Thursday, October 22, 2020

Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere 25 Years On

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Many years before the successful series American Gods and Good Omens hit our screens, there was Neverwhere. Written by Neil Gaiman in the early 1990s, Neverwhere was both a six-parter, broadcast on the BBC in the United Kingdom, and a novel. It is about a hidden London, unseen to the general population who go about their daily business, completely oblivious to the London Below. It is about a community of people that includes the homeless, the lost and the forgotten – people that have simply slipped beneath the cracks of society. 

A Timeless Novel

Neverwhere is the story of a young man called Richard Mayhew who helps Door, a woman in need, escape from two hired thugs that are trying to kill her. In doing so, he suddenly finds that he ceases to exist in London Above. His work colleagues no longer recognize him, his flat is no longer his, and he has become one of the unbanked. His debit and credit cards no longer work, and he has no access to money or other financial resources. This isn’t an unfamiliar situation to the 80 million American households who are completely reliant on cash, and the story continues to be relevant to the modern world. Richard becomes homeless, with no job and nowhere to go, like over half a million people living in the United States. The themes of Neverwhere are universal – it is about those that are living on the edge of society, and the extremes they go to just to stay alive. 

Exploring London Below

What makes Neverwhere so successful is that no matter how bleak the situation, the novel and television series have an incredible sense of humor. Once in London Below, Richard travels to a floating market to convince Door to help him find a way back home. Together they travel through London with the help of The Marquis de Carabas and a formidable bodyguard called Hunter. The writing is incredibly tongue-in-cheek and plays upon puns based on the existing London Underground. They meet the Earl of Earl’s Court. They spend some time with the Black Friars, and one of the Seven Sisters cures them of an appalling hangover. The Angel Islington also has a significant part to play. 

Looking To Mythology

What Neverwhere has in common with Neil Gaiman’s later novel, American Gods is that it draws inspiration from both urban folklore and deep mythology. Down in labyrinth beneath London is a mysterious beast, one to rival the blind, white alligators that reportedly live in the sewers of New York. The charismatic, but morally questionable Marquis de Carabas steps straight out from the pages of Puss in Boots. Gaiman inspires terror and wonder in equal measure from everyday places – for instance, the exclusive shopping district of Knightsbridge, becomes The Night’s Bridge, where you may well lose your soul. He makes you feel that there really is a secret world out there – you just have to open your eyes wide enough to be able to see it.  

The themes of Neverwhere are still extremely relevant 25 years later. They are about adventure, friendship, love and the personal journey that we all take in order to survive. 

Article Submitted by Jane Sandwood

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