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Book review: <i>Neverwhere</i> by Neil Gaiman

the cover of the book

Neverwhere is a whimsical tale about a man called Richard, doors, rats, myths, and what really happens underneath London.

The story

Richard's life is panning out just fine. He has a nice apartment, a good job, and a lovely, if not a little tight-wound, fiance. Sometimes, he thinks that there might be more to life than that, but he doesn't give it much thought until the night he and his fiance are to dine with his fiance's boss. On the way to the restaurant, a very dirty, very pretty, very injured girl falls bleeding onto the road in front of him. Against the wishes of his fiance he takes the girl home to care for her.

The girl's name is Door, and there are some suspicious looking people looking for her. Richard is entranced by this girl, whose mysterious and tragic life is so different to his own, and vows to help her.

His journey takes him to London underneath, a place where people who have fallen through the cracks of London above go. He gets Door safely away, and then tries to return home... only to find that he has become one of the unseen in his old life. His flat is relet, his work don't recognise him, and he has no fiance. He goes back to Door, the only person who can see him in the world, and joins her quest to avenge the death of her family.

Can Richard help to save London underneath? Can he get back to London above? And then... will he want to?

The style

I do like the writings Neil Gaiman, and Neverwhere is no exception. The best word to discribe this story, and I've already used it in this review, is whimsical. The story is pretty and delicate, but certainly not gormless or lacking in action and suspense. The plot twists and turns, not excessively, but enough to keep you reading. The character of Richard is very well developed - he's more than a real person. The mythical persons of the London underneath are beautiful; fairytales with a large dash of personality and originality to keep them from being stereotypes. Neverwhere is a modern day fairy story.

Neverwhere is written in the third person limited, mainly from the point of view of Richard. This allows for the development of Richard as a character, and takes the reader on an empathetic journey through the London underneath, and through Richard's self discovery about taking life for granted. It's great.

I suppose the standout thing about Neverwhere for me was the writing style. Neil Gaiman has an amazing turn of phrase; he makes the mundane interesting and funny. He's a bit like the clever bits of Douglas Adams, combined with a clever-er Terry Pratchett. In fact, one of the quotes on the back of the book says: "The sort of book Terry Pratchett might produce if he spent a month locked in a cell with Franz Kafka", and I think this is just about spot on.

Who is this book for?

Lovers of fairytales, lovers of Neil Gaiman, lovers beautiful, uplifting stories... It's for anyone really.

If you like this book, you would also like...

American Gods, also by Neil Gaiman, is one of my favourite books. Any other Neil Gaiman story. And of course, Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett.

In short

Title: Neverwhere
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Headline Book Publishing
ISBN: 075532280
Year published: 1996
Pages: 372
Genre(s): Fantasy, Fiction
Review Type: