Book Review – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

‘Waiting was a sin against both the time that was still to come, and against the moments one was currently disregarding.’

Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is a wonderfully strange novel. The characters are odd, as are the settings and the story, but man did I enjoy it. Give me a strange world and I’ll be happy. I have the Chris Riddell illustrated version which, as you can see, also makes for a beautiful visual journey.

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This is actually my first Gaiman novel, as I’ve never had the longing to read one before. Controversial I know, but I was young and foolish. I mean, I’m still young and foolish, but at least I’ve read some Neil Gaiman.

What I love about this story is its originality. It has the basic idea of a hero’s journey from rags to riches, at least in terms of quality of life. Gaiman takes a meagre life and turns it into a great one. Still, Richard Mayhew doesn’t become your typical hero. He’s just an ordinary bloke who happens to visit a strange place and do some kinda cool things. He’s still just as ordinary by the end of it, which instills a sense of reality into Gaiman’s work. Here we are in this crazy, ridiculous world of London Below, yet we can relate to the protagonist because he’s just like us. He makes us wonder what we would do if thrown into a similar situation. I certainly don’t know what I’d do if I met the Earl of Earl’s Court.

That’s another great thing. The puns. THE PUNS! The Black Friars, the angel Islington, and Old Bailey are fabulous characters with ingenious names. It does beg the question why no one has ever done this before though. I wonder what else you could do that with. Although, I just tried to come up with one but failed, so maybe it isn’t that easy.

Of course, the writing is wonderful. He manages to incorporate ingenious lines, such as the quote I mentioned earlier, yet still keeping it light and witty (he is basically goals). I also like the way it comes together. Most chapters are told from Richard’s perspective, but there are also many told from Door’s, or the infamous Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar. It freshens up the pace, keeping it interesting as well as rounding out the story.

After reading Neverwhere, I think I will read some of his other works. Its strangeness has peaked my interest enough to explore further, yet I have a feeling that this won’t be my favourite of his books. Although, of course, it’s wonderful, there’s a lot going on. This is completely my opinion, but I get a bit woolly-headed if I have too much to focus on.

The real question is, which one do I read next?

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Writing as an Escape

Whenever I feel angry or completely hopeless, I’m always in need of an outlet. Talking to someone would be option 1, but that’s not always possible. There’s always those days where you just feel annoyed at everyone, so who can you talk to? I’m starting to realise that writing is that person.

Opening a Word document and throwing all my feelings onto a page is something which helps me figure out what I’m feeling. Just today, I wrote a short piece about my thoughts and ended up realising what I was actually scared of. It’s a great way of sorting out your mind. I’ve done it before of course, I went through a whole series of letters to someone I ended up naming ‘Pal’, and I often look back on them as a way of reflection. Here is one:

Hey Pal,

So there’s this girl. She has this steadfast dream and a hunger to achieve it. She oozes confidence, with the realisation that she’s good enough. She is completely willing to work hard in order to get to where she wants to be, yet she knows how to balance her life. Her firm grasp of what really matters makes her simply a wonder to be around – boys look at her and see a gem, someone who amazes but still understands. She is completely unique with the understanding that no one could ever really be unique. Her days are filled, yet she doesn’t feel busy or worry about what is next because she knows that you have to enjoy every part of your life. She is happy, and when she cries it’s for a real reason, or empathy for those with a real reason. But let me tell you something about this girl. She doesn’t exist. She is a figment of my imagination, because she is exactly the girl I desire to be. But is a perfect self who I’m supposed to be? Does the lack of strength in some areas simply make me human, or somehow wrong in my psyche? Does being nervous to spend time on my own in public mean something more serious, or is that just an excuse to hide the real problem – I’m human. Just not the human I wish I was. Is it ever really possible to be your ideal self? My ideal comes from films, television and stories, things I hate about myself and things I wish could be. Is that wishful thinking, or are stories really just stories? They must have come from somewhere right? Some people have said I’m naïve, for thinking a perfect me is possible, for seeing the romanticism of life and for trusting people I don’t really know. I just think that’s stupid… since when did everything become so dark?

Yours

The pieces you write don’t have to be articulate or novel-worthy, they just have to help you. For a lot of people, anything creative helps. Music, art, dance – they’re all ways of expressing yourself and giving yourself some clarity. And a lot of the time, you can end up with something really beautiful or inspirational. What I’m trying to say is, there are lots of ways you can make yourself feel better without hurting yourself. Like right now for instance. I got angry, wrote a short piece, then ended up writing this. How things change in one day!

And hey, if that doesn’t work, food is always a good option.