Growing up in West Africa, I came across the tales of Anansi the Spider a few times. With a few storytellers around, these tales were just some of many I heard or read. Over the years, I’ve gained even more appreciation for Anansi the trickster spider-god.
Neil Gaiman’s work pays respects to modern Anansi’s journey out of Ghana, into its Caribbean heritage, and unto wider relevance and enjoyment.
I found this book to be exquisitely layered, and sublimely entertaining.
While I read dozens of non-fiction books every year, I’ve generally ignored nonfiction books for about 30 years. In the last 20+ years, I’ve only added 2 nonfiction reads. The first was “A series of unfortunate events” by Lemony Snicket (during the early pandemic period). This is my second.
It’s also the first time I’ve “read” through an audiobook of fiction, so I’m not even sure if the 10 hours I spent listening to this can be considered “reading”.
The story follows “Fat Charlie” Nancy, the embittered son of Anansi. Charlie has fled to England to keep as much distance as he can between himself and his complicated relationship with his father. With a big life event coming up, he’s resisting the pressure to reconnect with his father, only to get some news from back home in America that triggers an unforeseen series of events – and a journey of transformation.
There’s an entertaining unruliness to the blows and chaos Charlie has to absorb as the story gets going. You start to sense that this isn’t going to be an easy, predictable or pain-free romp for our hero, but in the end, you understand why things had to be that way.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so I’ll just say that I found the dialogue, and the prose to be engaging and rich, the characters to be sharply drawn, and the expressions of “magical realism” (if that’s what it’s called) to be somehow intuitively accessible and thought-provoking.
SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
Having gone through this book, I now understand why Neil Gaiman’s writing gets to the screen so often. His evocative descriptions of dreamy half-realities – fantastical places, characters and situations – brought the book to life for me.
Finally, I must say – after some early “misalignment” with the audiobook experience, I was completely blown away – often chuckling with humor in unexpected places – in ways that I suspect only the audio experience could have delivered. Since this is only my second time consuming an audiobook, and my first fiction audiobook, I wasn’t prepared for just how engaging this turned out to be.
I might be hooked on audiobooks for the foreseeable future. I hope not. I don’t need a new bibliophile addiction in my life.
If magical realism with a touch of everyday modernity is your thing, or you caught “American Gods” on TV, but haven’t read any of the related books, this could be a great one for you to check out.
Till next time,