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.