Monday, May 28, 2012

The Neverwhere Read Along: Part II

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman 
Chapter 6 - Chapter 12

This is the second set of discussion questions for the read along of Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel Neverwhere [1997]. To follow along with the read along, including links to other readers' discussion posts, visit Carl's blog Stainless Steel Droppings.

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 don't blame him one bit! If I were in his shoes, I'm sure I'd be chanting the same thing. Heck, it worked for Dorothy, right? I admit some readers are going to think Richard is being rather wimpy the way he just sits there in the tunnel, chanting that he wants to go home, crying and pretty much giving up without a fight, but let's cut the guy a little slack. He's never really been the fighter-type guy before. In fact, standing his ground to Jessica about helping Door when they found her lying on the sidewalk might have been the first time he really stood up for someone--including himself! Now his world is completely different. He's already been erased from London Above and London Below shouldn't be real, but it is. Everything about it is completely unknown to him and it's frightening as heck. The important thing is that he didn't just give up. He forged on and decided to find a way back to his world Above. Granted, Door came back and suggested he come with them, but still. He went. And the rest, as they say, is history. So let's show a little compassion to Richard during his moment of despair and pat him on the back for running for his life instead of waiting for Croup and Vandemar to catch and kill him for fun, eh? ;)

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?

The Marquis is definitely one of the most mysterious characters in Neverwhere. My confidence in his trustworthiness was still tested in this section of reading. I still wanted to trust him and his intentions with helping Door on her quest to find out who killed her family and why, but he doesn't seem to be very well liked by a lot of folks in London Below. He's banned from the Earl's Court! And when he went to Croup and Vandemar's Liar?! I thought for sure he was the one who betrayed Door! I admit I was relieved to discover otherwise in the next chapter. And once Croup and Vandemar captured and tortured him, I realized he wasn't on their side. Then I felt awful for him.

3. How did you feel about the Ordeal of the Key?

Oh, the Ordeal of the Key. That was like a really bad trip [the psychedelic crisis type]. Of course, I was glad that Richard survived it and of course, I expected him to since he IS the protagonist, but overall, I didn't find the experience particularly memorable or insightful. But he was brave and kind and true, so he deserved the key. I liked the that the bead in his pocket from Anaesthesia's broken necklace is what helped Richard remember what he was doing there and why. I found it pleasingly sentimental, and also a testament to the power and importance of being a compassionate person--perhaps the very reason why he survived the Ordeal of the Key in the first place. I also appreciated how Richard's acquisition of the key perhaps made Door and Hunter admire and respect Richard more.

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.

I like the way Richard "writes" in his mental diary. It's his own personal way of dealing with this misadventure that's become of his life. I think it helps keep him grounded.

5. Any other things/ideas that you want to talk about from this section of the book?

I found that I didn't dislike Jessica as much when Richard crossed paths with her in the British Museum scenes as I did when she refused to help Door and broke up with Richard because of it. I rather felt sorry for her. Maybe she seemed a bit lost and lonely without Richard in her life, which made me think perhaps she'll learn to be more appreciative of a good thing when she's got it in the future.

Tune in next Monday [June 4] for the exciting conclusion when the group discusses the final chapters of Neverwhere!


  1. I like our comment about Jessica. I think you might be right that she needs someone to push around to make her feel useful and in control of her life. Her parents sounded truly awful, so she may have very low self esteem.

  2. Yeah, I wanted to hate Jessica, but I do see a different side to her in the museum. Perhaps she will have her own mini journey and prove herself worthy of Richard? it wrong of me to want Richard to remain with Door?

  3. Yeah... I can't hate Jessica, but at the same time I know she's not the right girl for Richard. I did feel bad for her at the museum, and I felt bad for Richard when he was trying to talk to her and she didn't remember him.

  4. I can't hate Jessica either. She is just the opposite end of the spectrum that Richard is on, and both need a wake-up call to be more than what they currently are. I mean lets face it, Jessica is getting no prize at this point either and her life path, although it may seem more organized, is every bit as lifeless as Richard's is when the story begins.

    It is a great relief to discover that the Marquis isn't quite as untrustworthy as one would assume him to be. He is so mysterious and cunning that it is not crazy to suspect him, and I think the scene where it appears he is the betrayer is so great. And I find myself thrilled every time when he turns out to be going to Croup and Vandemar to try to dissuade them from harming Door.

    Yes, I definitely think Richard earned some respect with his survival of the ordeal. Even just his willingness to go ahead and do it.

  5. You know? Your insights on Richard's Ordeal are beginning to make me rethink my attitude toward the scene. I was so down on the formulaic nature of the Ordeal, but after thinking about what you've said, perhaps I was too hasty ... thanks!

  6. We all have different ways of looking at things, which is part of the fun. And it is important to remember that this is one of Gaiman's earlier novels and despite it being my favorite it does have some new author issues with it.

  7. I also hope Jess is a little shook up by the whole experience and comes out a better person. She seems to have a narrow definition of what is acceptable and what is not.

    I am glad that Richard is finally starting to see past Jess's wants to think about what he wants for his life.

  8. It's funny how many of us thought of Dorothy!

    We definitely got to see another side of Jessica here. I was surprised when she came on the scene, actually. I didn't think we would see her again.

  9. The Ordeal might have been more powerful in the hands of a more experienced writer (I wonder how Gaiman would write it now?) but I feel that it fits well with the rest of the story, because it's a life-changing experience. And it makes our empathy for Richard greater, because up till then he's been a rather ordinary, nice young man, really rather young for his age. I'm not sure Jess, on the other hand, is going to be redeemed - she's irretrievably shallow.

  10. Hello Neverwhere friends! My apologies for not replying to all of your comments sooner. It's been a busy couple of weeks around here and my time management skills are quite lacking as of late.

    Sue CCCP... I think you're right about Jessica. She definitely needs to be in control. I think she was feeling the absence of Richard from her life even though she doesn't remember him or understand why she feels like she does.. I like to believe it's because of Richard. And that perhaps the next time she has someone kind and worthy of love in her life she will be more appreciative and not take him or her for granted. It's a nice thought anyway, right?

    Deb Atwood... I don't think it's wrong of you to want Richard to remain with Door at all. Door has expressed appreciation for and kindness towards Richard since their first pages together.

    Grace... The museum scene was sad all around for Jessica and Richard. But I guess kind of necessary, too.

    Carl V. .. Good point about BOTH Jessica and Richard needing wake up calls. Who would have guessed it would have come in the form of a whole new world of London Below!

    I was so relieved when we discovered the Marquis did indeed NOT have nefarious intentions regarding Door and her quest. I had put the book down right after he showed up in Croup and Vandemar's lair so I had to live with my shock and worry over the consequences of his betrayal for several hours before I picked the book back up again and learned otherwise. Phew. I tortured myself. lol

    Susan ... Glad to know I gave you a new perspective to the Ordeal. It was definitely an interesting part of this quest.

    nrlymrtl ... I like the way you referred to Richard's ex as Jess and not Jessica, as she always preferred. haha! Was that intentional on your part?

    Emily ... I was surprised to see Jessica again, too, but am glad that it happened. I think it helped Richard realize the truth of how his life has been changed by Door and London Below. And perhaps that Jessica is part of his past now..

    Geranium Cat... I forget that this is one of Gaiman's first novels. In fact, is it not his debut full length novel? I thought I read that somewhere. It's still a good scene and as you said, very fitting for the story. I was glad he did well and thought he was rather sweet and humble to the Friars afterward--and he almost forgot to take the key at the end! Ha ha!


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