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The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
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The Sisters Brothers (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Patrick deWitt

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,2542012,845 (3.86)1 / 548
Member:Crazymamie
Title:The Sisters Brothers
Authors:Patrick deWitt
Info:Ecco (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Kindle, Completed in 2013
Rating:****
Tags:historical fiction, American West, western, Canadian author

Work details

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (2011)

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English (196)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (201)
Showing 1-5 of 196 (next | show all)
This book was on my long list of eventual reads, but quickly vaulted to #1 once it got picked for book club. We don't often read westerns and when we do, they tend to be appreciated in an ironic sense. That's why I was pleasantly surprised by The Sisters Brothers which I enjoyed very much and found genuinely compelling. The novel falls into the picaresque category and reads a bit like a Coen Brothers film or Tarantino with a lot Dead Wood mixed in. The two infamous gun men brothers find themselves in amusing predicaments which often result is quite fatal outcomes. It was clear to me that deWitt had done his fair share of research on 1840's Oregon and California gold rush. His sentence structure and choice of vocabulary gave me the sensation I was simply listening in on real conversations from that time period. Some situations caused laugh out loud moments for me and some were quite touching. I am interested to see what deWitt comes up with next. ( )
  BenjaminHahn | Jan 24, 2015 |
Description: Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living–and whom he does it for.

With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters–losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life–and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.

Thoughts: The Sisters Brothers wasn't what I expected it to be, a fact that worked in its favor I think. I expected more of a traditional western, much more plot/exploit driven than thoughtful introspection, so I was pleasantly surprised. Eli Sisters's internal monolog can be a bit tedious at times, especially since he falls in love with every lady who passes him by, but he reminded me of the soulful Doc Holliday, another troubled and sensitive man who's life trajectory seemed to always be surprising him.

For a large part of this book I felt that it should have been subtitled "The Continuing Despair of Tub, the Not-Very-Much-Wanted Horse." Other than Charlie (the other Sisters brother), Tub is Eli's only near constant companion on the journey to California and much of the plot in the first 2 sections of the book- those that don't deal with Eli's health problems- deals with Tub's inadequacies and tribulations, but Eli can't help but start to feel that Tub is a kindred spirit.

Ultimately, I think this story could have used a better ending. Not happier exactly, although I wouldn't have minded a bit less dejection, but the end just felt a bit flat and a little too easy.

Rating: 3.9

Liked: 4
Plot: 3.5
Characterization: 4
Writing: 4

http://www.librarything.com/topic/138183#3478384 ( )
  leahbird | Jan 13, 2015 |
I had high hopes for the Sisters Brothers after reading the first few pages, but those expectations were set a bit too high. The story of two assassin bothers charged with killing the enemy of their formidable boss, set in the heady days of the California Gold Rush sounded like a perfect setup for a gritty, dark humored western.

What had started out with such promise ended up being a pretty disappointing flop. Neither of the brothers are even remotely likeable. And the constant introspection of the narrating brother was depressing in a way I’m sure was not intended by DeWitt. With only a rambling storyline the ending was actually satisfying. And by that I mean I was satisfied that the words had finally stopped. It seems to me that both DeWitt and I got bored of the story at about the same time and delving into the inner motivations of a weak minded killer seemed like a way out. Unfortunately that mind provide to be pretty dull. I can’t figure out how exactly this was longlisted(?) for a Booker Prize. ( )
  stretch | Dec 31, 2014 |
If I would have known what the book was about before picking it up I may not have started reading it at all. I loved the style and I'm glad I gave it a chance. ( )
  jfoooo | Dec 17, 2014 |
Greatly entertaining Western. Will definitely end up a movie. Best part for me is the gold-panning camp mess, which is a smaller-scale but comparably powerful depiction of the commercial despoliation of the western outdoors as the bison slaughter in Butcher's Crossing. ( )
  AThurman | Dec 7, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 196 (next | show all)
Sometimes, a novel is like a train: the first chapter is a comfortable seat in an attractive carriage,and the narrative speeds up. But there are other sorts of trains, and other sorts of novels. They rush by in the dark; passengers framed in the lighted windows are smiling and enjoying themselves. You aren't a passenger, you don't care about that destination, and the whole train rumbles on without you.
added by geocroc | editThe Guardian, Jane Smiley (Jul 15, 2011)
 
Much has been made, over the last few decades, about the death of the western as a genre. All this talk, however, seems to overlook a single, crucial point: the western was never just a genre....DeWitt not only plays the western straight, he draws from the best. Written with the parsed force of the best of Elmore Leonard, DeWitt’s closest CanLit antecedent seems to be Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. The influence comes through not only in his attention to every word, every detail, but also in the deadpan, unflinching depiction of violence, reality elevated almost to the level of ridiculousness...Despite being deliberately and effectively part of a tradition (one can imagine it being written and read a hundred years ago, with a few caveats), The Sisters Brothers is a bold, original and powerfully compelling work, grounded in well-drawn characters and a firm hold on narrative. When they say “They don’t write em like that anymore,” they’re wrong.
 
There never was a more engaging pair of psychopaths than Charlie and Eli Sisters, two brothers who kill for hire—and for necessity, and sometimes for the pure, amusing hell of it....So subtle is DeWitt’s prose, so slyly note-perfect his rendition of Eli’s voice in all its earnestly charming 19th-century syntax, and so compulsively readable his bleakly funny western noir story, that readers will stick by Eli even as he grinds his heel into the shattered skull of an already dead prospector.
 
Because rather than concerning himself with showboating his period-specific research, deWitt has deliberately flouted the rules of straight-laced historical realism here, to stunning effect. And most importantly, what he does get right are the flawed and jagged hearts of his characters, which is all the real this reviewer needs....What Western is real anyway? Aren’t they all revisions and stylizations of the past? From the kindergarten morals and the ridiculous bloodlessness of Hollywood Westerns, to Louis L’Amour’s pat Harlequin Romances for men, to the populist machismo of spaghetti Westerns and their impossibly slow gun duels, the genre has never registered very high on the reality scale.....The overall effect is fresh, hilariously anti-heroic, often genuinely chilling, and relentlessly compelling. Yes, this is a mighty fine read, and deWitt a mighty fine writer.
 
Nothing in Patrick deWitt’s first novel, Ablutions, a laconic barfly’s lament for a dysfunctional life, could prepare you for his second, a triumphantly dark, comic anti-western; apart, that is, from the same devastating sense of confidence and glittering prose. ...The writing is superb, with each brief chapter a separate tale in itself, relayed in Eli’s aphoristic fashion. The scope is both cinematic and schematic, with a swaggering, poetic feel reminiscent of a Bob Dylan lyric, while the author retains gleefully taut control of the overall structure. ...
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patrick deWittprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chong, Suet YeeDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stiles, DanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Voor mijn moeder
For my mother
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I was sitting outside the Commodore's mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacremento, Eli begins to question what he does-and whom he does it for. With The Brothers Sisters, deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters-losers, cheaters, ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life-and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love. (ARC)
Haiku summary
The Sisters brothers?
Guns for hire, but Eli
Fancies a job change.
(passion4reading)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062041266, Hardcover)

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living–and whom he does it for.

With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters–losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life–and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When a frontier baron known as the Commodore orders Charlie and Eli Sisters, his hired gunslingers, to track down and kill a prospector named Herman Kermit Warm, the brothers journey from Oregon to San Francisco, and eventually to Warm's claim in the Sierra foothills, running into a witch, a bear, a dead Indian, a parlor of drunken floozies, and a gang of murderous fur trappers.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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