Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Anansi Boys

by Neil Gaiman


Some parents are embarrassing. Fat Charlie Nancy's karaoke-singing father makes his son cringe more than most, with his practical jokes and his lounging and flirting, and the way he gives people nicknames that tend to stick. Fat Charlie is so mortified by his dad's behaviour that he hasn't spoken to him in years, and doesn't even want to invite him to his forthcoming wedding.

Only Charlie doesn't get the chance to snub his father, because he's already dead. It's the first of many shocks for the young man, who discovers that his father was actually Anansi the spider-god, and that he has a brother, Spider, who had somehow slipped his mind for most of his life.

Charlie's an unassuming accountant who hasn't advanced far in his career at the Grahame Coats Agency. His boss walks all over him, and his fiancées mother doesn't approve of him. But these are things Fat Charlie can put up with. What he can't stand is Spider moving in with him, taking over his life, and turning everything upside-down.

Fat Charlie wants Spider to leave. But how can he get rid of an overconfident sibling who seems to have inherited all of his father's godlike powers, whilst Charlie is merely ordinary?

Anansi Boys is an appealing mix of mythology, modern-day crime, and comedy. Fat Charlie is sympathetic because although he's reserved, he's never so shy that it merges into cowardice. Then there are characters like Daisy the enthusiastic policewoman, and old Mrs Higgler the witchy neighbour, and Grahame Coats, who talks almost exclusively in clichés. These people ground the narrative in the believable and everyday, whilst there's always something just a little bit absurd about them. Putting them in the same story as mythical beings such as Tiger and Anansi and the other animal-gods seems eccentric. Yet it works.

Neil Gaiman's confident, inspired prose knits the unexpected into a tale that's both scary and touching. It deals with themes of family life, of grief and embarrassment, of family ties and rivalries, and finding one's own voice. These universal themes contrast with the crazy goings-on of a family affected by the magic of the gods. Anansi Boys is an impressively inventive romp, as tricksy and fun-loving as the spider god himself.

19th May 2010

Book Details

Year: 2005

Categories: Books

  Male Protagonist  

If you like this, try:

Mirrormask cover    

Mirrormask by Dave McKean
Weirdness abounds in this story of a girl, her mother, and a very peculiar dream.

Coraline cover    

Coraline by Henry Selick
Coraline Jones feels bored and neglected, and is ready to swap her workaholic parents for more attentive and loving substitutes.


Hell's Belles by Paul Magrs
Weird things happen when a film crew come to Whitby to remake a cursed horror movie. The fourth Brenda and Effie mystery.

5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Neil Gaiman