Sunday, 20 May 2012

It's been a long time since I last blogged. Life has been busy. In an attempt to get back into the habit, I have joined Carl's Neverwhere read-along.  Neil Gaiman is a favourite author of mine. I have read Neverwhere once before, and seen the television series. This time, however, I'm reading the author's preferred text (it says so on the cover.) So, the answers to the question for Week 1.

1.  What do you think of our two villains thus far, Messrs. Croup and Vandemar? 
I love these two. They are so sinister. They are a great pairing, too, the verbose Mr. Croup and the almost strabismic Mr. Vandemar. They never actually seem to do much, and when they do it is over very quickly. Mr Vandemar is portrayed as  somewhat slow-witted and obviously thuggish. Mr. Croup's agility with words makes him seem so much less violent than he is, so much less threatening, and yet those words can inspire terror in a way that I think mere brute force can never do. Why else is Varley so frightened of him? It was Mr. Croup, the little, talkative one who finished him off, and who killed Door's mother. You would expect him to stand aside and leave the thuggery to Mr. Vandemar.
I did like the description of their clothes: "...there was something odd about the cut of the coats. They were the kind of suit that might have been made by a tailor two hundred years ago who had had a modern suit described to him but had never actually seen one. The lines were wrong and so were the grace notes."

2.  Thus far we've had a small taste of London Below and of the people who inhabit it.  What do you think of this world, this space that lies within or somewhat overlaps the space the "real world" occupies?
How do we know our world is the real one? It is real to us, but no doubt London Below is real to its inhabitants too. I live in a very new country - less than two centuries of European migration, and only a millennium or so of any human settlement. London was old before anyone discovered New Zealand. Thus it is hard to envisage the sheer age, the layers that must go into making up a city like London. It is entirely plausible that such a world could co-exist with ours. It is hard enough to comprehend everything that goes on on the surface of a city, never mind what might lie beneath it.

3.  What ideas or themes are you seeing in these first 5 chapters of Neverwhere?  Are there any that you are particularly drawn to?
Neil Gaiman seems to have a thing about people who fall between the cracks, the homeless, the runaways, society's rejects. He foreshadows it in the prologue, where Richard gives his umbrella to the old lady after she mistakes him for someone homeless. Also, Richard begins to wonder about names.  "...whether there really was a circus at Oxford Circus: a real circus with clowns and beautiful women and dangerous beasts." Mr Croup is not the only person associated with this book who likes words, likes to plays with the sounds and the meanings.

4.  We've met a number of secondary characters in the novel, who has grabbed your attention and why?
I'm a Marquis de Carabas fan. What's not to like? He dresses in an interesting, highway-mannish fashion, he's rude, aristocratic, sly, thieving, heartless, a complete rogue. He is completely shallow, as are my reasons for liking him.

5.  As you consider the Floating Market, what kind of things does your imagination conjure up? What would you hope to find, or what would you be looking for, at the Market?
The markets in India, magnified. Noisy, crowded, colourful with so many sights, smells and noises. You can buy anything - someone, somewhere will be selling what you need - food , clothes, tools, nick-nacks... you name it. I like the idea that it is never in the same place twice; I also wonder if you leave it where you arrived from. It wouldn't surprise me if you didn't.
What would I buy? Books, jewellery or magical artifacts. And maybe a curry.

6.  If you haven't already answered it in the questions above, what are your overall impressions of the book to this point?
I think (know) that Richard has a very weird journey ahead of him. I'm looking forward to accompanying him and seeing an alternative aspect of London. 


  1. London Below seems so much more real and vibrant to me. Richard's life in London Above seemed superficial by comparison.

    1. London Above does seem superficial, doesn't it? It's interesting that three years of Richard's life actually accounts for not very much in the story. In a sense his real life is just beginning.

  2. I liked your answer to the second question ... yes, what is real? The concept of the parallel London, one above and one below, is interesting and made concrete by Gaiman. It got me thinking about the parallel existences that lie in all our lives ... those worlds that are fully developed and peopled by those that we walk by, around, over and ender in our daily travels. Whole worlds of experience exist and we are blythely ignorant unless we become more observant of those around, by, over and under us ...

  3. I'm jealous that you are reading the Author's Preferred text. I have a collectible copy of it plus one on audio, neither of which I've "read". I wanted to forgo doing so on this read, as the host, so I didn't confuse anyone. Its been long enough that I am not sure I would easily recognize the additions.

    Glad this got you back to posting! :) And you taught me a new word (strabismic)! :)

    You've hit on the crux of things with Croup, which is that I too believe he is the much more dangerous one. I mentioned elsewhere that I see him as the one more likely to do slow, painful nasty things whereas Vandemar would end things quickly.

    London is a very fascinating place with its long history, and I like that London Below builds upon that history, giving us the layers of society that have built up. I also see these as both very 'real' worlds and like the idea that just because most people are oblivious to it doesn't mean that it does not exist.

    Neil and Charles de Lint are two authors who seem to have a very special handling of the broken people, the people who fall between the cracks. I like that aspect of their work. I think it gives their stories a heft, makes them more meaningful and certainly more thought-provoking.

    I'm a big Marquis fan too. How can you not be, he is such a great character. Larger than life in some ways and yet so subtle. He is like a shadow in some ways, and you just know there is so much more going on behind the scenes with him. You can almost hear his mind whirling when he is on the page.

    A friend and I were discussing the ol' "seize the day" adage and how what seems like a cliche is so very, very true. I think the way that London Above is reflected in London Below examines that idea. As Grace said, and you echoes, London Above does seem very superficial in comparison. I think when our lives get too wrapped up in the busywork and mundane it is easy to find ourselves living a pale reflection of what our lives could, and should be.

    1. Hi Carl,

      I learned strabismic from P. G. Wodehouse of all people - a delightful short story of his called "Sir Agravaine."

      Charles de Lint is a master of broken people, isn't he? His books are (were, pre-Amazon) hard to come by outside of the big cities here in NZ, so I'm still catching up with his backlist. I love his work.

  4. Hi Morag,
    I'm intrigued by de Carabas too. He's fascinating, but also very slippery. I suppose rogue is indeed fitting.. and I can't help but be drawn by those types. Alas.

    I'd be looking for jewelry in the Floating Market as well. So many people responded that they'd be looking for books. I shamefully didn't even think of that.. instead I thought of a simple ring or locket or something like that by which to remember London Below. Ha! I'm assuming I'd find my way back to my life in London Above!

    1. I'm not sure some days if I'd want to find may way back to London Above :)

  5. "Neil Gaiman seems to have a thing about people who fall between the cracks" - he really does, doesn't he? His characters are frequently people most of us would overlook (although sometimes they're people who want us to overlook them, like our villains, as it makes it easier for them to sneak up on you!).