When you come to an author for the first time you never know where is a good place to start. By default this was the only Neil Gaiman that the local library stocked so it made sense to pick up the heavy hardback of the Anansi Boys.
It’s hard to describe quite what you discover here as the tale of Fat Charlie moves from the straightforward into something completely fantastic. The humour is there from the start but the switch into fantasy happens with the introduction of a brother, Spider, who sweeps into Fat Charlie’s world and turns it upside down. The reason why this book works even when bird women are flying through the streets of London and a tiger is stalking a parallel universe is because there is a story there that is accessible.
As Fat Charlie’s boss dips his fingers in the till and rips off his clients it is a loose comment by Spider that starts an avalanche that is almost plausible in the real world. As the mixture of the worlds of old mixes with the new the other story that you want to develop and see to its conclusion is the ugly duckling turned hero. This is all fuelled by humour that shows a deep understanding of what gets smiles on both sides of the Atlantic.
From the perspective of using literature as escapism it is hard to beat this. The fantasy is not overdone for those that like to keep their feet in the real world but the book acts as a door to another world where there are happy endings and even crazy bird women can end up being satisfied. See this for what it is a clever, witty and imaginative tale told by a writer of talent. Those looking for some headache inducing tale of love and loss will have to look elsewhere.
A great introduction to Gaiman and waiting at some point is American Gods…