Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (this hardcover edition was published in 2016 by Headline Publishers)
Richard is about to go on a trip. He’s all set to go to London, but while he sits outside his local pub in Scotland, his farewell party roaring in the background, he doesn’t feel very jovial.
A chance encounter with a palm-reading stranger, however, teaches him that he is about to embark on a journey of altogether different proportions. “You got a long way to go…. It starts with doors.”
Richard settled in London rather well for a Scottish lad who imagined a dreary city. He has a good job and a beautiful (albeit rather catty and high-strung) fiancé by the name of Jessica (not Jess). His life had taken on a comfortable pattern of following Jessica to art museums and shopping, mindful constantly of his aching feet.
When the day arrives for him to have dinner with Jessica and her uber-important boss, everything changes. This is not because he forgets to make the reservation, or because he loses track of time and is almost late, but rather, because of a girl.
This girl, tiny and dirty and ragged, appears out of nowhere, falling on the pavement before the couple. She is injured, bleeding profusely, yet refuses to go to a hospital for fear of them finding her. Despite Jessica’s protestations, Richard stops to help the girl, ending his engagement with Jessica and carrying home a girl who calls herself Door.
While she is recovering in his flat, Richard is visited by two men claiming to be her brothers. Door denies any siblings; her entire family was slaughtered. Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar, apart from being obvious liars, make the hairs on one’s neck stand.
They are decidedly evil and decidedly otherworldly. To return home, Door enlists the help of a pigeon, a rat, and a Marquis. This, Richard realises, is his ultimate journey, where anything can happen.
Traversing through a world filled with demons, rat-speakers, angels, Earls and nightmarish beasts, Richard, Door and the Marquis flee their pursuers, in search of who killed Door’s family and why.
Their search leads them through the depths of darkness and the brilliance of light, in a backward world where possibility is limitless, and growth inevitable.
There really aren’t enough words to praise Neverwhere. It is absolutely enthralling; vivid and unique and unhinged.
It is a masterpiece, and Neil Gaiman is now my hero. His partner in crime is Chris Riddell, who fills the pages with beautiful images.
The story presents a degree of nostalgia; of yearning for the fairy tales of one’s youth, while questioning with an adult voice the disparities in society; as the tale explains, the underside is filled with people who fall between the cracks. Gaiman has taken a light to these cracks, exposing the creatures within them, and it is glorious.
Keen on reading this book? Buy your copy now.