I’m a bit late on this week’s installment of the Neverwhere read-along. I blame a long holiday weekend and my becoming consumed by the legal thriller, Defending Jacob.
But better late than never, I suppose. This week’s installment of the read-along covers chapters six through twelve. The discussion questions are courtesy of Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings and if you want to hear/read others’ responses, he’s got a full list of other participants there.
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?
Richard is reacting how many of us would when removed from our “comfort zone.” As tedious as Gaiman makes Richard’s life in the early chapters, we can still see that he’s settled into a level of comfort with it. Early on, the one thing that Richard sees as being truly spectacular about his current existence is the fact that Jessica not only agreed to go out with him, but that she has agreed to marry him.
Then he stumbles across Door, makes an impulsive decision and that old life is taken away.
And while we can see that the life before wasn’t exactly a magical, glamorous one, Richard can’t or won’t see that just yet. Also, it’s got to be a bit overwhelming to lose your job, your fiancee, your apartment and your life all in the course of a couple of hours for doing what you saw as the right thing. So, I can fully understand why he feels frustrated at this point and why he wants to go back to that old life.
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?
It’s interesting to re-read Neverwhere, knowing where certain plot threads are headed and some of the revelations to come. That’s the case here, where I recall that the Marquis is betraying Door and watching as Gaiman puts the seeds there to clue us into this fact, all while not revealing his hand too early. It certainly gives a different shade of gray to his activities. It also makes it more tragic that Door trusts him so implicitly and that he’s the first one she seeks out for help when she gets into trouble.
3. How did you feel about the Ordeal of the Key?
It made me recall all those middle school English classes, where we studied the structure of a story. The Ordeal of the Key is the point of no turning back and the one that changes all the characters in such a way that they can never go back to the way things were in the opening chapters of the story. Of course, this is especially the case in terms of Richard since this is the point at which he goes from meek and missing his old life to embracing the new magical reality he finds himself a part of and becoming a bit bolder.
All that and it’s still one of the most suspenseful, nail-biting parts of the novel, even when we know that Richard and company must succeed.
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.
One thing I find fascinating in reading Gaiman’s works is how he throws in ideas that could be potentially make for an entire short story or novel in his stories and then lets the reader’s imagination run with them. There are so many rabbit holes that could be explored in this universe and while I know Gaiman usually doesn’t write sequels, I keep hoping that he may feel the need to return to this universe someday, as he’s said he may do.
As for the small moments, I’m always struck why certain characters are scared of things (like Door with the snakes) or why certain characters can’t enter certain places. I feel like we could have a whole short story or novella that delves into those!
5. Any other things/ideas that you want to talk about from this section of the book?
As I said before, I find it interesting to re-read the novel and look for the ways in which Gaiman foreshadows plot and character developments. And how he makes it look so easy.
The other thing that strikes me about reading this is how similar in tone it feels to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. It’s not that this book is as amusing as those–far from it. Instead, it’s the near-perfect way in which all three use language. The way in which they structure phrases or sentences together to give us a sense of the characters and world. And they make it look so blasted easy! Which if you’ve read other novels that try to emulate them, it just doesn’t work as well and always feels like a pale imitation.