Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Shadow had done three years in prison."

June 19th is the tenth anniversary of the release of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Not many novels have their anniversaries celebrated and so I couldn't resist reading it right now (not to mention the number of times that it's been recommended to me by many of you readers when I show it on my TBR list). Now that I've finished, I can definitely understand the celebration of this novel as an essential piece of the American literary canon.

Shadow is a convict, getting ready to finish his sentence and head home to his beautiful wife. He ends up being released early though due to his wife's accidental death, and on his way home he is approached by a mysterious older gentleman who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. Soon after, Shadow is working for Wednesday and moving back and forth across America, meeting other strange characters and discovering that the new world may have more ties to the old than he ever could have believed.

There were parts of this story that were difficult to read because of their graphic nature (violent and sexual). There were other parts that were uplifting and beautiful. The characters (including many gods, as you can guess by the title) were fascinating and diverse. I couldn't put this one down and I was constantly amazed by the way that Gaiman pieced together so many myths and histories in a subtle and seamless way. When I started the book, I wasn't even sure I would like it but, by the end, I was convinced that it is the kind of novel that changes you as you read it. It won't change your beliefs but rather will cause you to question if you should believe or not. I plan to brush up on world mythologies and then to read the anniversary edition of this novel which is longer and is Gaiman's "preferred edition". There will be a live webchat with Neil Gaiman about the novel on June 21st (I don't see a time listed yet but will update if I find one), the day the anniversary edition is released.

This is another of my reads for the Once Upon a Time V Challenge.

Saying a little prayer, just in case,

Support our site and buy American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition: A Novel on Amazon or find it at your local library. We bought our own copy of this novel.


  1. I liked this book but I agree, some parts are a little too graphic and icky for my taste. But I LOVE Anansi Boys which is a somewhat related story. It's one of my all-time favorites, if you haven't read it I highly recommend it.

  2. The copy I have is Neil Gaiman's preferred text, so I wonder how it differs from your version?

    I agree, it's one of those books which stays with you long after you've finished it - but equally, I used the words gross, disturbing and violent, as well as poignant and blackly-humorous to describe it - it definitely grabs you by the throat.

  3. I am a big fan of Gaiman's work and I too do not enjoy the graphic sexuality and violence of some of his stories. American Gods is an excellent book, but I could honestly do without a few of those vignettes. It will be interesting to see what is added to the preferred text.

    Anansi Boys is wonderful too, as is the novella about Shadow that follows events after American Gods. It is in the Fragile Things collection and is called Monarch of the Glen. Well worth reading!

  4. One of these days I WILL get around to reading some Neil Gaiman. It seems pathetic that I have yet to read an author that so many book bloggers are gaga over!

  5. *sigh* I'm sad that I live in New York where Neil Gaiman will be on Tuesday, talking about this book, but cannot go to listen to him talk about this book. I think it's so cool when authors release better versions of books -- I was elated when I discovered the UK version of Neverwhere that contains all these passages not included in the US version.

  6. I picked up a copy of Neil's Authors Preferred Edition of Neverwhere and have yet to read it. I think it is about time.

    And yes, that is sad. I think I'd be going crazy if Neil was in my city and I couldn't see him. I feel your pain.

  7. I've really not read enough by Gaiman. Coraline - that's it. I want to read Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book, as I've heard mixed opinions on this one. However, you review makes it sound pretty damn good.

  8. Not one I've read... yet, but one I may just check out. Thanks :)

  9. Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book are both great places to sample more of Gaiman's work. I'm especially fond of both. Neither of these have the violence or sexuality that American Gods does and while neither of them is as complex a story they are both really wonderful books.

  10. Karen - I will definitely have to pick up Anansi Boys next as I work through Gaiman's work. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Tracy - I think they released the preferred text in the UK already but not here in the US until now.

    Carl - Gaiman is definitely a unique author. I also love him but am not sure I could always explain why because many of his stories are not my favorites. But they have a certain quality that sets him apart. And I read Fragile Things a while ago but didn't know about Shadow then so I will definitely be re-reading that story!

    Jenners - It took me a long time to start on my way through his works. I don't love everything by him but I also think that he's an author that's written something for almost every reader.

    Jenny - I'm not going to make it to see him here in Seattle either but I will be watching the webcast interview about this book! And now you have me wanting the UK version of Neverwhere too ...

    Carl - I will be looking for it too!

    Anothercookie - I started with Coraline too. Neverwhere is good and The Graveyard Book is quite special. I think there will definitely always be mixed opinions on this one but if you're at all interested, you should try it.

    Nikki-ann - I hope you do try it!

    And Carl, do you have a problem reconciling the violent, sexual writing with Gaiman's personality? I just can't imagine those things coming out of the mind of such a sweet, gentle man! And yet they do ...

  11. No, I can't reconcile the man with that kind of writing, not at all.

  12. Kristen - I bought my copy secondhand from a local charity shop (very good condition - looks almost new, thank you kind person who donated it!) - it was published way back in 2004 - so I'm surprised it took them so long to release this version in the USA.

    And I had to resist buying Anansi Boys a few days ago when I was in town (must resist, must resist)

  13. I've been meaning to read A. Gods for a while - I really enjoyed 'Neverwhere', although Gaiman's reuse of familiar London scenes and names grated after a while. His protagonist was a brilliantly confused and bewildered Arthur Dent-like character. I knew what was going to happen in the end though....!

  14. Tracy - I heard a bit of Neil's webcast the other day and he said that because the original version never went out of print, they couldn't switch in the preferred version as they did in the UK. Therefore, he used the anniversary as a chance to release that version here.

    Scott - American Gods is better with the geography because it's spread over the US. I actually felt like I learned something about some parts of the country!