“I’d watch out for doors if I were you.”
Richard Mayhew leads a very predictable life. After 3 years in London he has a controlling fianceé, a steady job in securities and days of endless edification at the hands of his wife-to-be. And that is because Richard, for all his contradictions and waffling, seems to have so much potential if the right woman (read his fianceé takes him to hand. With her, Richard’s life follows a predictable routine.
Until he moment he stops to help the bleeding girl on the street. As soon as he reaches out to help Door, his life is upended. For she is not a regular girl, and the things that she is fleeing will lash out to any and all who try to help her, even a poor everyman from London. Especially London Above.
For life is really lived in two parallel worlds: London Above, where Richard has a normal life, and London Below, a magical, treacherous and fantastical world, invisible to the rest of common people. By helping Door, a runaway from the horrible murder of her entire family, he steps into London Below, and disappears from his normal life. An act of kindness destroys his world.
Richard and Door must find answers and escape pursuit by the terrifying Messrs Croup and Vandemar, and navigate the dark world of London Below, for only knowing who orchestrated the assassination of her family can Door stop running and survive. And only by following her can Richard stay alive and hope for a return to his life in London Above. Pursued by beasts, on a quest for an Angel, they race for their lives.
This book was published in 1996, originally as a set of BBC TV series episodes, and then transformed into a novel. At its core lies the alienation of an individual, and the mirrored invisibility of the inhabitants of London Below. It is a book written for adults but loved by young and old alike. The fantastical nature of Richard’s transformation and voyage, and the cast of characters he meets on his dark journey reignites the fairy tale and brings it to new life in a contemporary setting.
“The man had his hand inside the woman’s jumper, and was moving it around enthusiastically, a lone traveller discovering an unexplored continent. ‘I want my life back,’ Richard told the couple.”
“Neverwhere” won the YALSA Award (Young Adult Library Services Association) as an adult book enjoyed by young adults. In 2013, it was removed from the Alamogordo High School (New Mexico) library and reading lists due to ONE parent objection, without any discussion with faculty or other parents. The “R-Rated” scene in question was one in which Richard watches an adulterous couple fumbling at one another on a park bench, and he is INVISIBLE to them, even when he speaks. His isolation is graphically and emphatically represented, even as the couple continues with their assignation, and yes, the word “fuck” is used 3 times.
If this is the objectionable narrative that would have it banned, then J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” or “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain should also be banned for inappropriate language.
Oh, wait. They have been.
“‘I don’t really want anything. Nothing at all.’ And then he realized how true that was: and how dreadful a thing it had become. ‘Have you every gotten everything you ever wanted? And then realized it wasn’t what you wanted at all?’”
Taken out of context, any paragraph or line can be maligned and found objectionable. In the broader sense of themes and the universality of the human condition, it’s preposterous to ban this. It is a book about fantasy, myth, isolation and growth, themes that young adults can relate to. And might actually want to read about.
5 out of 5 Whatzits.
Well worth the trouble you’d get into for reading it.