Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review: The Sisters Brothers

Author: Patrick deWitt
Publisher-Format: audio-Dreamscape Media, 7 hrs, 41 min
Narrator: John Pruden
Year of publication: 2012
Subject: hired hands in the Wild West
Setting: Northern California, San Francisco gold fields
Genre: Western
Source: public library download
Awards: Man-Booker Shortlist, Governor General's Literary Award (Canada)

I'm not normally a fan of westerns.  That said, if there were ever a book that would convert me to the genre, The Sisters Brothers is it!  From the very clever cover, to the head-turning title, I was drawn in.  In this Booker Prize short list nominee, the narrator of the tale, Eli Sisters and his brother Charlie are hired guns.  They have been sent by "The Commodore" to find someone, get back what was stolen from him, and of course, make sure this thief is not left in a position to steal again.  (Or so we believe).  The actual tasking is only slowly revealed as the brothers go from place to place looking for their prey, and defending their honor and lives in the meantime.  Their adventures bring us a panoply of characters at once dastardly, colorful, and
utterly lovable.  They are just so much fun!

Yes, there is violence, and much of it is probably gratuitous, but it is told from the viewpoint of the times.  The dashing, daring-do of their antics and the wild-west scenarios are splendid.  There's definitely a movie buried in here.  Yet, while the action scenes are well written, with just enough detail to paint clear pictures, but not too graphic to sicken, it is the dialogue between the brothers, their victims, and their cons, that is either "roll on the floor laughing " funny, or so philosophically sophisticated that you almost have to stop and say "Wait.....did they really talk like that?"  I reflected that many educated men of that era had the "classics" as their text books, so the rather archaic and complex grammar and vocabulary did in fact come naturally to them.  It just sounds a bit over the top at first.

It's definitely a book about violence, about vengeance, and about revenge, but it is also a book about self-knowledge, reflection, and forgiveness.  I'm not sure I'd call the ending redemptive, but it certainly was more than appropriate to the story.  Even if you've never been a western fan, give this one a try.  Think Hawaii 5-0 in the gold mining territory of Northern California.

1 comment:

  1. This is on my TBR list and now your review makes me want to bump it up a few places.


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