Friday, April 11, 2008

The stories belong to Anansi

Fat Charlie Nancy is not, in fact, fat - but when he was a kid and was just a bit plump, his father started calling him that, and - as with every nickname his father ever gave anything - it stuck. Fat Charlie has a complicated relationship with his father. Complicated in the sense that Fat Charlie does not want to invite his father to his upcoming wedding because he knows that, as always, his father will make him incredibly, excruciatingly embarrassed.

Rosie, Charlie's very kind fiancée, won't think of not inviting his father to their wedding - so Charlie tries to get in touch with him, only to find out that his father has just died. Charlie flies from London, where he lives, to Florida, where he grew up, for the funeral. There an elderly neighbor tells him that he has a brother - a brother he has never even heard of! How to get in touch with this mysterious brother, Charlie asks? "Just tell a spider," says the old woman. And when, a bit drunk, Charlie later does just that, the last thing that he expects is for his brother to turn up, shake up his life and push him over the edge into a world in which the ancient gods from African stories are living, breathing, powerful creatures. Oh, and one of them is Charlie's dad.

Gaiman weaves a hilarious tale with the skill of a (I can't resist) spider, with gods and goddesses, a dedicated policewoman, a charismatic brother with unusual abilities, the most annoying boss ever to appear in a novel, some wonderfully odd (and powerful) little old ladies, an unforgettable mother-in-law-to-be, and a nasty, villainous tiger bent on revenge.

Aside from Gaiman's masterful storytelling, which never fails to pull me into a tale and make it utterly believable, no matter how far-fetched the plot may be, Lenny Henry's narration of this story is immensely effective. He does the voices of characters so well that I could tell, without dialog tags, who was speaking at any time. He does East End accents, Caribbean accents, American accents, and when he goes into storyteller mode, recounting the adventures of Anansi the spider, it evokes a starry night, firelight, and rapt attention from a crowd of listeners.

I read this book for the Mythopoeic Award Challenge, and I have loved every one of these books so far!

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman; narrated by Lenny Henry (HarperAudio, 2005)

Other blog reviews:
Rhinoa's Ramblings
Bold Blue Adventure
Brother Willow's Walk


  1. I am reading now American Gods which is a prequel of sorts to this books. I have this one lined up next!

  2. I haven't read American Gods yet, but it's definitely on my list. I highly recommend listening to this one - what a storyteller! I'll be looking forward to your review of American Gods - I've heard it's not quite as funny as this, but I'm sure I'll like it anyway. :-)

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much :) I'm going to revisit it later this year for the Mythopoeic Challenge, and I'm looking forward to it.

    I keep hearing wonders about the audiobook...I'd love to give it a try.

  4. Lenny Henry is a brilliant impersonator as well as being a very famous stand-up comedian in the UK. I don't normally *do* audio books but it's very tempting just to hear him, I bet he's fantastic. Whatever, I must get to this book. I'm currently reading Gaiman's 'Fragile Things' antholgy but have never read any of his full length novels. It's time.

  5. The audio of this is fantastic! I'm glad you enjoyed it. More often than not I prefer Neil reading his own stories, but George Guidal's rendering of American Gods and Lenny Henry's reading of Anansi Boys are exactly perfect for the stories. Even if a person has read the book I highly recommend either buying this or checking it out from your library because it is wonderful.

  6. I enjoyed this as well. I hope to listen to the autdio version to hear Lenny Henry bringing it to life.

  7. i believe the only gaiman i've read is his collaboration with pratchett, "good omens." (i know, bad me.) but this reminded me that i have one of his books here. i'm on book 5 of my 10-that-i-own goal. maybe i'll add him.

  8. This was a good book. I read it soon after I finished American Gods.

  9. Nymeth - I can see why you'd like to revisit this one. I do think you should give the audio a try - it was phenomenal!

    Cath - I had never heard of Lenny Henry till I listened to this book, but now I want to hunt down and listen to everything the guy has ever done. He is amazing.

    Carl - I'm glad to hear you listened to and enjoyed this one on audio. And given your recommendation, I think I'll listen to American Gods, too - and I'll have to look up audiobooks of Gaiman reading his own short stories. That sounds like a lot of fun!

    Rhinoa - you will love listening to this!

    Molly - you are ahead of me on that particular challenge, but I just started reading one to the girls tonight that (incredibly) is not a library book. So I can add that to the list when we're done. Which Gaiman will you be reading?

    Ladytink - I guess I really need to get to American Gods soon! I'm glad you enjoyed this one, too. :-)

  10. I need to get this one on Audio Book. I've heard that it's wonderful and you've just made that point even more clear! I adore this book. I had so much fun reading it and you were right on in saying that he makes any world he writes wholly believable. And I second everyone who said that you must read American Gods ;) It's my favorite of his!

  11. Chris - Your favorite? Now I really can't wait to read it. And yes, yes, you really do have to listen to Anansi Boys - you will love it!

  12. Little mistake at the beginning, ROSIE is Charlie's first fiancee, not daisy. Great book.

  13. Oops! Thanks for catching that, anonymous visitor! I fixed it. That's one of the difficulties of reviewing an audio book. Thanks for stopping by!


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