I have to admit that sadly I haven’t read anywhere near as much as I would have liked this year. Though I started maybe thirty books, I’ve only actually finished about half of that, although I may zoom through a few more when I’ve finished work for the year. The major downside of this is that there are less books to choose from, although I have definitely read a number of memorable books as the year has gone on.
The two books that come to mind are remarkably different – Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I loved Murakami’s work because it was so brutal, confronting and honest. His novel was so upsetting but incredibly beautiful at the same time, with a startling relevance lurking beneath its surface. His writing really took my breath away and by the time I had finished the novel I was lying there stunned and unable to do anything else for a while. The first novel I finished this year, it has haunted my thoughts this whole time and will probably continue to do so for many years.
But there was something about Gaiman’s Neverwhere that not only drew me in more at the time, but which has had a lasting influence on me throughout all of 2013. Maybe it was because I read this only a few months after I had visited London, and the setting of the London Underground intrigued me beyond belief. I have since spent time looking into the world below that amazing city, even blogging on it once or twice, and the whole concept of worlds below worlds has come to interest me even more than it already had (and as a historian and history teacher that kind of thing is pretty fascinating to me).
It was more than just setting that made Gaiman’s novel so memorable for me, of course. His writing was brilliant, quirky and intelligent, and the story and characters were so imaginative, so magical and yet quite dark and deceptive – I really was just swept away in it all. The creativity behind such a story is just immense, and makes many similar novels pale in comparison. There’s a reason why Neil Gaiman has become such a respected and beloved force in the writing world today, and this novel, though one of his older works, is a good reminder of why he is so successful.
If you haven’t read Neverwhere before, I urge you to do so regardless of what genre you normally read. It defies both genre and expectations and you simply won’t be able to put it down.
What are your thoughts on Neverwhere, or Neil Gaiman in general?
What’s your favourite book from this last year?