My rating: 4.5 stars.
A dark and humorous novel about the things we settle for in pursuit of a ‘comfortable’ life and the chaos that can invite itself into our lives regardless. This is also a novel about ancient gods, magic, love, tax evasion and limes. In typical Neil Gaiman fashion it’s a quirky story that examines common feelings, in this case ‘settling’.
Protagonist Fat Charlie has an ok job as an accountant, he has an ok relationship with his fiancé Rosie – who has agreed to marry him mostly to spite her mother- and he has an ok flat to live in. For Fat Charlie life is ok, and he likes it that way. It looks set to continue in this vein until his estranged father unexpectedly passes away and Fat Charlie discovers he has a brother no one has ever mentioned to him. Once Fat Charlie opens his comfortable little world up to his brother Spider every aspect of his comfortable life starts to twist and crack. The flat is about the only thing that doesn’t disintegrate entirely.
This is the kind of book to read without expecting too much, or knowing too much about where the plot is going, to be able to be surprised by the unexpected evolutions of characters is one of the greatest joys of this story.
“It’s easier to say true things in the dark”
There were so many great lines in this book, that reveal the depth of meaning in the story, despite the humorous surface. One of my favourites was: “Anyone who calls you ‘little lady’ has already excluded you from the set of people worth listening to”. To me that’s a brilliant little quote to illustrate the frustrations of being a professional woman in a patriarchal society. The speaker, Daisy, a female police officer, frequently comes up against discrimination from both within and without the police force. Though it’s not a central plot line I was glad to see it included.
The other unmissable quote is “The world’s the same but the wallpaper’s changed” a reflection on the power of stories and their significance in shaping how we see the world. A brilliant story doesn’t actually change the world around us, but it can definitely change the way we perceive it. To search for those stories, or to read critically and find meanings which change our views within stories is one of the great pleasures of reading.
On my experience of reading: To love a book more the second time around is a rare and wonderful thing. I read Anansi Boys for the first time just over 10 years ago, and I enjoyed it enough, though not as much as Neverwhere, to start looking out Gaiman’s work whenever I was browsing a bookstore. Reading it for a second time as an audiobook -and as an adult- was a completely different experience. I loved the audiobook narration by Lenny Henry, his voice was so perfect for Fat Charlie and he nailed all the accents, from the narcissistic Graham Coates to the ancient Mrs. Dunwiddy. The slower pace of the audiobook also helped me to appreciate the humour and the slowly building plot.
“Do you have any luggage?” “No, just this lime.”
I will look forward to rereading Anansi Boys again in a few more years, it’s going to be a story that I can easily enjoy many times. Most of all I can’t recommend the audiobook highly enough, the narration suits the story perfectly.