Tuesday, August 9, 2011

book review: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Sisters Brothers: A NovelThe backstory: The Sisters Brothers was longlisted for the 2011 Booker Prize.

The basics: Eli and Charlie are brothers working as hit men in 1851 Oregon City. Eli, a nice, honest, killer if you will, hopes for life after killing, but his brother Charlie wants to keep living the life of a gunslinger. The two set out on a mission to kill a man in San Francisco.

My thoughts: When I saw True Grit last year (my review), I was surprised how much I loved it.  When the Booker longlist was announced, I was intrigued by The Sisters Brothers and was thrilled when it came into the library so quickly. I was surprised how much I enjoyed The Sisters Brothers too. I guess it really is true: I like westerns. Eli Sisters is a wonderful narrator and character. His cadence and perspective struck me as endearing and unexpected. I also could not help picturing it as a film as I read it. I think there's a great future for comedic westerns on the screen.

Booker thoughts: While I found The Sisters Brothers to be engaging and entertaining, I would fall short of calling it highly literary. I only marked one passage as truly special. As I read, I found myself enthralled with the characters and action, but I didn't find myself contemplating its depth. It's a book I would recommend to most people because it is so entertaining. To me, it was unique, but as it was the first western I've read, I'll leave the discussions of genre to its devotees. What I find most interesting in the "yes, it's entertaining, but is it Booker-worthy?" discussions is the notion of uniqueness. I can't compare The Sisters Brothers to anything else I've ever read. At what point does originality trump its literary prowess? The Pulitzer has been pushing the conventions of genre and voice for years with its winners, and perhaps this year's Booker judges are jumping on the originality bandwagon.

Favorite passage: "He said this casually, but it was the type of statement that eclipsed the conversation, killed it."

The verdict: The Sisters Brothers combines historical fiction, humor and a western into a highly entertaining and enjoyable novel. It's a  novel sure to appeal to readers of all ages who enjoy a variety of genres. Its seriousness is buoyed by its comedy, and despite some graphic violence, it's surprisingly touching.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Length: 325 pages
Publication date: April 26, 2011
Source: my local public library

Treat yourself! Buy The Sisters Brothers from Amazon in hardback or for the Kindle.

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

14 comments:

  1. I'm all googly over the cover, and it's most definitely a western I'd like to try!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've seen this one around, but this is the first time I've really taken notice of it. I had no idea it had Oregon as part of the setting (I live in Oregon, so I am drawn to stories set there). I don't normally read Westerns though.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's totally not something I would normally be drawn to but I do trust your opinion!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've seen other reviews, but never realized that it was a western set in the 1800s. I never would've guessed that from the cover!

    ReplyDelete
  5. WANT! So glad you enjoyed it -- can't wait to read it. I'm not typically a Western fan, but I do like some of that noir-ish storytelling set in the west.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just bought this! Yay! BTW, you should totally read the book of True Grit. It's excellent, and the movie (the new one) follows it very well.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was curious about this one, so I enjoyed your review. I do have the ARC.

    I have never read a western, but recently was intrigued by DOC; Russell, they reviews were good so I got the audio from the library for my iPod.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think I would love this. Every once in awhile I need to read a Western, plus they come to SF. Sign me up!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I like westerns so I think I will end up reading this for that reason rather than because its made the booker list. I wonder if it will make the shortlist?

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm not sure I'd describe The Sisters Brothers as original. I have only read two Westerns, but they seem to have very similar plots. Perhaps you wouldn't think it was original if you'd read Westerns all your life? Perhaps not - I haven't read enough to know!

    Either way I agree that this was very entertaining and I think I may be becoming a fan of Westerns too. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Though I don't read a lot of Westerns, I do enjoy them and would consider reading this one based on your impressions of it. It sounds like it's got a lot going for it, so I am adding it to the wish list. Great review, and I am glad that you liked it so much!

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Jackie - you're right, I'm not a good judge of the genre:-), but I do think the comedic aspect is somewhat unique. It felt like a modern homage to a genre, but I'll leave it to the experts!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm curious about this one, the description reminds me of True Grit a bit too.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I loved this too, a refreshing romp of a tale. I think I must have inherited my Dad's love of westerns as I loved the novel True Grit (still haven't seen the film!)and am strangely drawn to those old black and white westerns on tv.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!