Anansi Boys: book review


“Stories are webs, interconnected strand to strand, and you follow each story to the center, because the center is the end. Each person is a strand of story.”

Neil Gaiman, author of the bestseller American Gods, returns to the realm of mythology, masterfully weaving the West African mythos into the modern era. Anansi Boys is a reimagining of West African/Caribbean folklore, with our protagonist Charles “Fat Charlie” Nancy, witnessing his father dying on a karaoke stage. Fat Charlie works a dead-end job at a talent agency, and has a boss, Graham Coats, who has not got good work ethic or morals. Fat Charlie has got one good thing in life, and that’s his girlfriend Rosie Noah. This story is filled with mythical gods from West Africa, such as Tiger, the malevolent god who once owned every story until Anansi tricked Tiger into giving him all the stories. Other Gods include Bird Women, who has a vendetta against Ansansi for reasons unknown.

Credit: Alice Jordan

During Fat Charlie’s mourning stage, while living in London with Rosie, his life takes an unexpected turn. He discovers he has a brother, who was shunned from the family by the begrudged old lady neighbour. Also, his father is actually the reincarnation of Anansi, the trickster spider god of West Africa, making Fat Charlie a Demigod – with no powers. He reaches out to his brother, aptly named ‘Spider’ by talking to an arachnid. The morning after, a lean, handsome, charming man shows up to his door. Spider is the opposite of Fat Charlie, and is everything Fat Charlie wants to be, Spider brings Charlie on a wild night out, eventually leading to Fat Charlie meeting Daisy, a detective. Spider, with his powers of trickery and manipulation, impersonates Fat Charlie, essentially making Charlie the version he has always wanted to be.

This plan goes perfect for Spider, taking over Fat Charlie’s job, and seduces his brother’s fiancé, making her fall in love with this new and improved Fat Charlie. Spider has always wanted a normal life, and eventually he gets it, leaving Fat Charlie in this cliche sitcom style situation trying to figure out why his fiancee is suddenly more loving towards him. Spider, through magic and logic, figures out that Graham Coats has been embezzling money to an offshore account from his clients for years, and has been using Fat Charlie as a scapegoat. Spider outs Mr. Coats and in an act of cowardice, murders one of his longest clients and escapes to the Cayman Islands, where he had always planned to go. Fat Charlie and Daisy follow Graham, after the startling revelation made by Spider, and thwart his plans and eventually he’s arrested.

With many subplots running through this story, it can be hard to keep track of where you are and whose story you’re following but, as stated in the book, stories are just webs connected by strands intertwined, which Gaiman threads through perfectly. Each story eventually connects leading to the middle of the web with a satisfying finish. The main theme of this novel is stories, and how each story of someone impacts another, in the same way that touching a strand of a web impacts the rest of it.

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