take in a boarder, who has run over his kitten. Shortly thereafter he and his father find the border dead of a suicide.This leads him to the nearby Hempstock home where Lettie and her mother comfort and care for him. Weird things start to happen, like coins appearing in inappropriate places, but the farm becomes a refuge, Lettie and her mum and gran have a magic world that begins and ends within the confines of the farm.

Things get scarier when the narrator’s family takes on a young beautiful housekeeper named Ursula Monkton. The attractive housekeeper torments him, seduces his father and is also a monster from another world that only he can see. His father’s behavior becomes monstrous and it is all that he can do to escape the wickedness that is growing in his household.  The Hempstock farm is his refuge, Lettie, Ginnie,her mother and her gran are imbued with magic, they appear to be ageless, having been around since perhaps the beginning of time.

Are his memories real?  Did he really grow up amongst magic, or was it his child’s imagination? When he asks “is it true” Mrs. Hempstock answers: “Different people remember things differently, and you’ll not get any two people to remember anything the same whether they were there or not.” I suspect this to be true of the book too, there is so much and so little that happens in this little story that I suspect we all remember it a little differently.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #72: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Everyone’s been reading this book, so I’ll keep this review short. I will say that while this was not my first Neil Gaiman experience (I’ve also read American Gods and The Graveyard Book), I think this was the one that caught my attention the most.

With the unnamed narrator, Gaiman explores the scary terrain of childhood, with  its lurking monsters and shadows, the uncertainty and the terror of being a child in a very adult world. The prose is breathtaking, and there was more than one passage where my eyes remained glued to the page, greedily absorbing the next sentence. I think the sense of time is well-expressed, and I felt the parts where memory, time, and remembrance converge is very accurate–after all, are our memories reliable? Can we recall our childhoods with anything resembling accuracy? How true are the impressions that we retain?

While this is by no means a children’s story, Gaiman retells the travails and pathways of childhood in a way that is poignant, painful and memorable. It is just the kind of tale for someone who looks back on the world with the longing of a child.

You can read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

Lisa Bee’s #CBR5 Review #50: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman



Ocean at the End of the LaneI know a lot of yee fellow Cannonballers have already read and reviewed this book since it came out this summer, so I’ll try to keep it brief. For me, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was an exercise in reminiscence on the past, and the wonder of childhood: my full review for it can be found here.

Even Stevens’s #CBR5 review #21: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman


“Words save our lives, sometimes.” – Neil Gaiman (in the acknowledgements)

“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” – Lettie Hempstock

These two excerpts from The Ocean at the End of the Lane perfectly encapsulate what I love about this book, and Neil Gaiman in general.  Simple, evocative, sincere, and just a little bit poignant, Neil Gaiman knows how to paint such a vivid story with his words.

Ocean tells the story of an unnamed seven-year-old boy who is shy and bookish, and lives a normal life until the day he stumbles upon Lettie Hempstock and the Hempstock farm, where he finds a world beyond anything he’s ever known or imagined.  This is one of Gaiman’s adult fairytales (my favorite kind of his style) and involves, as they usually do, an innocent child going up against evil forces that seem to be so much more powerful than the child himself.

This book is a short one (clocking in at 181 pages), but it packs so very much into those pages. This book really contains two stories: the fantastical one of the boy and Lettie fighting against a ghoulish presence, and our narrator stepping out into the world. The fairytale portion both encompasses and transcends the good vs. evil template; if they do not destroy the ghoul it will destroy them, but as Lettie points out, the ghoul isn’t really good or bad, it is just acting according to its nature.

The story of our narrator is so easy to relate to (especially for those of that were bookish and shy children) because it contains familiar themes that everyone goes through at some point: Tension with one’s parents and siblings, the realization that grown-ups don’t know everything (and along with that, the realization that your parents aren’t infallible), finding your way, standing your ground and fighting for what you believe in.  The world is a messy place and we all have our own paths to finding ourselves, our own traumatic experiences that stay with us well into adulthood. This is where Gaiman is at his best, and I soaked up every word of it.

Ocean has a little bit of everything and comes together to create a touching and exhilarating tale of magic and finding your way in the world. Gaiman’s writing is captivating, and this book was a joy to read, I reveled in every page and at the end I only wished there were more.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #77: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

neverwhereGuys, I really wanted to do this review justice, but I read it back in August. IN AUGUST. And I am now twelve, count ’em, TWELVE reviews behind as of right now, and the only reason that number isn’t bigger is because I’ve been reading a lot of books I’m either too ashamed to review, or that just aren’t worth reviewing because I don’t have that much to say.

Point is, this book deserves better than it’s going to get from me, because I really liked it. But I’m tired and overwhelmed and I have writer’s block and what am I doing with my life anyway?

Scratch it. This might be exactly the mood I need to be in to write this review, because what the hell was Richard Mayhew doing with his life before he fell into the London Underground? Nothing, that’s what. He was a pushover with a horrible girlfriend, and he had a horrible job (he kept trolls on his computer. Trolls!), both of which he’d somehow convinced himself he liked, even loved. And yeah maybe his life was safe and comfortable, but it was also boring and pointless as fuck.

And then he became an unperson, and he was still useless and boring (and a bit confused), until he wasn’t. Until he was dragged on a bloody and violent quest for strange, terrifying people he barely knew, through Gaiman’s own version of Wonderland. He wanted his safe life back, to be comfortable and contained, until he got his wish and realized it was the stupidest wish he’d ever wished, and decided to go on an adventure instead. It’s amazing how much I like this idea so much better now than I did two months ago when I finished the book, but I suppose that’s why you re-read things, yes? Because they mean different things to you at different points in your life.

That’s not to say that this book is perfect, because it isn’t, and like I said in my initial review, it’s very obvious this is his first solo novel. (Anansi Boys and Stardust are still my favorites of his.) It’s not as polished as his later works. But dammit, I still thought it was great.

Also, I thought Door was brilliant, and the bad guy(s) were terrifying.

The End.

Sara Habein’s #CBR5 Review #28: The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

06-26-Reads-Ocean-at-the-End-of-the-Lane-by-Neil-GaimanWould you believe that this is only the second Neil Gaiman book that I’ve ever read? I know, I am disappointed in this reading gap too, as it has happened for no good reason. I enjoy Gaiman’s writing immensely, and his new novel, The Ocean at The End of The Lane did not disappoint.

Existing in that shadowy space between reality and dream, our unnamed narrator visits the Sussex farmland of his childhood neighbors. At seven years old, he spent a surreal series of nights with Lettie Hempstock and her mother and grandmother – a past he hasn’t given much thought to until now. From there, we are submerged in those dark times when a man committed suicide near his home, and his relationship with his family became frightening. Seeming far older than her outwardly young appearance, Lettie promises to take care of the boy, and what happens is a story that I think will require a reread to fully appreciate in detail.

(Read the rest of my review at Persephone Magazine.)