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Neverwhereby Neil Gaiman
Reading Group Guide
1. Like The Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, and many mythological stories, Neverwhere involves a descent into an underworld. What is the appeal of exploring a world that exists beneath the surface of our everyday lives? What does the marquis de Carabas mean when he tells Richard that “London Below — the Underside — is inhabited by people who fell through the cracks in the world”?
2. In what ways is it meaningful that Richard enters the world of London Below through an act of compassion for Door? Where else in the novel does he prove his willingness to sacrifice his own safety and comfort to help others? Why are these acts of courage and selflessness so important?
3. What are the major trials that Richard must face in his journey underground? What inner qualities do these trials bring forth in him? What kind of hero is he?
4. In what ways can the world of London Below be seen as a kind of inverted mirror of London Above? In what ways does this magical world, with its outrageous characters and floating markets that sell everything from rubbish and lost property to “first-class nightmares” and “things that might have been hats and might have been modern art” comment on the world above? In what sense is Neverwhere satirizing the “normal” world and its values?
5. The narrator describes the bodyguard Ruislip as resembling “a bad dream one might have if one fell asleep watching sumo wrestling on the television with a Bob Marley record playing in the background,” and suggests that Mr. Vandemar’s voice sounds like “night wind blowing over a desert of bones.” Where else do we find this kind of highly metaphoric description in the novel? How do such descriptions make the book more vivid? In what ways is this kind of writing suited to the story being told?
6. What makes the characters Richard meets in London Below — Lord Ratspeaker, Door, the marquis de Carabas, Hunter, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, Serpentine, the Earl, and others — so engaging? What magical powers do they possess? What character traits make each of them so distinctive? How do their reactions to Richard change over the course of the novel?
7. What is the significance of the Angel Islington turning out to be the betrayer and perhaps the most evil character in the novel? What motivates his treachery? In what ways is it appropriate that a man like Arnold Stockton owns the The Angelus statue through which Islington may be reached?
8. At the end of the novel, when Richard tries to explain to Jessica why he can’t resume their relationship, he says “I’ve just changed, that’s all.” In what important ways has he changed? What has his journey in the underworld allowed him to discover about himself? Why would it be impossible for him to marry Jessica now?
9. While in London Below, Richard longs to go home where “Everything is going to be normal again. Boring again. Wonderful again.” Why does he find “normal life” so empty and dissatisfying when, after such a heroic effort, he finally does get home? Does he make the right decision in returning to London Below?
10. What does Neverwhere, as a whole, say about the themes of trust and betrayal, loyalty and disloyalty, selfishness and compassion?
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