Another day, another Neil Gaiman audio book un-review. I do listen to audio books by other authors, as will be proven in the next post, but for now, "Coraline".
Unlike "The Ocean at the End of the Lane", I couldn't find this book read by Neil himself but, I saw Dawn French's name and thought that was pretty safe hands nonetheless. Dawn French's reading is warm, comforting and expressive, as we (Brits) would expect, and this is both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, the warm familiar voice adds an extra layer of discomfort to the most sinister passages of the text, however it also adds a slightly 'Jackanory' quality to other parts, which is difficult to shake off. The curse of a celebrity voice isn't anything new - will they ever learn? *shakes a first in the general direction of DreamWorks*.
The choice of Dawn French makes sense as I suppose I do have to concede that this is a children's book, albeit a hugely disturbing one. I have also read the 'real' book and it really doesn't read like a children's book at all, more like an odd little short story, so this is probably why the choice of narrator was, for me, a little jarring.
Now, this children's book/short story/disturbing dream I have so far teased you about - it really is all of these things, which is what makes it so interesting an enjoyable.
Coraline is from a 'normal' world (which is not normal at all, I wish my normal world was that full of character), accidentally transports herself to another world, then goes back to her world - but alas it isn't as she left it. I know what you are thinking, 'Come on Coraline, obviously this was going to happen, haven't you ever seen a film before' but, like I said, her 'normal' isn't the same as our 'normal'. If Coraline's real world already has an ethereal, dream-like quality about it, then the other world she goes to is what you might call 'shit scary'. We have people with buttons for eyes, a fake mother, trapped children with no names, cats that can talk, a world coming apart at the seams - I would have had nightmares for weeks as a child!
I loved the book, although I would have loved it more had it been a small part of a new book of equally interesting short stories from Gaiman. I liked the audio book, but didn't love it, although Dawn French as the narrator would certainly make the text more accessible to children as she is loveliness itself. I also confess that I didn't really feel much emotion when reading or listening as the text is so short, and it is obvious everything will come good in the end. For an equally short, sharp blast of Gaiman, but with a bit more legitimate peril, try reading 'The Graveyard Book'.
Listen to this audio book if: you have adventurous children, you have an adventurous child trapped inside you, you like powerful short stories.
Read the book if: all of the above, you like the punch of a fantasy novel without the effort, you want escapism but don't have the time to escape for long.