Review : American Gods

american godsTitle : American Gods
Author : Neil Gaiman
Published : 2001 (first publication)

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Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.
Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Rating :

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Magical and gritty and deep, all at the same time

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“People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe. And then they will not take responsibility for their beliefs ; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjurations.”

I love mythology and folklore ! Did you know that ? No matter where they’re from, I eat it all up. So, I’m really glad that Neil Gaiman gave me all this new knowledge, and all these things to think about.

So many things, where to start ? It’s a really complex book and I know that whatever I say won’t be enough to sum it all up, but I can always try. What I loved about this book :

  • the ambiguousness of basically all the characters. Most of them are gods, practically impossible to understand for us, mere mortals, and terribly unpredictable, which means that you can’t really bring yourself to trust any of them, even if you grow fond of some of them. I love that Neil Gaiman managed to bring that in a very subtle way. It’s never really “in your face”, it’s just a feeling you get as you read along. Sometimes you’re proved right (Hinzelman seemed suspicious from the get-go, and it’s a freaking miracle that Shadow didn’t figure out the “Low-Key” thing sooner, it’s just there !), and sometimes you’re proved wrong (Czernobog and Mr Nancy didn’t turn out so bad, after all), but I love that none of the characters are fundamentally good or fundamentally bad. Gods are often fashioned to resemble men and, in that way, they’re very similar too.
  • Shadow’s journey, both physically and metaphorically. Each new acquaintance, each new place brought with it new meanings and new understandings, making him grow as a character. I also loved that the construction of his journey kind of looks like a fairytale. Not the Disney-kind, but the old fairytale-kind, those that passed on from mouth to mouth. Each new step was clearly marked, and there was always a sort of symmetry to the events happening in those stories. The character would help someone and gain a precious item that would help them on their journey, and I think that’s exactly what’s happening with Shadow. It’s like he’s levelling up and unlocking new facts with each part. And it’s not even just about the God-world, but about his old life too. He’s learning about Wednesday and his friends, but also about life and forgiveness. Laura told him that he wasn’t really alive, and I don’t know if he truly is by the end of the book but, in the last part, he’s definitely more animated than he was during the whole book, so I count that as character development.
  • the melting pot of cultures. I love that there were so many gods and goddesses and characters from so many different origins, without actually discrediting each other. Each religion, through history and still today, has a knack for thinking it’s the only valid one out there, and I loved that all those characters co-habited and were part of the same world. Also, big hand-on-the-heart moment when Neil Gaiman mentioned Corsica, without explanation needed, as if just anyone knew what my tiny island even is. But, thanks for that, anyway.
  • the fact that the question that was burning in my mind throughout the whole book was sort of answered at the end. If people can bring their beliefs of a god (and therefore, said god himself) with them wherever they go, then surely, there must be a piece of that god that stays behind. Like, sure, people brought Odin and Thor and Loki with them when they travelled to America, but Odin and Thor and Loki must have stayed in Scandinavia too, because there were still people believing in them there. Anyway, it all made sense in the end, and I’m happy that Neil Gaiman could cross the T’s and dot all the I’s. Nothing’s left unfinished, and that’s the endings I like !

I feel like there’s so much more to say, but it’s all I can blurt out at the moment. It was not as easy a read as I thought it’d be, but it was so good nonetheless. Neil Gaiman, you magic bastard !

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