Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: Book Review

Neverwhere is Richard Mayhew’s rendezvous with London Under. Yes, in tandem with the normal London Above, there is an underside where dark creatures, rat-speakers, Earls and serpentines live a normal life, going about their business and visiting the ‘floating market’.

Neverwhere is written by Neil Gaiman, published in 1996. Gaiman’s first novel was Good Omens in collaboration with Terry Pratchett. His second novel was Neverwhere, an expansion of the teleplay he had written for BBC mini-series.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman pc google images

Richard Mayhew lived in a small Scottish town. And, on the night before Richard left for London, he had a small party with his friends who gifted him a white umbrella with the map of London Underground network names of the stations.

As the farewell party proceeded, Richard felt uneasy about his decision to go to London. He went outside the pub and sat on the sidewalk in dilemma; here an old lady tried to give him some money taking him for a homeless. On knowing about Richard, she decides to tell him his fortune. She tells to be on the lookout for doors. Richard is unable to comprehend the old lady but it starts to rain and he hands over the white umbrella to her.

“Richard had originally imagined London as a gray city, even a black city, from pictures he had seen, and he was surprised to find it filled with colour.” 

The juxtaposed imagery is so beautifully crafted for the future encounter with the dark side. Richard had lived in London for three years, working and being in a relation. It is strange though that his cabinet has a collection of toy trolls. People around him felt as if Raymond had fascination for trolls, but it has happened only by chance. 

On the night that Richard’s fiancée Jessica had planned for a dinner with her employer, the two walk on the sidewalk to the restaurant and Richard sees Door. Door had been running for last four days from Croup and Vandemar. Richard wants to help Door but Jessica wants him to look at his priorities and call for help. But Richard has a good heart and cannot leave behind this girl. And, then Door opens the door to this story of urban fantasy, taking you through the world under the normal city life.

Richard takes Door to his house to help her recuperate. He is visited by Croup and Vandemar on a lookout for Door. Richard witnesses the supernatural power in Door to summon rats and pigeons. Door is able to get assistance of Marquis De Carabas and leaves Richard but something has changed; he has become invisible to normal human beings, even to Jessica. The only possible way to comprehend the situation is for Richard to find Door and get his life back. Door, on the other hand is trying to save herself from the murderers of her family. She has to meet Angel Islington and hand over a key.

There is London and ‘then there’s London Below-the Underside-inhabited by the people who fell through the cracks in the world’. Now Raymond was one of them. Somewhat the imagination of hell as one has as children.

Somewhere through the labyrinth of underground London, there is a moment which suggests that Richard has lost mental capacity and has become disillusioned. Can this be true? But in any case, 

His life so far, he decided, had prepared him perfectly for a job in Securities, for shopping at the supermarket, for watching soccer on the television on the weekends, for turning up the thermostat if he got cold.

London is constructed to us as the place that evolved with the new and the old together, not ‘uncomfortably but without respect.’ Two thousand years back, London was a little Celtic village that had grown gradually to the present with teeming population. In this process, there lay abandoned buildings, sealed up tunnels and defunct sewers all that have become home for the creatures of the dark. And, Blackfriar tube station actually has black friars and an Earl holds his court at Earl’s Court. The ‘Floating Market’ keeps shifting from British Museum to the obsolete gunship Belfast.  

Neverwhere is about imagination, creativity and plot building. It is an unexpected premise and an engaging story. When I closed the book, I wanted to visit London once and see the stations, old monuments to visualize the world below them living in parallel.

This post is a part of #BlogchatterA2Z challenge under Alphabet N

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