It is hard – very hard – to go wrong with Neil Gaiman. He’s an almost perfect storyteller and the worlds he conjures up are interesting, thoughtful and vibrant. Anansi Boys is up there with the best of his work. It is a delightful novel.
Partly a form of sequel to American Gods – but only in so much as the character of Anansi appears in both and so one could say we are in the same universe as the American Gods -there is a very different feel to this novel. Firstly, there’s more of a ‘British’ feel to it, as opposed to the ‘American’-ness of the other. The character of Fat Charlie is a modern-day Arthur Dent – someone who simply wants to lead an dull ordinary life without interruption from his father and definitely with no singing. Needless to say, Fat Charlie doesn’t get his way – despite the novel opening with his father having just died.
What ensues is part murder mystery, part fantasy, part farce. What a dreadful combination this would be in the hands of a lesser writer – me, for instance – but Gaiman doesn’t put a foot wrong. Not only does it work well, but my personal acid test – do I care what happens to the characters when the last page is turned – is wholeheartedly passed. If ever Gaiman was to write a true sequel to something, this would be it. I want to know what happens after the inevitable ‘ever-after’. I am sure it would be more mayhem for poor Charlie.
It is possible not to like Neil Gaiman (although I would warn my children to stay away from you if you do) and I would say that if American Gods, Norse Mythology, The Sandman or Good Omens left you unmoved then Anansi Boys is not for you. But may the gods have pity on your soul, if so.
For the rest of you: it’s a must-read – especially if you really enjoyed American Gods. Yes, it is very British in its rendering and humour, but (and I don’t often praise the British) this is what we’re good at; and Gaiman is exceptionally good at it. My understanding is that the BBC has had a stab at broadcasting the novel and, by all accounts, made a right hash of it. This is a pity because this kind of story is exactly what the Beeb are good at doing. It is a pity when cutbacks and bad editorial decisions get in the way of what should have been a match made in heaven. But then, making a hash of things is very much a British characteristic to so…I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
The book isn’t a shambles. It is a rare thing. A light, good-humoured book with just the right level of darkness, intellect and plot to avoid becoming a trashy, throw-away book, while at the same time avoiding the heaviness of, say, The Sandman or even American Gods itself. Fat Charlie and all the characters he meets as a result of his father’s death, is a joy to be around. Go spend some time with him; but stay away from his brother (and don’t listen to his dad).
Social Entrepreneur, educationalist, bestselling author and journalist, D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. His third book is ‘Try not to Laugh’ and is a guide to memorising, revising and passing exams for students.
Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media. The novel,’The Pukur’, was published by Histria Books in 2022.
D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at email@example.com. Alternatively, he is available for one-to-one mentoring and runs a course on the psychology of writing. Listen to his life story in interview with the BBC here.
Ken writes for a number of publications around the world. Past reviewer for Paste magazine, The Doughnut, E2D and United Airways and Lancashire Life magazine. Currently reviews for Northern Arts Review. His reviews have been read more than 5.5 million times.