|Image sourced from here|
Disclaimers out of the way, you probably already know I am a big Neil Gaiman fangirl. Also, I own the TV series that Gaiman had originally written, so I knew vaguely what was going to happen. Gaiman was asked to write a TV series, to which he wrote Neverwhere. However, he apparently found the experience incredibly frustrating as the producers and directors kept on cutting out parts of the dialogue and the story. He then wrote a book, that got played with by publishers to sell better. So this version of Neverwhere, is the story he wanted to tell.
The story tell us of Richard who lives in London, and an encounter he has with a girl who appears out in front of him from nowhere on a busy London street, bleeding and begging for help. Much to his high achieving, social climbing girlfriend's protests, he helps the girl and hides her in his flat. This action embarks Richard on a weird and wonderful adventure that timid Richard never would have ever dreamed about, through a world that exists underneath London, London Below.
The whole concept of London Below is fantastic. The thought that there is a parallel city to London Above (or what we would just call London) is actually not so hard to imagine. The city has been reshaped and rebuilt on itself for 2000 years. Each time that happens, more tunnels, corridors and structures get forgotten. The forgotten Tube stations are a great example. Spaces that are intricately built but not needed any more. Not only that bits of the city itself gets forgotten, but the inhabitants of London can get forgotten as well. In fact it's a way we refer to homeless and destitute people already.
The other beautiful thing about this book is it turns the city into a character. Whether that is the turning of places and landmarks into actual characters like Old Bailey or the Angel Islington, or turning them into the literal meanings of their names eg. Knightsbridge or Shepherds Bush, but also the city itself is an overwhelming presence in the book. It's an entity that follows you the entire time.
I must say I probably loved it more as I spent time in London last year so it was all nice and fresh in my mind again. But I am still slightly torn whether American Gods is still my favourite Gaiman. I think it is, but only by a rat's whisker.