NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman


I know I have written about the book Neverwhere in the past. It’s one of the few books I classify as favorites.

Those stories become favorites because something about them remains in me. It might be a character, or a place, or a phrase I must repeat every few years.

Sometimes, I will have forgotten the rest of a book in question—all of it except for the one thing that made it immortal.

This year, I read Neverwhere again after so long that I’d forgotten most of the story. Very little of it was familiar. Apart from some phrases that inexplicably took root in my memory, the mood and setting of this book felt new.

Halfway through, I remembered why I have always loved the story. The simplicity of main character Richard Mayhew is beautiful every time I ‘meet him’ again.

He is not popular or exciting. He has some aloof friends at work and a girlfriend who treats him like a loser. It seems as if his life will never speed up—until he does an act of kindness which flings him into London Below, a world of monsters and treachery.

Richard is frightened to be there. He is no instant hero, like those we encounter in movies. It takes him a painstakingly long while to accept he isn’t dreaming.

The boldest element in Neverwhere is Richard’s humanity, his ordinariness, something we can all relate to—and something we seek subconsciously in everything we read.

Like him, we feel insignificant sometimes. We grow through trials, some of them tremendous and frightening. These trials can shape us into heroes, if we let them.

We should never feel pressured into instant bravery—that’s not how humanity works. Instead, we should accept ourselves for what we really are; that is the most frightening and brave thing to do.

Neverwhere is a favorite because it has Richard, a character who gives me hope even when he has lost his own. His transformation is not painless; he does not meet the monsters with his chin up every time. Nonetheless, he emerges a warrior.

Richard’s humanity was the thing I needed to revisit in Neverwhere, a place I will never tire of—because his humanity makes it easier for me to accept my own.