Dark Cities Underground
by Lisa Goldstein
Review by Ann Cecil

This book starts out with a clever conceit: what if the authors of childrens' books, instead of making up stories to tell the children, were really writing down tales the kids told them? What if books like Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, reflected some shared experience possible only to the unfettered mind of a child? And the dissimilarities are due to the adult's polishing and prettying up the childish tales?

Jeremy Jerome Gerontius Jones (a truly perfect name!) is now forty plus, calls himself Jerry, is recovering from a divorce, and has firmly blocked out all memory of his childhood. Ruth Berry is trying to write a bio of the mother he hasn't talked to in 25 years, the famous author who turned stories for her son into nine best-selling children's books about the Land of NeverWas.

Ruth is an unmarried single Mom, younger than Jerry but still attracted to him, an agressive woman who pushes Jerry into remembering, slowly but surely, details of his childhood and the true Land of NeverWas. Other factors helping to force Jerry to confront old traumas are Mr. Sattermole, quite as sinister as his name suggests, and Sarah Kendall, an innocent tangled quite horribly by other's needs.

In the end the characters all wind up in The Underground, which is the popular name for the London subway system. Jerry and Ruth come to meet a variety of odd and interesting people, all with agendas of their own, including a few leftover Egyptian Gods and Godesses.

To find out what they're doing in the subway, you'll have to read the book. Goldstein actually makes it almost sound logical, which is a tribute to her writing skill. Unfortunately the subway - underground metaphor has been used a lot lately (most effectively in Gaiman's Neverwhere); once the book leaves the childhood conceit and starts adding adult level plots, it gets a bit mechanical (a bad pun you'll understand when you read this).

Recommended as a good, if lightweight, read.

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