Neverwhere Group Read, Part 2

Okie dokie folks, it is time for the second discussion on Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  This group read is hosted by Carl.  If you would like to follow all of the discussions please visit this page.

Please note that there will be some major spoilers in this discussion and more than likely in the comments.  If you have not read this novel and plan to do so in the future, I caution you not to read this.

1.  Chapter 6 begins with Richard chanting the mantra, “I want to go home”.  How do you feel about Richard and his reactions at this point to the unexpected adventure he finds himself on?

I think Richard’s reaction seems perfectly normal.  I know that if one day everything I knew about my life was gone and I didn’t really exist anymore I would want to go back to normal as well.  And to be thrown into a dangerous world like London Below, heck yeah I would want to go home.  Of course I wouldn’t want to go back to Jessica, but that is whole different matter.  I would love to say I would be super brave and act like Batman or something, but I started this post with okie dokie–Does Batman say that?  If he does that is so cool.  I love to travel and go on adventures, but when I am home I love my routine.  I’m a routine kind of person.   I’m not a superhero and I would be clicking my red shoes as fast as I could chanting that I wanted to go home.  And none of the places I’ve traveled to have resembled London Below.  So I can relate to Richard’s response.  He’s a normal guy and I think he is reacting like an average  person.  And I really admire that about this story.  If he reacted differently it wouldn’t have fit with his personality.  Gaiman doesn’t change who Richard is and that works.  I like reading a story about a normal person in an unbelievable world.  It seems more believable if that’s possible.

2.  The Marquis de Carabas was even more mysterious and cagey during the first part of this week’s reading.  What were your reactions to him/thoughts about him as you followed his activities?

I can’t figure out this character at all.  Sometimes I really like him and think he’s got a good heart somewhere in there and other times I think he’s two-faced and is only out for himself.  Then I read the part when Door’s father said if you need someone to help you search out this man.  Her father says, “He’s a fraud and a cheat and possibly even something of a monster.  If you’re ever in trouble, go to him.  He will protect you, girl.  He has to.”  And then Croup and Vandemar crucify him.   Ouch!  They are turning out to be more sinister than I thought they would be.  Poor Marquis de Carabas…I’m back to liking him.  Like I said, I don’t know how to feel about him.   He does keep things interesting.  I never know what he is going to do.

3.  How did you feel about the Ordeal of the Key?

At first I thought to myself, “Why did so many fail before?”  Then I thought that the Ordeal was pretty clever.  Most people can’t face their own inner demons and Gaiman is calling attention to this.  I wasn’t expecting his book to be so big on social commentary but it really is.  The theme of not noticing the undesirables in society and now the theme of Richard coming to terms with who he is as a man is quite interesting and telling.  I don’t know if I would like to face the “truth.”  And his visions are pretty brutal.  “Gary” and then “Jessica,” Richard didn’t really have a whole lot going for him before venturing into London Below.  It is interesting that he found a way to fight it off and now I wonder what type of man he will be if he goes back to London Above.  This part reminded me a little of A Christmas Carol, except Richard is no way comparable to Ebenezer Scrooge.  (I love the names Charles Dickens came up with for his characters.)

4.  This section of the book is filled with moments.  Small, sometimes quite significant, moments that pass within a few pages but stick with you.  What are one or two of these that you haven’t discussed yet that stood out to you, or that you particularly enjoyed. 

I don’t know if there are specific moments that I am enjoying more than others.  For me I am loving all of the connections to London.  Since I just moved here I am noticing all of the references (that I know of, I’m sure I’m missing some) and I finding that to be really fun.  For instance, when they talked about Earl’s Court I really got a kick out of that since I live in Earl’s Court and when I first arrived I wondered about the Earl.  And I remember when I first moved here and saw all the Mind the Gap signs and I would hear it when I traveled on the Tube.  I found the author’s use of Mind the Gap to be extremely clever.  That is my favorite part of this book, connecting it to my new city and seeing London through Gaiman’s eyes.  I don’t know if I really answered the question.  Whoops.

5.  Any other things/ideas that you want to talk about from this section of the book?

After not answering the question above I’m going to not answer this question either and instead ask a question.  For those who are more familiar with the novel and with Gaiman, is the TV show worth watching?  Or will it ruin the book?  I read in the intro to my edition that when the director and/or producer would take stuff out of the TV show Gaiman would respond by saying that’s fine, I’ll put it in the book.  Should I bother with the series?  Or leave it alone?

Next week is the conclusion of the novel.  I’m really excited to find out what happens.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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19 Responses to Neverwhere Group Read, Part 2

  1. Emily says:

    I thought what Door’s father told her about the Marquis was really interesting, too. A fraud and a cheat and something of a monster . . . and that’s who she should go to for protection? I want to the backstory behind the Marquis and Door’s father.

    • TBM says:

      It would be fun to find out about it. I thought he was going to say, don’t trust him and then he said go to him. There is a bigger story.

  2. The TV series was good, as far as I can remember. Croup and Vandemar were very well cast as was Old Bailey: they are the characters I remember the most from it.

  3. Carl V. says:

    I admire that aspect of Richard too and Gaiman’s portrayal of him. Richard’s character is very true to the person Gaiman created him to be, which is why I have such interesting personal reactions to him. Probably a good reason why this is such a cherished book to me.

    De Carabas seems like an embodiment of the saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. He’s a guy I’d want to be on my side, and yet you could never truly believe he had only your interests at heart. He seems to be willing to help if it also serves him. And yet that self-service might be exactly what it takes to stay alive in London Below. I try not to judge him entirely by the standards of London Above culture.

    There is a Christmas Carol element to the Ordeal. Similar theme of facing one’s past, present and future. Truly looking into the mirror of one’s soul and all that. It is a highly effective piece of storytelling.

    I’m so envious of you reading this so soon after arriving in London. It reminds me of the way I connected to Time and Again by Jack Finney after I had made a few trips to NYC. The real places referenced in the story meant so much more to me and made the whole thing so much more rich of a reading experience. Have you heard of/seen Andrew Duncan’s book Secret London? You might have even mentioned it on your site..I know I read about it somewhere recently. It is a book you would probably really enjoy, especially on the heels of reading this.

    I love the BBC miniseries and so I would say watch it. I will say that if you are not fond of older shows with really bad production values it might bother you. This show was made on the cheap and is very much like an old episode of Dr. Who in that respect. But by and large I am very fond of the actors picked to play the parts. I think Richard, Door, the Marquis and Old Bailey are especially well chosen. It won’t add anything much to your experience, but I certainly don’t think it will take anything away. If anything, having read the book your remembrance will fill the unfortunate gaps in the miniseries. I plan on re-watching it after the group read is over.

    • TBM says:

      I haven’t heard of Duncan’s Secret London but I will look into it that’s for sure. I’m really enjoying reading this novel so soon after my move. Every time a place is mentioned that I’ve visited it makes the story more real to me. Like you said, it is so much fun to be able to picture in your head what the author is referring to.

      I don’t mind older versions of movies or TV shows. I actually prefer watching the classics. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy today’s blockbusters to a certain degree, but there is something so special about the classics. I find the acting is usually better in older productions. This isn’t always the case, but most of the time. I will request the shows. thanks!

  4. The Hook says:

    Neil Gaiman is a demigod!
    Great share!

  5. Grace says:

    I love the Dickens comparison you made. The ordeal really is like Scrooge facing his ghosts.

  6. nrlymrtl says:

    The Marquis de C also kept throwing me for a loop. I noticed how he made a very specific agreement with Croup before handing over the figurine. I wonder if he once had a very specific agreement with Door’s father. Like it is part of his nature – some absolute that he can’t deviate from his given word.

    • TBM says:

      He does seem to live by a code of honor, which I think we would be super important in London Below. But like you said, he is a difficult man to pin down to know what he is really about.

  7. rossanaf says:

    I haven’t read it, I’ll bookmark this post for later.

  8. Sarah says:

    I understand your feelings for the Marquis. I didn’t care much about him in the earlier chapters, but he really stepped up in this section.

  9. GeraniumCat says:

    I think Carl’s comparison of the TV series to old Dr Who is absolutely right – there’s lots that Gaiman wanted to put right in the book, because it was made on a small budget, but some of the casting is wonderful. I think Croup and Vandemar and Old Bailey are perfect, and I see them in my mind exactly as they were in the series.
    I love that you are seeing London through Gaiman’s eyes – what a perfect way to discover it!

  10. Living in London while reading this must be fun, it’s making me want to visit, maybe not by underground though 🙂

  11. Scribacchina says:

    It is interesting to see that some of us feel Richard’s reaction completely normal, and some (me too) see that it is normal but still feel disappointed about it. Interesting post, thank you!

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