Written by Neil Gaiman
Performed by Lenny Henry
Published by Harper Audio
Fat Charlie Nancy has a relatively normal, even somewhat boring life. He works as an accountant for a talent agency, has a lovely fiancÃ© named Rosie, and goes about his daily life rather matter-of-factly. Pressed by Rosie to invite his estranged father to their wedding, he learns that his father has just died. When he travels from his home in London to his childhood home in Florida for the funeral, an old friend of the family, Mrs. Higgler, informs him that his father was actually the trickster god Anansi, as well as the fact that Fat Charlie has a brother he never knew. She tells him rather mysteriously that if he wishes to find his brother, he should just tell a spider.
Gaiman has delivered a wonderful time with this novel. It lacks the meandering, purposeless feel that I got from American Gods, but keeps his theme of gods mixing with ordinary humans. Fat Charlie is a character you can empathize with (unlike in Gods where the character I couldn’t give a damn about), and embodies the insecurities that everyone feels in their lives. The plot, although it does have twists and turns aplenty, stays on track and pulls you along with it in a marvelous way. And there are lots of trademark Gaiman witticisms to enjoy. Any book that makes you laugh out loud is a good thing, but one that combines that laughter with dark suspense at the drop of a hat is clever and even more fun. This is the kind of book that I will be rereading in the future and enjoying all over again.
The audiobook is one of the best read I have ever listened to. And I’ve listened to a slew of them. Lenny Henry is a veritable spoken word god who is able to take many characters and give them incredibly distinct voices. The voices he has for the animalistic gods whom Fat Charlie encounters are primal and make your hair stand on end just a little. His regular accent that he reads the narrative bits with sounds just a little like Gaiman’s to me, which brings the personality of the book to life that much more. Listening to him has inspired me to check out his other theatrical endeavors, just because I’d love to see what else he does so well.
Anansi Boys is a fine novel. If you have the chance to pick up the audiobook version, it is well worth having, and in some ways, superior to the paper and print experience. I feel like this novel is the Gaiman I know and love, as opposed to how I felt about the last novel (sorry, just didn’t like it).