Six years ago I first read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and I blogged about it here.
I have recently listened to an audio book version of the text and my former review seems woefully inadequate.
American Gods is a beautiful blending of folk tales, Americana, prose, lyrics and vivid storytelling. I was swept away by Neil Gaiman’s descriptive writing and his unique perspective on American life. Reading it I am filled with sadness, thoughtfulness, amusement and sometimes even a little hope. Here is a small quote, which reflects the tone of the book, without spoiling anything:
“The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies.”
― Neil Gaiman,
As an American who has lived in Australia for eleven years now, the vivid imagery of my ‘home’ (Midwest America) in the American Gods books made me nostalgic and homesick. The little diners, ‘Walking after midnight’ playing on the old jukebox, the friendliness and fierce protectiveness of small town residents, all of these things reminded me of home.
Reflecting back on the themes outlined in the book, I think the most important is the never-ending cycle of life, death and rebirth. This book was published over sixteen years ago and, sadly, the America Gaiman wrote about does not exist anymore. Luckily for us, a small piece of that era is preserved in this masterwork.
I wonder what American Gods would be like if he had written it about today’s America? One thing is for certain, America is changing and going through it’s own cycle of decline…but someday perhaps we will be experiencing America’s resurrection.
The adventure’s not over yet though, I look forward to reading the sequel, Anansi Boys, and watching the American Gods TV series.
*A quick note, I read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Gods anthology a few weeks previously and it was very helpful for understanding the Norse pantheon characters and associated symbolism in American Gods.