Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Just finished reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and thought it was brilliant!  This is an another author that I kept wanting to read because I’ve read such good things about but kept putting off (why? I don’t know – foolish-pigheaded-can’t-be-toldness – I suppose).  But, one thing which there is no doubt about, having read Neverwhere I will definitely be seeking out the rest of NG’s books.  He has such creativity and imagination.  Reading this book was like a roller coaster without the dips.  It was breathtaking and exhilarating and I was staggered at just how much was going on and the fact that just more and more kept happening.

This story is about a young man called Richard Mayhew.  Richard moves to London for a new job, finds a new girlfriend, becomes engaged and is set to run a steady-eddie type of existence on the straight and narrow.  He’s headed for the 2.5 kids with the picket fence.  Until, that is, he plays the good samaritan and rescues a young, apparently homeless woman, who not so much crosses his path but falls directly across it.  After this, his life spirals down into chaos.  Quite literally down, into the realms of London Below (and I’m not talking about the Underground) which is full to the brim with chaos and intriguing characters.  The young woman he has rescued is called (quite rightly once you realise her abilities) Door.  Her family has been murdered and she is on a quest to find answers.  Richard becomes her unwitting companion in this quest on a journey which is never short of danger.

I loved the world that is created in this book and really didn’t want it to end.  It’s dark and creepy and filled with strange characters.  The idea of London Below with all it’s parallels to London Above but with a twist is so well conceived.   Take Earl’s Court, for example, where a real medieval court is actually in situ in one of the carriages running alongside the rest of the carriages with their unsuspecting travellers.  And this is just one example of the play on words and names used throughout.  The way the story steps in and out between the real London and the imaginary one (but is it really imaginary?), so similar, yet so different.  London Above steeped in history whilst London Below still actually living it.  It’s remarkable.  And the parallels between this London below – with its people who have slipped between the cracks and become invisible to everyday people – and the real people in society who have actually become invisible.

Then we have the characters who are so easy to engage with.  Richard, the unsuspecting hero.  Door, vulnerable and yet tough.  The villainous Croup and Vandermar who are characters straight out of a pantomine, and, my personal favourite – the Marquis of Carabas – who puts me in mind of a slightly grubbier version of the Pimpernell with his flamboyant dress sense and over the top remarks.  And there are plenty more characters in there – all well imagined and written with an easy and flowing style, not bogged down with over the top descriptions or background but just enough to give you a taste and make you want to read more.

This book just puts me in mind of so many things, all of them good or classic, and yet amazingly manages to remain unique!  We have this whole sort of Wizard of Oz feel in that Door is searching for someone to give her answers (the great and terrible Oz) except in this case it’s not a wizard.  The actual setting of London Below reminds me of  The Labyrinth, where nothing is ever as it seems and piles of rags in a corner can suddenly stand and morph into a person, and Richard Mayhew puts me in mind of Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker’s Guide – just reluctantly dragged along and a little bit clueless (at least Richard didn’t get stuck wearing his pjs and robe!)  But, it puts me in mind of these things and yet is a strangely brilliant combination of all with it’s own voice, how is that even possible?

Okay, I’m not going to go on too much more because it’s fairly clear that I really enjoyed (nay, loved) this book!  I seem to be on a roll at the moment with my book choices thanks to some excellent bloggers whose recommendations have led me to pick up such great books! If you’re looking for a bit of fantasy and adventure, fast paced, dark, original, modern and creepy with a great set and amusing characters told with style and wit then this could be the one for you.

The only criticism I have for this book is that there doesn’t seem to be a follow-up and I would love there to be one!  That being said there are plenty more NG books for me to catch up with and I intend to take my time and savour them all.

Would I recommend this book?  Oh yes.

Rating A+



10 Responses to “Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman”

  1. "Auntie" sezzzzzz...

    Oh goooodie!!!!! Have to *get my hands on* this one! 🙂

    Wishing you a lovely, calm, and peaceful Christmas Holiday Season. Leading up to, and for the 12 Days Of Christmas.

    “Chill December brings the sleet,
    Blazing fire and Christmas treat.”

    ~~Mother Goose

    • lynnsbooks

      I really loved this – but it’s just my cup of tea really, fantasy/adventure but in a modern setting and all most with a whimsical fairy tale feel. If you like this one you should also try The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly – unless you’ve already read it.

      Thanks for commenting – will stop by yours and see what lovely photos you have posted this time.
      Lynn 😀
      P.S. have a lovely Christmas

  2. Carl V.

    Great comparisons to other stories. I agree entirely. There is also an Alice in Wonderland, down the rabbit whole, feel to it all. I realize we each are unique readers and connect differently with stories, so I get a special thrill every time someone falls for this book. There is just something about it that sings to me every time I read it. I can’t just point out one thing about it, it really is the combination of everything that turns into the whole of the story.

    If you are not put off by the older style (cheap filming) quality of shows like the old Dr. Who, I recommend checking out the DVD version of Neverwhere. It began life as a short television series that Gaiman wasn’t entirely happy with, hence the novel. While I love the novel so much more, I do like the series a lot, in particular Laura Fraser who plays Door.

    Wonderful review, glad you are now on the Gaiman wagon.

    • lynnsbooks

      IDefinitely agree about the Alice in Wonderland feel. I think that’s probably why this book is so successful because it makes you reflect on so many old favourites and it appeals in so many different ways.
      So, if you were to choose, which would you say is your favourite Neil Gaiman book? I think I will really like Stardust but American Gods seems to be really popular. I can’t wait to read them all anyway.
      Lynn 😀

      • Carl V.

        When I list favorite books in general the list of the top 10 is pretty fluid, however for many years now my #1 has always been Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and #2 has been Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I freely admit he has written better books from a skill standpoint (I think Graveyard Book is the best so far), but Neverwhere will always be my favorite. American Gods is a great, complex story but it has plenty of the adult material that wasn’t too popular with our short story reading this past fall. Still, those things aside Shadow’s story is a good one. I’d go with Stardust next, myself, just because it is a beautiful, romantic and fun story.

      • lynnsbooks

        I actually reread Bram Stoker’s Dracula last year. Decided to revisit a few classics – Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr Jekyll. Good reading.

  3. cherylmahoney

    I’ve read Neverwhere twice, and it grew on me a lot in the second read. I’d also love a follow-up. The slightly abrupt ending was my biggest problem on the first read-through. I think my favorite part (on both reads) was the parallels between London Above and London Below, like Earl’s Court and Black Friars. Neil Gaiman is such a CLEVER author…

    • lynnsbooks

      I know what you mean – I sometimes get the feeling when reading the end of a book that the author was just keen to be finished. I really did like Neverwhere though I was totally absorbed in London Below and I think Neil Gaiman is so inventive. I’ve got American Gods waiting to be read and also want to read Stardust. It’s unusual in today’s market for an author not to jump on the money wagon and just churn out a 2nd and 3rd book from the series. I have a certain sort of respect that NG has stopped at just the one – although if he did ever decide to continue I would be really pleased.
      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
      Lynn 😀

  4. ‘The night’s as hot as hell. It’s a lousy room in a lousy part of a lousy town….’ | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Below – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, a very interesting take on London City – what lies beneath and through the […]

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