Photo Credit: @CateButler

Reminder: There are spoilers for the entire book in the discussion below. You have been fairly and freely warned!

Today’s featured photo is by @catebutler who takes incredibly gorgeous photos, so make sure you check out her account. If you haven’t already make sure to visit the #babblingbooksRA tag to see everyone’s photos, and you might just make a new friend.

I will make a collage of my favourites from the whole readalong once we have read the (optional) short story How the Marquis Got His Coat Back.

So now down to business….

Week 5 – Chapters 16 – 20

Favourite quote:
“I thought I wanted this,” said Richard. “I thought I wanted a nice normal life. I mean, maybe I am crazy . I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don’t want to be sane.” 

Neverwhere by numbers:
1 lost coat
2 Floating Markets attended
3 entries in Richard’s mental diary
18 characters introduced
20 chapters
27 favourite quotes
56 instagram challenge photos
156 blog comments
288 pages

My thoughts:
First and foremost: Thank you, THANK YOU, to all of you who have stuck with me on my very first read-along. It has been a pleasure and an honour to share one of my favourite books with you all. Reading brings me joy, but reading with friends – new and old- brings the more joy than I could ever have expected.

The last few pages brought tears to my eyes, Richard realising what we all knew – that London Below was destined to become his home – was so beautifully executed. I was painfully frustrated at him for wanting his old life back, for slipping back into the regular routine of things. Then we got to watch him realise how shallow his life was ‘Above’ and just how rich, and right, the life he had left behind was. I felt like my heart would burst for him.

One thing I really enjoyed about this section was the way in which most of the minor characters were able to say goodbye to Richard as he left London Below, the Earl giving him one last ride, Lamia blowing a kiss, Lord Rat Speaker returning his bag, it felt like they were reminding him of how far he had come on his journey. And it really was a journey, in a physical and an emotional sense. At 26 I feel like I am so much more connected to Richard as a character than I was at 16 when I first read it. I understand (and am experiencing) the pull of a ‘simple’ life the meets expectations, and yet my heart yearns for the path that I used to take for granted as the one I would be going down, the path less traveled. Perhaps I too can find my courage and earn my way onto “some kind of archaic underground honors list” just like Richard did.

On a different note I am fascinated by Gaiman’s inclusion of diverse characters throughout Neverwhere. The Marquis & Hunter are people of colour, though their backgrounds not really explored, as are the Black Friars. Meanwhile Hunter’s sexuality is clear but not a topic of any particular focus. Did anyone else notice this throughout the novel? In a great blog post Laura Zats says “…literature is both imaginative and representative. It reflects who we are, and who we want to be.” and if you are interested in exploring this more I highly recommend you follow this link and have a read. She neatly sums up my thoughts on Gaiman’s ability to ensure that “race is just one facet of a person’s identity, just as it is in reality. He acknowledges it, but doesn’t let it become all a character is.” and I would extend this to sexual orientation as well.

For those of you who have not read many of Gaiman’s books this might seem like drawing a long conclusion from something which is not a huge deal in the book. But when you look at his body of work as a whole, Neverwhere being just the very first novel he published, and see these themes and approaches are running throughout regardless of genre or subject matter, to me that is the mark of a writer who truly understands just how important literature is in shaping how we see ourselves and how we understand the world. And it makes me glad that he writes, and is so widely read.

I hope that you have enjoyed Neverwhere as much as I have, and if you didn’t that you were able to find something of value to take away with you, and I hope you made some new friends along the way, I know I did.

 

Discussion questions:
(Feel free to reply to each other, and to ignore my questions if you have something else to talk about!)
1. What’s your star rating for Neverwhere? (And why?)
2. What was your favourite thing/part/moment of Neverwhere?
3. What was your least favourite?
4. Do you think Richard made the right choice?
5. How was your readalong experience? (If you have 2 mins please fill out my short survey)

Next: BONUS Week 6 – How the Marquis got his coat back (Short Story)

Discussion date: 6th November

Photo Challenge: #bookandoutfit – Show me an outfit inspired by London Below or the Marquis: “[the Marquis] had named himself from a lie in a fairy tale, and created himself – his clothes, his manner, his carriage – as a grand joke”

Babbling Books read-along part 2?

I have had so much fun with this read-along that I am planning to host another one in January. I need a little break over the Christmas period, but if you are keen to be involved please let me know in the comments below (and remember to mention your instagram name so I can tag you). I have another book in mind, a fantasy novel with plenty of sass, intrigue and action. Who’s with me?

Tamsien - Babbling Books
Reader, blogger, photographer with perpetually itchy feet. Host of Babbling Books' Readalongs and curator of a very eclectic Instagram account.

19 Comments

  1. First of all, thank you Tamsien so much for hosting this read-along and making me fall in love with Gaiman!

    I really enjoyed the read-along experience and the addition of photo challenges and discussion questions. I liked knowing there were other people around the world reading the same book at the same time as me. Would definitely want to do this again!

    I gave Neverwhere 4 stars on Goodreads. The reason I have 4 and not 5 stars is simply because
    I wanted more! I didn’t want it to end and I had so many questions and the need for more characters. I can’t believe there isn’t a sequel or a spin off featuring secondary characters. Will definitely be reading How the Marquis Got His Coat Back. Some of my questions include: What about Door’s sister? What happened to Richard after he returned to London Below? What exactly is Serpentine and will Hunter somehow be resurrected? Lots more too!

    My favourite thing about Neverwhere was the use of London as we know it being used in a unique way, especially with place names and icons. I especially liked Night’s Bridge, Serpentine and
    the Angel Islington and the name Hammersmith worked so well!

    My favourite part was during the Labyrinth as I think it was described so well and made me think of the Minotaur in Beowulf but still retained it’s uniqueness. It also redeemed Hunter in my eyes.

    There were many favourite moments but mine was towards the end when Richard turns down Jessica (fist pump for Richard!) and when he shows his backbone is there and is staying strong! I also loved the last parts where Richard is ‘seen’ again by everyone and how happy he is about that at first then he starts to realise they don’t see him at all and in fact they never did. They only saw the boring, predictable, troll collecting Richard he was. All he wanted at the beginning of his journey into London Below was to have Jessica back and to be seen. He’s changed and now the only people who truly see him are the true friends he made in London Below. The Warrior who fought for Door.

    I completely think Richard made the right choice! What did he have in London Above? Fake girlfriend, boring job, not many friends, certainly no true friends, no family. When he ‘sees’ his future in London Above he is terrified. That confirmed to me he no longer belonged in London Above. It made me think back to the beginning chapters of the book and to ask why Richard had no problem seeing the people of London Below. He was always meant to be there.

    1. I completely agree with so much of what you said! I was about to start writing my thoughts, but read your reply first… you said so much of what I was thinking! I also gave the book 4/5 stars on Goodreads for the exact same reason. I want more answers! I want another journey with Richard and Door… what happens next? And, why would Richard stay in London Above when his adventures in London Below finally made him into the person he wanted to be and gave him such wonderful (albeit dangerous) adventures? 🙂

      1. I had the exact same reaction! I need a Neverwhere sequel. I have so many questions! It feels incomplete to just stop where the book ends, although I was very happy with the ending. It could have gone either way and I didn’t really expect the “door” Richard drew to work. But I think I was as pleased as Richard that de Carabas showed up. My favourite line from this last part of the book was “He ran the other hand across his face, as if he were wiping something away: sorrow, perhaps, or tears, or Jessica.” Brilliant analogy, beautifully expressed.

        I also see a bit of Douglas Adams in Gaiman’s writing, that quirky way of writing: perfect example is the introductory descriptions of Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. I have read a part of American Gods so I can see how his writing style has evolved and gotten even better. He has a distinctive voice and way of writing now and I love how he uses the language.

        Thank you for this readalong, Tamsien. I was only able to participate later in the month but this gave me a reason to read this book, which otherwise would have not been high on my TBR.

    2. Oh we are feeling just the same! But I guess since I know Gaiman is the self-declared standalone only writer I don’t get my hopes up for sequels, so I can’t resist 5 stars for enjoyment! However in the intro to How The Marquis Got his coat back Gaiman does hint that writing it made him long to write a sequel! Hold onto that hope!

      The moment in the Labyrinth really redeemed Hunter for me too, she was such a fascinating character!

      I can’t wait to read something else along with you soon!

  2. First, thank you so much Tamsien for hosting and including me in this read along! I had so much fun and have met some incredible booklovers throughout the world <3

    I gave Neverwhere a 4.5/5 star rating (is anyone else bitter that you can't give half stars on Goodreads?). I really LOVED this book… from Gaiman's characters to the unique world he creates in London Below to the thoughts and messages behind the writing. It's hard to believe this was his first novel. I've read a couple other titles by Gaiman, but now I know I'll have to pick up even more!

    I think my favorite scene from the book (or at least the one that stuck with me the most) was the crossing of the night bridge to the market. I just wanted to cry for the loss of Anaesthesia. I'm not sure why, but this scene really got to me, and it was so beautifully written. The description of the darkness, "Richard began to understand darkness: darkness as something solid and real, so much more than a simple absence of light. He felt it touch his skin, questing, moving, exploring – gliding through his mind. It slipped into his lungs, behind his eyes, into his mouth…", was perfection.

    My least favorite part was that I feel I missed details and passages my first time through. This will definitely be a title that I reread sometime in the future. So many of you brought up points and ideas that I didn't see, so I know I'll want to reread with some of these thoughts in my mind 🙂

    If I were in Richard's shoes, I think I would have wanted to find a way to London Below as well. After experiencing everything he did, how can he go back to a 9-5 job and a normal life? Plus he has to find Door! I'm not sure if I feel these two characters should be romantically involved. I was kind of reading the book as if Door was a little sister character… however, I also think I pictured Richard older than he was meant to be. Perhaps if I had pictured them both in their early 20's right off the bat, I would feel they should be together. Out of curiosity, how did everyone else view their relationship?

    I love reading everyone's comments and getting to know you all 🙂

    1. Holly, I know what you mean about Richard and Door. Their attraction wasn’t obvious. I think there may be something there if given the chance. Do we really know how old Richard was? I may have missed that. I know at one point when they were dancing and he thought he may want to kiss her. I had wondered about his feelings for Door before and wondered if anything would happen. Also at the end when she entwined her fingers in his and wanted him to stay, and he said how much he liked her but had to go… I felt there was a struggle within him because of his feelings for her (though again not overtly obvious). But that is just my take.

    2. Dena – That’s how I felt too. I think I was picturing Richard as older than Door, but then the scenes you mentioned happened making me think… wait a minute… am I supposed to see these two as a couple?! I was thinking Richard was in his late twenties and Door was in her mid-teens… but I might have missed a reference to age. Or maybe that’s just another way for Gaiman to make us discuss his awesome writing and some of its ambiguity… 😉

    3. Ooh I’m so glad you enjoyed it! The moment on the bridge was just so shattering, but also quite subtle. There is no drama, just simplicity, and I think that is a mark of his writing that something so simple can be so chilling.

      I can’t rightly figure out the ages or relationship of Richard and Door, I’d like see if there is something that explores it more!

  3. Tamsien, thank you so much for hosting this awesome Readalong! You put so much thought into every section and really helped me to organise my thought and feelings about Neverwhere. It was definitely a very different (and much better) experience reading it this second time thanks to you – and to everyone else that read along. You guys are so perceptive and insightful; I have loved reading all your comments.

    I think my final comments might be a bit controversial though… I could absolutely understand why Richard chose to return to London Above. Below might have been fantastical and exciting but, after all his experiences there, I can see how the overwhelming impression would be one of danger, fear, filth, darkness, cruelty and general shortness and meanness of life. Given the choice, I would never live there. (On the other hand, I wouldn’t live in London Above either!). I’m going to harp on about Alice in Wonderland again… But I think just because Alice went home at the end didn’t mean she hadn’t learned anything or changed for the better. In fact, it was just the opposite. And the same with Richard; I felt he know had the tools, perspective and determination to CHANGE his boring, pointless life Above and shape it into something worthwhile. I feel his character development may have been more complete if that had been the case – instead of always wanting something else. Will he change his mind again once he goes back? Does any of that make sense?!

    @writinglaraferrari

    1. Ah, I haven’t seen it from that perspective and you make quite a lot of sense. I was really frustrated with Richard by the last 15 pages because I did not understand why he wanted his old life back. I guess, for him it was black and white (as was for me, if I am honest), because he definitely did not take his experiences as a basis to change his own life – it was either/or. The reason I wanted him to return to London Below was that he had found what’s most important in life: friendship and love. There was none of that waiting for him in London Above…..

    2. That’s an excellent point. I can see an alternate ending where Richard takes his London Below experiences to make his London Above life more meaningful. “Seeing” other people who go unnoticed in the daily hectic bustle of life. Being assertive with bullies and being more kind to those who need it. The people he was surrounded by were perhaps stereotypical and uninteresting, and he could have explored and moved on to find more interesting people to be part of his life. We are not the same person as we were, say, back in school or college.
      To relate a personal example, I recently had a revelation about my life when I reconnected with a college friend. We were talking after years, and it has been a decade since we graduated. And all she could talk about was the same old people from college, who she was till surrounded by, narrating petty details of their life to me. I had to struggle to remember most of them, they were never an important part of my life, and throughout the conversation I kept thinking, and telling her too, that why are we even talking about these people.

      And I realised how massively I had moved on in my life, and moved beyond those people, who never meant anything to me, and how much I had grown. Richard, then, could have gone in the same direction, growing up and moving on.

    3. Lara – I totally see where you’re coming from. I’m not sure that I personally would want to return to London Below if I were part of this adventure. Pretty sure I would be thinking… “I’m cool with staying up here and Door can come visit me if she’d like”. I would also hope that you are right if Richard did stay in London Above that he would make more of his life and see more in what he already has (you know a warm bed, a safe house, no rats trying to talk to him or creepy angels trying to do him in…).

    4. I’m so glad you enjoyed it Lara, it was wonderful to have you, your gorgeous photos and insightful comments.

      I can see why Richard went back to London Above too. When you have been longing for what you think you want, for normality and stability, if you are given that chance (even if you are not sure if you really want it any more) you would take it. But Richard had changed so much that he felt even more detatched than he did before. In London Below he found a weird kind of home, and a weird kind of family, in London Above he felt nothing of that.

      In contrast I think Alice is a great example, though she learns and changes in Wonderland she never really fits in, and though she does make some friends they don’t have a sense of replacing her family. So for her the journey out of Wonderland is the homecoming, for Richard opening the door to a snarky de Carabas was like going home.

      Can’t wait to read more books with you!

  4. Thank you Tamsien for this wonderful experience! I had really a lot of fun participating in your first read-along. Although I wasn’t able to comment in the last two weeks as I was away on holiday, I always tried to accomplish the challanges. And let me tell you, that was such an amazing idea and I will miss it so much! You were an amazing host who gave so many thought-provoking impulses in your weekly discussion. I would absolutely be part of another read-along!

    Neverwhere received 4.5/5 stars from me (yes Holly, why are there no half stars damn it!!). My favorite thing about the book is that the author is able to draw you into his world and describe it all so colourfully and vividly that it fells like you are a part of the story. Furthermore, he is able to breathe life into his characters and draw them with very unique and distinct features and voices. I became quiet attached to the characters. What else I liked is that it made me re-think life and what’s important. I am currently in a similar situation as Richard: I have an okay job, it’ safe and secure but I have wondered for some time now if this is what really makes me happy. The book made it even more clear that this might not be it for me….

    Least favorite pat: It wasn’t long enough!!! 😀 I agree with Steph that some questions remain and it would have been so great to get a sequel.

    As mentioned in my answer to Lara, I do believe that returning to London Below was what Richard really needed to do. In London above he was the guy with all the fears, no friends and to put it mildly: a harpy as a girlfriend. He never acted as himself around the people that supposedly loved and knew him. Quite the opposite was true in London below: Richard, yes, still was quite naive and fearful of a lot of things, but on the one hand, nobody made fun of him because of that and on the other hand, when the people that became dear to him were in grave danger, he outgrew himself and threw away all fear and doubt and defended them with his life. Would he have done that for the people in London Above? I doubt it, to be honest.
    And come on, he became Master of keys and there was (a) Door. Now how more obvious can it get?? 😀

    Holly: I think the reason why you did not really envision Richard in a relationship with Door is that Gaiman really didn’t write any chemistry between those two? What do the others think? The interaction was solely based on the adventure at hand and both characters did not seem to emit any love signals towards each other (apart from Richard’s final task to save Door from the villains). But maybe that was just me who is totally wrecked by too much love-based YA :))) Nevertheless, I think those two had a great chance to become more than friends as they seemed to be good for each other.

    All in all, it was a great read and I enjoyed to be able to read it with so many amazing people! Thank you all!
    Sandra

    @thedarkestpartsofsnow

  5. Tamsien, I will reiterate what everyone else has said and thank you so very much for being the perfect hostess in this wonderful read along. I have had so much fun, and have met so many lovely people along the way. What a joy! And thank you for getting me to read this fabulous book!! I have been meaning to for so long and this was the perfect way to do it! Thank you again!!

    I, too, would give it 4.5 stars. It was a fabulous read, and so very intricate and detailed. I don’t give out stars freely, so this is almost as good as I give with very few exceptions. I’m betting that when I read it again in the future (which I am sure to do because I also feel that I missed a few things here and there) it may bump up to a full 5 for me! For me, personally, I don’t mind some unanswered questions. I sometimes like that the author leaves certain things up to the imagination of the reader (like what happens after Richard returns to London Below). But I would have liked to have known what happened with Door’s sister (is she still out there somewhere?).

    I really loved how Gaiman was humorous in much of his writing making a dark situation a little lighter. His dry wit was fabulous. I loved how he painted the pictures so vividly sometimes that you could imagine being there and really got a sense of atmosphere. He really is an amazing writer and I think I may be a little bit in love (LOL)!! I had read a couple of his books prior, but since reading this book I have purchased almost all the rest and can’t wait to dive in soon!

    My favorite part was probably Richards “ordeal”. It was (for me) his true test of “self”. Can he do it. Did he have what it required; the strength, or courage or whatever. I also LOVED that he was the one who ended up killing the beast. Yeay, Richard!!!

    What I liked least, probably the very, very end (which was not even really part of the story) in the “Altogether different prologue, four hundred years earlier.” Why, oh, why did Gaiman have Mister Vandermar eating something that might once have been a puppy. Could it not have been anything else?? (sorry, just a horrible image that I can’t seem to get out of my brain).

    I absolutely think that Richard made the right decision to go back to London Below. That is where he belongs. That is where he is destined to be. I was so glad he made that choice, because when he was back in London Above he was like a fish out of water. Kudos to Richard for following his destiny.

    I really have enjoyed this read-along. I feel like everyone has had such wonderful insight (and I’m just in awe of everyone’s beautiful writing styles!). I really am just a reader, and am not as eloquent with my words, but thank you all for putting up with my ramblings.

    I would also like to say how creative everyone has been with their photos!! You all take such amazing and beautiful photos! So fun to see everyone’s unique take on the challenges each week.

    I would love to be a part of another read-along in the future. A fantasy novel sounds fabulous. Yes, Please!!! Dena (@Bookworm_365)

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