Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman: A Review

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Anyone who has ever read anything by Gaiman knows how excentric and unique his stories are. Something about the way Gaiman thinks in present in almost everything he’s ever written; the man has a spark other authors can only dream of. Until I read Anansi Boys however, I was unaware of just how Gaiman uses simplistic devises to formulate intricate plot-lines with hundreds of themes running through them. Brilliance is not the word for it.

Despite masquerading as a sequel to the masterfully crafted American Gods the novel acts as more of a spin-off, utilizing Anansi, one of the minor characters from the original piece, building a comedy around his family. Other than a few crypic reference to its predessor the book can really stand alone, and is a much easier read than it’s predessor. The structure of the story follows the design of a spider-web circling several story-strands around different themes until they all meet in a complex but well-formed centre. Considering the tale is spun around the mischief of a spider-god, this narrative-style is very appropriate indeed. Language is simple, and peppered with the carefree attitude which adorned some of the god’s stories in the original.

The storyline centres around the unfortunate, but soon to be wed Fat Charlie Nancy, after his embaressing and prank-loving father dies during a drunken karioke night. Truth about who his father is begins to seep into his life with the arrival of a long-lost brother called Spider, who quickly becomes very attached to Fat Charlie’s humble lifestyle.  

Characters come in all shapes and sizes in this novel from an unlucky protagonist with a hatred for his nickname, to a disgruntled mother-in-law-to-be, and the interaction between the myriad of personalities is both believable and very funny. Gaiman mixes the comedy of real-life errors with the spectacular humour of magical realism through a series of character driven events. I’ve always liked the way Gaiman’s plots are never predestined. The characters create the messes and then they clean them up. They’re colourful and realistic. Following from the themes in American Gods Gaiman interweaves the relationships between Gods and men through the Nancy brothers, running with the idea that in reality there’s very little distance between the two.

Hidden amougst the hilarity are some touching lessons about taking the best of bad situations, and being confident enough to sing-your-story. It’ll make you laugh, and touch your heart at the most unexpected moments.


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