Archive for the ‘Neil Gaiman’ Category

Let’s not lie: I was terribly nervous about reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  I’d heard so many great things about Gaiman over the years but, for some ridiculous reason, thought I wouldn’t like him.  When I decided it was time to finally confront this prejudice, I solicited your opinions for where to start and Neverwhere won by a landslide.  No pressure.

Jenny had advised that there were jokes about London Tube stations, which is honestly what sold me, but I had to rely on the back cover to actually tell me what the book was about.  It was suitably vague:

Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk.  His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed.  There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them.  And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew.

The summary only worried me more.  Would it be too dark and scary for me?  I may still very, very occasionally have panic attacks while alone at night in my apartment.  Monsters, murderers…these didn’t sound quite my thing.

I was so wrong and, for the record, all of you were right.  It was humourous and inventive and I’m very glad I finally got up the nerve to read it.  The entire atmosphere is so richly detailed, so intriguing, that I found it difficult to put it down.  I took it with me to breakfast at a local diner and the waitress kept trying to peak around to see what it was I was reading, before finally confronting me and asking, since she saw I was enjoying it so much.

Yes, there are sinister elements, but nothing horrific enough to scare me, squeamish as I am.  The world of London Below is dark and complex and wonderfully fascinating.  The characters who people it, particularly the murderers Croup and Vandemar, are grotesquely Dickensian.  If anything, this is one of those books that confirms that villains are far more intriguing than their less morally-dubious counterparts.  Door and Richard are the only main characters who could be unquestionably classed as ‘good’ and Richard, as our narrator, can hardly escape our attention while Door fades into the background, becoming more of a convenient plot device than a compelling persona in her own right.  I liked her, but she was far from memorable, despite her special talent.

Richard is a very sympathetic protagonist – a good man, all too easily carried along by the will and wishes of others, I rejoiced at his victories all the while struggling to decide where I thought he belonged, London Above or London Below.  The ending is very satisfying but, considering that Richard really had very few choices over the course of his journey, it seemed oddly lenient and convenient that he finally had all options open to him.  Satisfying perhaps, but almost too perfect.

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