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January 12, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | January 12, 2009 |

I’m falling a little bit in love with Neil Gaiman. Well, his writing I mean, let’s not go too overboard here. I read Coraline years ago, and I don’t remember much about it other than being terrified of the button-eyed woman. Last year I read Stardust, and again wasn’t really overwhelmed. I saw the film, I enjoyed it. And then I read American Gods, and wow, was that bloody brilliant. I thought Anansi Boys would be similar, another dark tale, but although they basically share the same world of gods, and a character, that’s where the similarity ends. This isn’t a sequel or follow on, and it’s completely different in tone.

Anansi Boys is much lighter, there’s much more comedy. The kind of comedy that makes you laugh out loud while you’re reading it on the bus, causing the person next to you to look at you out of the corner of their eye with worry and wonder whether they should move. It’s a very easy read, and I do love the way Gaiman writes. I’d say he has quite a cheeky way of writing. I might even go so far as to say it’s delicious. Anansi Boys is certainly delightful the way it trips along.

Anansi is a trickster god, the spider. All the stories and songs are his. They used to belong to Tiger, but Anansi tricked him out of them, and Tiger is pretty pissed about it, but we’ll get to that later. Nowadays Anansi is living in Florida singing karaoke and basically enjoying himself, and then he drops dead. His son, Fat Charlie (who is not actually fat but can’t shake the nickname) goes over for the funeral and talks to his old neighbour about his father, who casually tells him that he was the god Anansi, and that Fat Charlie also has a brother, and if he’d like to see his brother, just ask a spider to let him know. As you do. Fat Charlie scoffs, and he goes back to his humdrum little life in London, where he works in a boring job and is engaged to be married to a nice but fairly dull girl. And then he talks to a spider.

His brother (Spider) turns up to get to know his brother, and of course turns Fat Charlie’s life upside down. Spider takes after his father when it comes to godliness, and is able to make things happen by his will. He’s suave, cool, and everything Fat Charlie isn’t. He over stays his welcome and Fat Charlie decides to get rid of him. And makes a big mess of everything, putting himself in danger at the same time. And then that other tricksy god takes advantage, while Fat Charlie is arrested for fraud and finds himself quite liking the police woman investigating the case (when he’s not on the run from birds that is).

There are other little stories happening at the same time that all come together nicely in the end. Characters I expected to be around for a couple of scenes to help the story move along, and then disappear, actually had a bigger part to play. When I first finished the book I thought it was wrapped up a little too nicely, the ending too neat and tidy, and everyone gets what they want. But now I see that it’s not the kind of book where it would end any other way. It’s not deep or profound, and yet it certainly has its moments of making you think. Though it’s a story of gods and other worlds, with elements of magic and myth, in the end it’s a story about family, and the ties that bind. It’s a story about the relationship between parents and children, how children can disappoint, that parents will embarrass, and you’ll never really understand the way your parents work until you are one, and become a source of eye rolling for your own children. And so the circle continues.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here. And check here for more of Teabelly’s reviews.

Cannonball Read / Teabelly

Books | January 12, 2009 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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