Neverwhere: Dreams From Another World

91Zw9iS4sRLWhen I finish reading a book, I barely wait to write the review. Most of my blogs on books are written feverishly. I succumb to an urgency that doesn’t exist. I drop the book, open the laptop, and simply write. Nontraditional in every sense, when it comes to writing. πŸ™‚

But, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere seems to have cured my condition. I am writing this blog, two days after I finished reading the extraordinary work.

I am a woman of volte-faces. Remember my confession about revising my rating on Goodreads? Some books take time to agree with me. Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane – although I found it ordinary in the beginning – stayed with me for two weeks. I didn’t want to think about the book. But, it slowly made its way to my heart, and I couldn’t think of anything else but the book for quite some time. It is a part of my indelible memories now; a book that I aspire to re-read some day.

Despite being acquainted with Gaiman’s works, I didn’t intentionally give time to Neverwhere to see if it would grow on me. Honestly, I was confused after I finished. For the first time, I wanted to marshal my thoughts. I wanted to think of the themes, my favourite passages and characters. And, I must admit, I began to adore the book.

At the risk of sounding a bit weird, I divulge that I love Gaiman’s introductions as much as his books. Have you read the introduction that he wrote for Diana Wynne Jones’s Dogsbody? It made me weep like a baby. Only then, I told myself I should read his books.

Likewise, I fell in love with the introduction that he has written for Neverwhere. I kept reading this passage, and heaved a deep sigh.

“By the time I was finished, I’d added around twelve thousand words, and cut several thousand different words. Some of the words I was happy to lose. Others I missed.”

There is something romantic about Gaiman’s confession about “missing” some words. It always, always used to happen for me, when I was writing for media houses. After the editors reworked on my stories, I would rush to re-read my articles just to ensure that my favourite words were not eliminated. If they were chopped, I would observe a moment of silence for the ill-fated words. πŸ˜‰

I also loved what Gaiman mentioned about people falling through cracks.

“What I wanted to do was to write a book that would do for adults what the books I had loved when younger, books like Alice in Wonderland, or the Narnia books, or The Wizard of Oz, did for me as a kid. And I wanted to talk about the people who fall through the cracks: to talk about the dispossessed, using the mirror of fantasy, which can sometimes show us things we have seen so many times that we never see them at all, for the very first time.”

Neverwhere is yet another testimony to Gaiman’s limitless, bizarre imagination. Richard Mayhew – the believable, funny, considerate protagonist – might not be memorable. But, his adventures in “London Below” are truly unforgettable. In one particular scene, the narrator says, “Richard wandered through the huge rooms of the store, like a man in a trance…” That’s exactly how I felt when I read Neverwhere. Utterly trance-like. Every now and then, I kept asking myself: Is this possible? Is this too convenient? I realised then it was “London Below” after all, where unthinkable was the norm. However, Gaiman doesn’t take undue advantage of that phenomenal world. He doesn’t seem to get lazy with the writing, even when the story leads. His writing is as lyrical and intuitive as ever.

The book features some quaint characters. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are ruthless, but intriguing. Hunter is a surprise. My favourite is Old Bailey. From the Q & A section in the book, I learnt that the old guy is Gaiman’s favourite too. Old Bailey, who lives on rooftops, talks to birds. To be more precise, he tells them jokes and stories. The birds don’t judge him even if he cracks lame jokes. Old Bailey is charmingly vintage.

Oh, and I love all the rats!

A lot of books that I read in the recent past connected with me personally at some level. Neverwhere offered a lot more, for I have played a Richard Mayhew (especially the one in the last chapter) several times in my life. For that matter, most of us have. πŸ™‚ And, I am happy for Richard Mayhew. I think he made the best decision. It takes a lot to be a non-conformist, doesn’t it?

“Whatchyouwant?” she asked Richard, suspiciously. “Nothing,” said Richard. “I really don’t want anything. Nothing at all.” And then he realised how true that was; and how dreadful a thing it had become. “Have you ever got everything you wanted? And then realised it wasn’t what you wanted at all?”

β€œHe had noticed that events were cowards: they didn’t occur singly, but instead they would run in packs and leap out at him all at once.”

β€œWhat’s it like then?” asked Old Bailey. “Being dead?” The marquis sighed. And then he twisted his lips up into a smile, and with a glitter of his old self, he replied, “Live long enough, Old Bailey, and you can find out for yourself.”

β€œWork. Home. The pub. Meeting girls. Living in the city. Life. Is that all there is?”

β€œI’m going to go home. Everything is going to be normal again. Boring again. Wonderful again.”


12 thoughts on “Neverwhere: Dreams From Another World

  1. Writing about books or writing reviews – that is a tough one.
    For me it has always been a tough thing to do, perhaps that’s why I don’t write reviews.
    For me it is a question of timing. Let me elaborate –
    – while reading a book, my mind is swamped over by the thoughts and emotions that are evoked by the book – I am not able to write or express the thoughts coherently.
    – on the other hand if I let these emotions to subside and think of writing then I find I have hardly anything to say, except that it was a good / wonderful / sad / funny / etc book. Perhaps that’s why I ‘visit’ other people’s blogs / reviews and relive the emotions by reading the reviews and enthusiastically agreeing (or in some cases disagreeing) with the writer.

    BTW I finished reading The Lesson – I’m letting the feel of the book seep into me and then I will attempt to write about it. For the moment let me just describe it with a few adjectives – powerful, chilling, eye-opener.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I tend to write right after finishing a book as well.
    And I also love Gaimain’s introductions. They always make me want to sit down and write as well. I wish I would feel the same about The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The picture with the ocean in the bucket satyed with me but everything else was a bit “so what?” for me. But I loved Neverwhere, which was my first Gaiman.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Caroline,

      Thank you for dropping by. πŸ™‚

      My first Gaiman was ‘Coraline’. Did you like it?

      So sorry about the so-what experience. A friend, who read ‘Coraline’ and ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ based on my recommendation, had the same feeling too. But, for some reason, the latter still stays with me. A bit more than ‘Neverwhere’, to confess. πŸ™‚

      And, what are you other favourites from Gaiman’s works?

      Also, I have been reading a lot of short books these days. That is < 250 pages. Do you have any recommendations for me?


      1. I did like Coraline and I liked his Stardust and loved many of his short stories. Especially in Fragile Things.
        hat recommendatiosn for Neil Gaiman or similar stories? I just read Holly Black’s In the Darkest Part of the Forest and while it has some flaws – plot holes – it’s still a pretty great read. I want to read all of her eventually. I find she and Gaiman have similarities.
        I’m starting a children’s nooks and YA blog soon, so I hope to review her books then. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Caroline, I’m so glad to hear that you are going to start a children’s book and YA blog soon. I am a sucker for children’s literature, and I have been reading a lot of children’s books this year. Looking forward to reading your reviews.

        Also, I have been hearing a lot of nice things about ‘Fragile Things’. I will read it soon. And, ‘Darkest Part…’ sounds great too. I will order the book soon. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely review. For a second I was worried, till I read ” And, I must admit, I began to adore the book.” Old Bailey really is charming. And I agree with you on how Gaiman stays intuitive and lyrical throughout the book. I’m so glad you quoted from the book, it makes me want to go back for seconds. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Priya,

    Thank you. πŸ™‚ I remembered you saying ‘Neverwhere’ is your favourite Gaiman book. In truth, I ordered it on the day you commented. I really loved this book. I am currently reading RK Narayan’s ‘Talkative Man’, after which I am planning to read Gaiman’s ‘Stardust’. Have you read it?


  5. Hi Deepika,
    I’m glad you enjoyed this book. I liked it too, I remember being amused and horrified at the same time while reading some of the scenes. Do you remember the one about the half-eaten kitten? That was gross but funny.
    I also tried reading Good Omens (co-written with Terry Pratchett) but I found the humor flat and so I stopped about halfway.
    Fragile Things is great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Delia,

      Oh, yes! I remember the one about the half-eaten kitten, and particularly the dialogue between Mayhew and particularly this dialogue:

      β€œShe smiled again. “Do you like cat?” she said.
      “Yes,” said Richard. “I quite like cats.”
      Anaesthesia looked relieved. “Thigh?” she asked, “or breast?”

      I will read ‘Fragile Things’ soon too. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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