Fat Charlie got his name from his father Anansi, and for those who don’t know who he is–like me–Anansi is an African god popular in folktales. Remember the tale of Brier Rabbit? It is based on the tales of Anansi The Trickster who often appeared as a spider or a man in his folktales. Unfortunately for Fat Charlie, he didn’t know his father was a god or a trickster. He also didn’t know he had an equally tricky brother.
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman is an engaging story about Charles Nancy whom everyone calls Fat Charlie because his father gave him that nickname and whatever name Anansi gives things, it sticks. Fat Charlie grew up in England with his mother after she left her husband Mr. Nancy (Anansi) and Florida in the US. He’s always been wary and complacent probably, because of all the tricks is father played on him as a child. Fat Charlie and his father did not have the best of relationships and so it takes a fluke phone call to find out that his father has died.
As Fat Charlie travels back to Florida to take care of his father’s affairs, he finds out that (1) his father was a god (Can god’s die? You’ll have to read to see), and (2) he has a brother. When Fat Charlie’s brother Spider enters the scene only trouble can follow.
I enjoyed this book. I listened to the audio version read by Lenny Henry. He was excellent with the voices and accents, bringing each character alive. Many of the characters are from Saint Andrews in the Caribbean and several others from London. I was thoroughly entertained by not only the development of the characters, but also Henry’s ability to bring them to life, authentically I thought. I liked every character even though I was a little angry with Fat Charlie for not standing up for himself early on. But each character has to have time to grow.
The settings were great. The reader follows Fat Charlie through Florida, London and Saint Andrews. The feel of each place contrasts with each other. It provides that physical disruption to match the emotional disruption happening inside of Fat Charlie as memories and new experiences turn his life upside down.
The dialog is easy to follow and flows well. I did enjoy the banter.
The fantasy element is what makes the story shine to me. It pulled me in and taught me some about folktales and a bit of magic in the history of oral storytelling. The plot is engaging and peculiar.
Neil Gaiman is also the author of Stardust (one of my favorite movies) and Coraline. He has a bit of a quirky style of writing. I highly recommend this book.
Rating 5/5 stars