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.
4 responses to “The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt”
I think this may have tipped the scales for me. I’ve been interested in this book for a while. Like you, I underestimated westerns forever, dismissing them as formulaic and simplistic. If you haven’t seen them, I recommend The Searchers (John Wayne’s best) and The Proposition (dir. by John Hillcoat, who directed the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road).
Also, thanks for reading my Eleven (Really) Long Novels worth your time.
I never thought of this book as a western, it was just a book that looked interesting to me. This year i have expanded my willingness to try new genres and for the most part, I was right about why I need to avoid them. Sci-Fi is NOT for me lol. This book is on my list but your review has bumbed it up a few notches.
I just picked up ‘The Crossing’ today from the library, the second in the Cormac McCarthy trilogy after‘All the Pretty Horses’ which I loved. This one looks interesting and I’d definitely like to read it when it crosses my path.
I enjoyed this book too, even though I wouldn’t normally go for a topic like that. It was certainly humorous (and disgusting at times).