A World of Speculation

I didn’t know this was a young adult book when I picked it up at the library, and I was well into the book before I realized that it was. It doesn’t matter, Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, and read by the author if you pick it up on audiobook as I did, is a splendid adventure, even if you’re so far past young adult that you’re becoming childish again.

Coraline is an ageless little girl who moves into a flat in a mysterious house with peculiar neighbors and a bricked-up door in the drawing room–except sometimes the bricks aren’t there, and it’s a door into a creepy “other” house, with an “other” mother and an “other” father and “other” neighbors. Apparently, only the door and the cat remain the same.

Coraline finally has to choose between the very interesting other world, with its pasty white other parents with button eyes, talking rats and walking toys, where her other mother loves her like a lawn ornament, and the boring world of her real life, busy parents, not getting green gloves and an upcoming school year. Gaiman is a good reader and the audio version has some original songs written for it that are creepily haunting.

And while I’m on the subject of books playing in my car, I want to say that narrator Anton Lesser is a genius. I just finished his reading of Dickens’s Hard Times (abridged, unfortunately), and I was amazed at the variety of voices and dialects. A lot of men in audiobook narration do a good job with women’s voices, and some women do a passable job with men’s voices. I really just want them to read the part and get out of the way, and the good ones do that. But Lesser gets the women’s voices so right that it’s hard to believe it’s the same person reading both parts, and it’s not so much pitch as modulation. And the dialects. I don’t know where “Coketown” is, but I suspect Lesser does, and he does different speech patterns for the workers and the factory owners, and when Mr. Bounderby is introduced as having a voice like a trumpet, Lesser takes Dickens literally. What a performance.