The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt

I first heard about The Sisters Brothers when it recently made it onto the Man Booker Longlist – perversely enough, it was all the mutterings about it not being a suitable nominee plus some irresistible cover lust which made me even keener to read it.

Firstly, a word of warning…this is not a pretty novel, it’s set back in the 1850s during the California Gold Rush when men were men and horses didn’t have whisperers.  There are scenes of cruelty, to both animals and humans,  so best to move on if this would detract from your reading enjoyment.

It is 1851, the Californian Gold Rush is in full swing and our narrator, Eli Sisters, hired killer, is accompanying his older brother Charlie on an eventful journey from Oregon to Sacramento, to track down and kill one Hermann Kermit Warm.  Their quest has an epic feel to it as they encounter a range of wild and wonderful characters en route, think Don Quixote meets the Coen and Blues Brothers with a dash of Cormac Mc Carthy thrown in for good measure.  Yet, it doesn’t seem derivative and ends up being a really fresh, original piece of work – defying categorisation.

Eli is a psychopath with a (slight) conscience and therein lies the conflict between the brothers.  Even as he relates their latest killing in his usual deadpan tone, you know his heart is no longer in it and he longs for a different life, even suggesting opening a store – Charlie is not particularly open to the idea…  Their story is compelling but unsettling, dark but humorous and so cinematic, you can just visualise their adventures rolling onto the big screen.

A very special novel which will entertain a wide range of readers including those biblio-butterflies who like a change of genre every now and then.

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8 Comments

  1. I feel slightly smug about this book, as I read it before the booker longlist was announced – I fell in love with the cover, and once I started reading it was as if the Blues Brothers were alive and well back in the gold rush. This book tweaked many of my TV and movie all time favourites from the Blues Brothers to Alias Smith & Jones and Deadwood – glad you loved it too!

  2. admin says:

    It is a very visual novel, isn’t it? I didn’t realise how much I liked westerns (even though I loved True Grit when I read it as a child and have a soft spot for spaghetti westerns and Clint Eastwood!) :-)

  3. I enjoyed this one too. I’m one of those biblio-butterflies (I love that term!) and so appreicated a bit of variation in my reading. I’d love to watch the film of this at some point too.

  4. admin says:

    Welcome to the BBC (Biblio-Butterfly Club!). We must be the bane of those sites which claim “if you like this, you’ll love this”. ;-)

  5. I enjoyed this one too, even though I *thought* I didn’t like westerns. It surprised me in a good way, and I likely never would have read it if not for the Booker.

  6. Lindsay says:

    I find the cover of this one very appealing too, and the clever title!

  7. I saw this on the Booker longlist but it didn’t really tempt me as much as I’d've expected. Your review does make it sound like it’s worth a read though…

  8. admin says:

    @Carrie I hope lots of folk are surprised by it and perhaps discover a new genre – although I’m not too sure what genre this is!!!

    @Lindsay give it a whirl, you might like it. :-)

    @cookie as above, you might be pleasantly surprised. I don’t believe that books have to make your brain ache to be a good read.

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