This modern-day folklore is a wonderfully written mixture of magical fantasy and hilarious mix-ups that give a romantic-comedy-like feel to an intriguing plot and an all-around pleasant read.
We have all heard his stories. Whether we heard them from someone or read some variation of them in a children’s book, and whether we know him as Anansi the Spider or another one of the identities he has gained over the years (such as Bre’er Rabbit), we’ve all heard his stories. However, we have never heard an Anansi story that takes place in modern-day London – until now.
The New York Times named Anansi Boys a bestseller for a reason. This perfect mixture of magic, romance, relatives, mishaps, and mayhem – complete with a well-rounded set of characters who promise to make you laugh – creates an all-around good read.
The story begins with Fat Charlie Nancy, an average man who lives an average life and works an average job. In fact, the only thing un-average about him is an irrational fear of being embarrassed in front of a large crowd of people. However, Fat Charlie (who is actually not fat at all) soon experiences massive disruptions in his content averageness when his father dies – an event that leads to the discovery that his father was a god, a reunion with family members he never knew existed, accusations against him of felonious crimes, and his transportation to the beginning of the Earth, among other things.
Fat Charlie’s tale is written in the spirit of many of Gaiman’s other works, which can be characterized by a blend of modern fiction and classic folklore that create entertaining and intriguing new worlds for their audiences. Gaiman has written many popular novels including Fragile Things and the award-winning, unofficial prequel to Anansi Boys, American Gods. He has also made a name for himself in the film industry, writing and co-writing the screenplays to many films, including recently released Beowulf and Stardust (an adaptation of his own book).
While some may find the novel lacking in the suspense and drama department, they will find that it excels in the light-hearted, comedic realm. Anansi Boys has a playful view on the darkness of the world, not to mention a few good love triangles that would make Shakespeare smile. In fact, the book resembles a Shakespearean comedy in many ways. For example, A Midsummer Night’s Dream shares the common idea of immortal superiority over mortals. Both authors demonstrate this idea through the way mortals are treated by the supernatural beings. Just as the fairies use the turmoil experienced by the group of young humans as their source of entertainment in Shakespeare’s play, in Anansi Boys, both Fat Charlie’s father and his brother, Spider, treat mortals as objects for their personal amusement. Furthermore, these two works are especially similar because in both, this toying with human emotions causes several disastrous love triangles around which both plots revolve.
The basic plot of Anansi Boys, however, can be best summed up in a quote found in the second chapter:
Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look so pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each.
With his novel, Gaiman effectively creates the illusion of his story as a spider web. He takes the different threads of the stories of various characters and elegantly connects each to each, until a finished product is created. As Gaiman switches his narration from character to character, the reader can visualize the seemingly obscure threads of stories coming together and slowly weaving their way into a web, all meeting at an exciting climax. The final product is, in fact, a work of art that will leave you with plenty of food for thought…and imagination. I would recommend getting tangled up in this story.