Neverwhere Readalong, Part II

Readalongs 21 Comments 28th May, 2012

Happy Memorial Day, and welcome to part two of the Neverwhere readalong.  This week’s discussion covers chapters 6 thru 12 of the novel.  I’m loving the book thus far; it’s got a perfect balance of darkness, magic, and humor.

I’m probably going to be a bit behind on visiting people’s blogs.  I’ll try to get to all of them today, but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do because I’ve been away from internet/cell phone service/etc. for the weekend.  I went camping with my family in Pennsylvania, which was both relaxing and exhausting.  I read a couple books while I was there, and I’ll be posting reviews of them over the next few days.

The following discussion will contain spoilers.  I’ll post a spoiler-free review of “Neverwhere” once I’ve finished reading it for anyone who isn’t following along.  For those of you who are, be sure to pop over to Carl’s blog to see the rest of the discussions.

Dear Diary, he began.  On Friday I had a job, a fiancee, a home, and a life that made sense.  (Well, as much as any life makes sense.)  Then I found an injured girl bleeding on the pavement, and I tried to be a good Samaritan.  Now I’ve got no fiancee, no home, no job, and I’m walking around a couple of hundred feet under the streets of London with the projected life expectancy of a suicidal fruitfly.

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 like seeing the way that begins to come into his own during this week’s chapters.  At first he’s not willing to believe that what’s  going on is real and keeps asking questions based on what he knows above.  He acts very sensibly and has no imagination.  As the story progresses, he begins to lose his inhibitions and begin to accept the nonsensical and wonderful world below that he’s slowly becoming a part of.  Seeing him pass the Ordeal of the Key seemed like a rite-of-passage that marked his full acceptance of London Below, and the Ordeal physically marks Richard’s realization that life isn’t as black-and-white as he thought it was.

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?

At first I thought that he might actually be the mystery employer.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw him talk to Croup and Vandemar and realized that he was on Door’s side.  Pity about the crucifixion.  He seemed like an honorable chap, if nothing else.

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

I touched on this a bit in my answer to the first question because I think that the Ordeal marks Richard’s acceptance of the topsy-turvy underworld.  If he’d have given in to the voices in his head that told him he was insane, it would have been a rejection of London Below.  Instead he affirms the potential to see the world in a different way, which is a potential that I think he’s had all along.

The ordeal itself was nightmarish, but Gaiman’s details here made it even more absurd.  I loved the part about the cup of tea.

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.

It’s things like seeing Old Bailey telling bad jokes to birds, or seeing Door and Richard awkwardly drunk off their asses on wine from Atlantis, or even Lady Serpentine’s breakfast that make “Neverwhere” so special.  Gaiman uses silly nonsensical details to create a world of wonder and intrigue.

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

Croup and Vandemar are such fantastic villains.  I still can’t hate them and find myself laughing at them every time I see them.  It’s hard to hate someone who chomps on Tang dynasty statues or tries to talk with a mouth full of frogs.  Croup and Vandemar are both dangerous and delightful, and I look forward to seeing more of their shenanigans.

21 Responses to “Neverwhere Readalong, Part II”

  1. Deb Atwood

    I don’t hate Croup or Vandemar either. I loved Croup’s outrage when the mysterious employer accused them of being unprofessional. He launches into a litany of their deeds–burning down Troy, assassinating kings and popes, torturing an entire monastery, and ends with the phrase, “We are utterly professional” (146). Even the italics for the word utterly lends such a deliciously dark humor to the scene.

    • Grace

      I loved that scene. Croup and Vandemar are ideal because you can hope that the heroes succeed but at the same time it’s funny instead of serious. I think it’s neat how the villains mesh so well with the whole topsy-turvy Wonderland feel of London Below.

    • Sarah

      That was the scene that made me like these guys. At first I wasn’t all that impressed with them.

  2. TBM

    Croup and Vandemar are such interesting characters and it is so hard for me to dislike them. I love their interactions and they are pretty blunt about what they are good at. I hardly ever say that the villains are honest and fun.

    • Grace

      I like the bumbling villains stereotype. It makes stories more fun when you can’t really hate them, but at the same time can watch with amusement as their plans are foiled.

  3. Carl V.

    The cup of tea is a very nice touch. It gives everything a bit more of an absurd air. I have to feel for the friars. For years they have this awful task to do, and now they no longer have the task and they are hinting that this is not a good thing.

    I think I mentioned this last week, but if I lived in London Below I would want to visit Old Bailey on a regular basis. I think he would be a hoot. I’d listen to his poorly told jokes, share his starling, and see what I could learn from him.

    I can’t hate Croup and Vandemar either. I cannot even dislike them. They are so perfectly villainous that you cannot help but be glad they are there.

    • Grace

      It’s the little absurd details that make me love this book so much. I wonder what the Friars will do with their lives now that they’ve lost the Key.

      Old Bailey is such a fun character. He’s both ridiculous and wise. :)

  4. Susan @ Buch Handling

    Ha! Yeah, the cup of tea was such a nice bit of comic relief after all the angst on the train platform … the Friars are such an interesting group of nurturers in a world of strange and crazyand dangerous creatures! What WILL they do now that thei mission has been fulfilled?

    • Grace

      It was such a neat touch. One wouldn’t expect them to be so welcoming to Richard when they thought they were sending him to certain death. :)

  5. nrlymrtl

    I think Richard’s acceptance of London Below started with having to eat some of the local food. As time progresses, he becomes more and more accepting of this food, and asks fewer questions as to it’s origins. (I’m thinking of cat in the first reading section to Serpentine’s hospitality in this section).

  6. Emily

    I loved the part about the cup of tea, too, and when the abbot says, “It’s ‘lay on, Macduff,’ actually. But I hadn’t the heart to correct him. He sounded like such a nice young man.”

    I hadn’t thought about the Ordeal as affirming the presence of London Below, but I think you’re spot on about it. In affirming it, Richard built up his own confidence, too (which he sorely needs).

    • Grace

      The Macduff line was excellent. The monks just seemed so nice. It must have been tough for them to send so many young people to their deaths.

      • Emily

        My heart just broke for them. I love that they have a memorial for all the people who’ve tried to get the Key. They could have had a completely different attitude entirely, and they chose to honor them.

        • Grace

          Even though they seemed to act like losing the Key was something catastrophic for them, I wonder if they might be secretly relieved.

  7. cherylmahoney

    It’s the weird little whimsical details that really make imaginary worlds come to life, isn’t it? And Gaiman’s very good at that!

  8. The Bookworms Lair

    You can’t beat a good cuppa. I love the little details as much as I love the hints and details we dont get, like the scary stories about Serpentine. It makes the world of London below bigger than a single story.

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