Neverwhere Discussion [Part 1]

When I signed up for the Once Upon a Time challenge in April, I was already reading Neverwhere at the time. And so, while I’m not really taking part in the group-read, I am going to keep up with the discussions.

I’ve kept all my reviews spoiler free so far, but I can’t really keep that up if I’m going to be a part of this. So, if you want the spoiler-free review of this absolutely amazing book which I think everyone should read at least once in their life (though I don’t know why you would stop at one, really), go here.

Note: This discussion is about Chapters 1 to 5. I’ve steered clear of any events that take place after that.


1. What do you think of our two villains thus far, Messrs. Croup and Vandemar?

The casual rat-eating creeped me out. Neil Gaiman understands how minds work. It reminded me of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Beast in the Cave – not scary unless you think about it. Everything is just dandy until you realise that there’s this one word, or one sentence, that has been strategically placed so that the entire atmosphere surrounding what has just happened shifts. Rat-eating by itself would have unsettled me a little, yes, but the fact that it was depicted as a perfectly natural event…Brr.

Of the two, Croup was the one that scared me. Someone who talks the way he does – politely, a complete gentleman – and then does the things he does? Draw me a map and tell me how to get away from him.

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?

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll do it again. This is, beyond a doubt, the most real fantasy setting I have ever come across. Ever. I love how Gaiman takes the real and the mundane, and manages to stretch it just a little bit – enough so that it has elements that are completely original and leave you shaking your head in wonder, but not so much that you can’t relate to it. Even though I think that a healthy diet of dragons and elves and phoenixes is good for you, Gaiman gives you a story you can actually be a part of. Something you can slip yourself into quite easily.

3. What ideas or themes are you seeing in these first 5 chapters of Neverwhere? Are there any that you are particularly drawn to?

I like how the pigeons and the rats command a level of respect. Every being in Neverwhere, every single one has a purpose and they are recognized for it. They might be challenged, feared, or worshipped because of it, but I like the fact that the recognition is there. It becomes apparent in subsequent chapters that everybody knows things about everybody else, but nobody mentions it out loud. Which, of course, means that Richard Mayhew is left to figure things out the hard way, sometimes.

4. We’ve met a number of secondary characters in the novel, who has grabbed your attention and why?

The Marquis de Carabas. I have a tiny book-crush on him. He’s brilliant, and unpredictable, and he was the one character that surprised me with what he did at every turn. I love the impatience with which he treats Mayhew, but you can tell he’s a great guy, even though you’re always questioning his loyalties. There’s something about him that’s a little sneaky, like he’s hiding something really important, which of course leaves you itching to find out what it is.

“He…’ Richard began. ‘The marquis. Well, you know, to be honest, he seems a little bit dodgy to me.’

Door stopped. The steps dead-ended in a rough brick wall. ‘Mm,’ she agreed. ‘He’s a little bit dodgy in the same way that rats are a little bit covered in fur.”

Also, this whole owing-favours-business is very intriguing.

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?

This was one of my favourite images in the entire book.

I’d like a self-replenishing book. Every time you turned the last page, shut it, and then opened it again, it would have a different story. A globe that played music to suit my mood. I’m going to borrow from J.K.Rowling and ask for something like Hermione’s pouch.

That wraps it up for now. I haven’t answered the sixth question (If you haven’t already answered it in the questions above, what are your overall impressions of the book to this point?) because I’ve reviewed this before. Part two takes place on the 28th of May. Till then, happy reading!

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15 responses to “Neverwhere Discussion [Part 1]”

  1. lereader says :

    I’m reading this now. 😀 Well, not now-now, because I’m at work and I’m a good girl. But at the moment. ^_^

    • Tanya M says :

      Blog-hopping at work again, are we? 😛
      You should check out Carl’s blog (either click the Once Upon a Time link or the discussions link). He really, really loves this book. Take part in the discussion?
      How are you liking Gaiman so far? 🙂

  2. pmjwillis says :

    Shh! I haven’t read it yet! It IS on my reading list for my holidays in mid-june, so I may well revisit this series of blogs in a few weeks!

    • Tanya M says :

      Haha, don’t worry. I’ll make sure all spoilers come with a huge warning sign. And I’ll title all of them Neverwhere discussion part whatever so you can avoid the entire lot until you’ve finished reading it. We can talk about it when you’ve finished. 🙂

  3. Grace says :

    I like the fact that favors are currency in London Below. It’s an interesting honor system.

    • Tanya M says :

      I do, too. At first, I thought it was just something between Door and the Marquis. I thought that it was code for something. When I realised it wasn’t, and that they actually dealt in favours, I was speechless. I don’t think I would ever have been able to come up something as simple (yet brilliant) as that.

  4. Carl V. says :

    I like the favor system as well, Grace. Door’s words to the Marquis take on such significance once you know that, making Richard’s relaying of them a very significant event in the story.

    Tanya, great thoughts about the whole rat-eating scene. It is interesting contextually that things can be going along in a seemingly normal fashion and then an element is introduced that spins everything on its axis. In some ways I cannot imagine getting to a point where eating a rat would be second nature. And then on some days I can see that, which is scary. 🙂

    Yes, Croup in scary because of his intelligence. Vandemar seems more likely to just gut you quickly, whereas Croup seems to be the kind of character who would torture someone for the pure pleasure of having the victim listen to long meditations on whatever subject Croup is interested in at the moment. He is chilling if you think about him too much.

    The Marquis is a GREAT character. He does have you wondering about him from the very start. He is shifty, he is impatient with Richard, he doesn’t respect Old Bailey’s wishes to be left out of whatever it is that he is doing.

    I’m so glad you are participating in the discussion while the book is still fresh in your mind.

    • Tanya M says :

      There are times when I’ve felt that Gaiman understands me completely. I’ve read Coraline (loved) and the first five Sandman volumes (which are now my favourites) and he knows exactly what to do to completely unsettle me. And it can’t just be me, right? Everyone who reads his books reacts the same way, which must mean that he’s mastered the art of story-telling to such a degree that he knows not to do what we would expect him to – but to pick one tiny insignificant detail that we either take for granted, or haven’t paid much attention to – tweak it a little and send the entire ceiling crashing down on the reader’s head. And even though I know now that that’s what he does, I still can’t tell what he’s going to throw at me next. What a mind.

      I absolutely love the Marquis. After I finished reading it the first time, I kept going back to all the bits that concerned him, and reading them over and over again.

      I’m glad I decided to. I loved the questions! I’ve never taken part in a book discussion before, this is fun. 😀

  5. Christine says :

    Hi Tanya,
    I love the quote you included in your discussion. So typical Richard, isn’t it, to soften his insult to de Carabas by calling him “a bit dodgy”? And I love Door’s honest, simple response.

    • Tanya M says :

      Gaiman is so quotable, isn’t he? I was going through all his quotes on Goodreads and was hitting the like button every other second or something.
      I love Richard and Door’s conversations. 🙂

  6. Emily says :

    Yes! I think you nailed it in that paragraph about the rat-eating. It’s so casually done that it took me a minute to realize it had even happened. Oh, and this is great: “Draw me a map and tell me how to get away from him.” Me, too! I love it, too, that pigeons and rats are respected creatures. Oh, that Gaiman, flipping our typical world-view on its head . . .

    • Tanya M says :

      Me too! I read that bit three times over just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. 😛
      That man is mad, he is. I don’t know how he does it. The best thing about it is that it’s all made to look as though it’s effortless. Neverwhere wouldn’t have worked if it seemed like he was trying to be convincing. The entire book is in the tone of, “London Below? Yeah, it exists. I’m just writing about it. What? ..Didn’t you know about it?”

      • Emily says :

        Exactly! I actually wrote something similar for tomorrow’s discussion. Of COURSE London Below exists. Silly us for not knowing that.

  7. Scribacchina says :

    I think that with answer #2 you nailed the book perfectly — I never really realized that, but you are completely right.

Let me know what you think!

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