Neil Gaiman+ Lenny Henry = Twice the Entertainment
I like Neil Gaiman’s style — his writing is easy, intelligent, well-edited, dryly humorous, and just plain charming.
Anansi Boys is no exception, and it’s especially charming in audio format, thanks to Lenny Henry, an English stand-up comedian whose deep rich voice and character comedy is absolutely perfect for this novel which is based on the African/Caribbean mythology of the trickster spider god Anansi (introduced in American Gods). Henry’s voices are brilliant (especially the old Caribbean women) and he had me literally smiling nearly all the way through the story. Actually, if it weren’t for Lenny Henry, I’d have to say that I probably would only give this novel 3.5 stars instead of 4.
That’s because this is not Gaiman’s tightest work. It’s about Fat Charlie, a Floridian turned Englishman, who was leading a rather dull life as an honest accountant until the brother he didn’t know he had turns up and he finds out that they are both the sons of the god Anansi. This is all very entertaining, especially for a Floridian who enjoyed Charlie’s travels to places I know, and Gaiman tells his humorous story with the usual charm:
Fat Charlie tried to remember what people did in prison to pass the time, but all he could come up with was keeping secret diaries and hiding things in their bottoms. He had nothing to write on, and felt that a definite measure of how well one was getting on in life was not having to hide things in one’s bottom…
Nothing happened. Nothing continued to happen. More Nothing. The Return of Nothing. Son of Nothing. Nothing Rides Again. Nothing and Abbott and Costello meet the Wolfman…
But at the end there were some things I still didn’t understand: what exactly was the origin of Spider (I can’t say as much as I’d like to about this because I don’t want to spoil it), why weren’t the other gods (and even Anansi himself) more fully characterized? The scenes involving the god-world were sketchy — we really get only a minimal understanding of Tiger, Anansi’s eternal enemy — and Charlie’s sudden understanding and acceptance of his powers happens too fast. And then there were some oddities that just didn’t seem to fit in — like the ghost of one of Charlie’s boss’s clients.
But, even with these minor disappointments, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this novel because Neil Gaiman wrote it and Lenny Henry read it. Recommended in audio format.