Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

The third of The Folio Society’s editions of Neil Gaiman’s greatest works, after American Gods and Anansi Boys, is the first one I have purchased as I already have very nice editions of the first two. However I had somehow not actually read Neverwhere, although I was familiar with it having listened to the 2013 radio play version several times. Whilst reading Neil’s ‘Introduction to this text’ I was surprised to discover that it had originally been a BBC TV series back in 1996 which I had completely missed and that Neil wrote the original novel partly so he could save the bits he liked that were either impossible to film within the constraints of the budget or were subsequently being cut from the show. He further expanded the book and removed some of the more obscure London references for a later international version and the version here is what is now known as the ‘Author’s Preferred Text’ where in 2006 he went back to both earlier iterations and merged them, bringing back the bits cut and also writing yet more new text to blend them seamlessly. The cast list for the radio adaptation, which was my first introduction to the book, is frankly amazing as can be seen in the Wikipedia entry for it and it was because of this when it was announced as a title for this years Autumn/Winter collection by The Folio Society I bought it immediately.

Neverwhere is a dark fantasy set in London Above and London Below, Richard Mayhew is an ordinary office worker but one evening on his way to restaurant for a meeting with his fiance and her boss finds an injured girl lying on the pavement. Ignoring his girlfriend’s insistence to just leave her as they are already late for the meal he instead decides to take her back to his home when she refuses medical assistance. Later his fiance calls to break off their engagement but by then Richard’s life has changed completely for the girl is a lady from one of the great houses of London Below and he is now irrevocably caught up in her escape from assassins sent to wipe out her family and her plans to avenge them.

London Below is a hidden place from almost all the inhabitants of London Above, partly on the tube lines, partly in the sewers, partly on the rooftops of London as we know it and partly in huge caverns invisible to those above. Door, for that is the girls name, needs help to escape from the murderous Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar and asks Richard to find the Marquis de Carabas with the assistance of the Rat Speakers. A lot of the character names seem very familiar to anyone who knows London, an aged man living on the rooftops is Old Bailey, Earls Court rides a tube train in a carriage that nobody seems to notice and which resembles a medieval court inside. There is also the scary Night’s Bridge where people disappear into the darkness and the realm of The Black Friars. One touch I particularly liked was The Floating Market, which moves around London Above completely invisible to the people there. Richard first encounters it in Harrod’s then later on it is on HMS Belfast, this is a place for the inhabitants of London Below to gather with a truce between all peoples.

This version of the book also includes the follow up short story ‘How The Marquis Got His Coat Back’, written in 2014, which introduces the very dangerous Shepherds of Shepherds Bush and the Elephant who controls Elephant and Castle. It has also been confirmed by Gaiman that he is writing a sequel novel called ‘The Seven Sisters’ which is paused whilst he is working on TV adaptations.

It’s only four chapters in, and waiting for me to stop showrunning and start writing.

Neil Gaiman’s twitter feed 24th January 2019

The book is, of course, beautiful with seven full page and two double page illustrations along with twenty one chapter headings all produced by Chris Malbon and the chosen font, Mentor with Tommaso as the chapter headings, is extremely clear making the 392 page book a delight to read and I devoured it in just two sittings getting completely immersed in the story. The picture above is of Richard and Door’s first encounter with The Angel Islington. The Folio Society also produced a short video on the release of this book on the 1st September 2022, which can be found here.

I loved the book, and the short story, and can’t work out why it took Folio Society to publish this version before I finally got round to owning a copy and reading it, roll on The Seven Sisters.

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