Monday, January 16, 2012

BOOK: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt, 326 pages

Canadian Book Challenge 5; Giller Prize Shortlist 2012; Man Booker Shortlist 2012

Really liked it. Very funny in a dark way. Eli and Charlie Sister are hitmen in the 1840s. It's a western, during the California Goldrush, must be 1849 - thanks football Forty-Niners!

Eli narrates, and is having some existential issues with being a pyschopathic killer. Charlie is not so keen on getting out of the business. Eli has a sad horse, having gotten the bad end of the deal when they picked up some horses, probably after the brothers killed the owners. Eli figures this is his last job for the Commodore, their shadowy boss.

People who make their livings double-crossing other people have a hard time doing anything other than killing everyone around them, since they fear they will be double-crossed as well. That made the brother relationship all the more powerful. Lots of violence, lots of killing - it is a western after all, not that I've read many westerns. But what I liked about the book was that the western aspect was just the parameters to examine the relationship between the brothers; it could just as easily been modern day, like Pulp Fiction. Not a bad comparison.

The trappers, meanwhile, were unhappy we had usurped their glory with the she-bear and were, I felt, preparing to exhibit rudeness. To thwart this I introduced Charlie and myself, our full names, which silenced them. Now they will hate us ever more virulently, but secretly, I thought. Charlie found these men amusing, and could not help but make a comment. ‘It seems you four are involved in a kind of contest to become totally circular, is that it?

Other than two brief intermissions that seemed like dreams (I never like dreams in books) the book was a quick enjoyable read with lots to recommend. I don't even know what made it so good, I just know when I like a book.