I should probably stop underestimating westerns. I read ‘No Country For Old Men’ a few months ago and really liked it. I went to see ‘True Grit’ at the cinema last year on a friend’s recommendation and really liked it. This week, I have been reading ‘The Sisters Brothers’ by Patrick DeWitt having only picked it up on the basis of its Man Booker Prize nomination… and also really liked it. Something tells me that I might not be as indifferent to westerns as I thought I was.
Saying that, I wouldn’t want to label ‘The Sisters Brothers’ as being a purely western novel as it is probably more just inspired by the genre. It does have a western setting in the form of the Gold Rush in the 1850s but the primarily character-based narrative is interesting enough to appeal to those who wouldn’t normally explore the genre (like me) as it is more about brotherhood than guns. Eli and Charlie Sisters are brothers on a journey from Oregon to California hired to kill Hermann Kermit Warm by a shady figure known only as The Commodore. Things, however, do not exactly go to plan especially with Eli, the narrator and the younger of the siblings, having some doubts about his vocation. There are obvious similarities between ‘The Sisters Brothers’ and Cormac McCarthy’s work in that the gritty and bleak sparseness of the writing seems very cinematic even though there is very little description of the actual landscape. However, I think it is Eli’s narrative voice pitched perfectly between awe and disdain for his older brother which is the unique and best feature of the book.
‘The Sisters Brothers’ is dark, stark and much more humorous than I thought it would be (although perhaps not so much in the scenes involving eyeballs being gouged out – that was just disgusting). It is a good, entertaining read especially if you’re looking for something new and a bit different.