Anansi Boys Review – Richmond Times Dispatch

From the October 2nd Richmond Times Dispatch:

Just on a lark, or out of frustration with his bumbling, humdrum life in London, Charles Nancy whispers to a spider.

Hardly expecting his long-forgotten, magical, inconsiderate brother to arrive, steal his fiancee and ruin his attempts at a life, Fat Charlie, as he’s known by most, soon regrets his indiscretion.

“Anansi Boys,” Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, tells the story of those two brothers, the story of how they came to be and what they might become. In a humorous blend of modern inanity and African folklore, Gaiman tells a fantastical tale of “remembering who you are” and becoming whole.

It’s a fun, easy-to-read story filled with music. After Gaiman’s repeated references to the tune “Yellow Bird” and a little bit of research on my part, I am now a full-blown addict to the breezy, Caribbean melodies by the tune’s composer, Arthur Lyman. It’s very appropriate background music.

The novel’s cast is small and memorable. There are the four old, very old, black women in eastern Florida who knew the enigmatic, fedora-wearing father, Mr. Nancy. They also know the story of why Fat Charlie has a brother named Spider who can “make things happen.” Unfortunately for Fat Charlie, the wizened crones rarely speak in anything but riddles.

Then there is Fat Charlie’s boss, Graham Coats, who is a caricature of the worst, the very worst, kind of London businessman. Coats starts out as a mere adage-spitting thorn in Fat Charlie’s side until he pounds a hammer into someone else’s head.

There are also some love interests, one antagonistic mother of a love interest and an endearing ghost of a woman whose head was bludgeoned by Coats. Those characters are more two-dimensional than the rest, but they function as effective catalysts as well as entertaining side stories.

Multitudes of cave-dwelling animal gods at the beginning of the world serve as a philosophical backdrop. They are the song and the singers of existence. They also hate their fellow god Anansi the Trickster, who is Mr. Nancy, Fat Charlie’s dad.

They lie in wait for a chance to take revenge on Anansi for all the tricks he’s played throughout the history of the world, and Fat Charlie, unwittingly, gives them that chance.

This comic novel is definitely a departure from Gaiman’s previous, serious work, “American Gods.” However, the deep, metaphorical possibilities singing beneath a laughter-inspiring story will, most likely, only secure and strengthen the author’s already expansive fan base.
–Will Carter