Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman introduced Compe Anansi, the African spider-god and trickster, as a minor character in his previous bestseller 'American Gods'. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman takes the character and background of the African (or by now African-American) god Anansi and plays with the god mythos with highly original results.

Anansi himself is a brilliantly memorable character; a dapper, fedora-wearing, wisecracking, Cab Calloway lookalike with an eye for the ladies (even after death) and a soft-shoe shuffle "that was popular for about half an hour in Harlem in the 1920's". Of course, that makes him a constant source of toe-curling mortification to his estranged son Fat Charlie.

When the story opens, Fat Charlie is living mundanely in South London, with a lukewarm fiancée, a mother-in-law-to-be from Hell, and a job working for a man who resembles the psychotic twin of Reggie Perrin's boss. He's one of life's mysteriously selected fall guys - his father plays humiliating jokes on him as a kid, promotion passes him over; coffee gets spilt on his lap, his embarrassing nickname survives weight loss and a 3000-mile move across the Atlantic, a wrongful arrest causes neighbours to assume that he must be a Yardie. Things, however, are about to get worse ... far, far worse.



Things start to spiral downward when his fiancée, Rosie, insists on inviting his father to their wedding. Fat Charlie finds out that his father has just died, and goes to Florida for the funeral. This sets of a sequence of events that will introduce Fat Charlie to his charming brother, Spider, a man with the powers of a god. The powers of his father, truth be told. Spider is impulsive and always looking out for his own pleasure, which just makes things worse. But things just get out of control when the other gods get involved. Their father, who is known as Anansi, wasn't exactly well-liked by the other gods, and their revenge may just affect the boys too. Fat Charlie is in way over his head and, for once, so is Spider. Even the old ladies who seem to know what is going on may not be able to help them before it's too late.

As with "American Gods", there's a certain amount of magic. Appropriately, it often appears as verbal trickery, so that you can watch the storyteller shifting the perceptions of the listener as they talk. In one of the best scenes, Fat Charlie's boss tries to sack his twin brother Spider, and the usual redundancy spiel goes horribly wrong...

Buy Anansi Boys from Amazon.com or buy Anansi Boys from Amazon.co.uk.

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Last updated by Jack on 18 April, 2008 in Reading.

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