Posts Tagged ‘picaresque’

The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt

Posted in American Fiction, Literary Prizes on August 7th, 2011 by admin – 8 Comments

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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