- File Size: 1435 KB
- Print Length: 340 pages
- Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (April 26, 2011)
- Publication Date: April 26, 2011
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
- Language: English
- ASIN: B004CFA91Y
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,432 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
The Sisters Brothers Kindle Edition
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From the Back Cover
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.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
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Well, in this book, none of that happens. What happens instead is the story of the Sisters brothers, a couple of cold-blooded killers who take a long journey to kill someone, and kill a number of people on the way. I don't know how I found my way to this book--perhaps it was recommended to me for my high praise of Blood Meridian, a more ambitious and similarly perfect book. While the two stories share a number of narrative waypoints, where Cormac McCarthy's masterwork is bleak and austere, Patrick deWitt achieves a surprising warmth. I often found myself laughing out loud at the arch and understated dialog. Think of the letters in Ken Burns's Civil War documentaries: the flat, unaffected pronouncements of men facing death--or dealing it. An example: after killing an adversary's henchmen and robbing him, the victim laments how his soft life led him to be so incautious with two known ruffians, and the brothers reflect:
‘He describes his inaction and cowardice as laziness,’ Charlie said.
‘And with five men dead,’ I said, ‘he describes our overtaking his riches as easy.’
‘He has a describing problem,’ said Charlie.
Or Eli's observation: "The creak of bed springs suffering under the weight of a restless man is as lonely a sound as I know."
As it must, the brothers' metaphysical journey parallels their physical journey. They are hard men, but not beyond some redemption. You'll find yourself at once cheering for them and the man they set out to kill. At some point, I stopped reading a book and joined them on their odyssey. Now, after three too-short days it is over, and I find myself profoundly depressed that Charlie and Eli Sisters have moved on. I don't think I'll shoot anything. But if I have to, I'll have my brother count to three for me.
It is often said that it's not about the destination, UT the journey. That is never more true than in this poignant tale which ends somewhat abruptly and sour. Though the finality, or lack thereof in the book was upsetting, the charm of the previous 3/4 is more than enough to earn it four stars and a place among some of my favorite westerns ever.
The brothers are sent on an assignment to kill a gentleman named Hermann Kermit Warm. Their rich contractor, called the Commodore, does not explain why they are sent to kill him and the brothers are not concerned about being left in the dark. Their casual nature towards killing people is disturbing. If this kind of thing upsets you, then walk away now and read something else. During their travels from Oregon to San Francisco they come across mundane and odd situations that devolve into bloody violence. The frequent bickering between Eli and Charlie serves up many funny moments. The novel jumps back-and-forth between farce and serious circumstances. Eli relationship with his horse Tub was oddly touching. The ending I found to be especially poignant and consistent with the story's hardscrabble callous environment.
Mr. DeWitt's novel is not dark as much as brutal and coarse. I was conflicted as to if I wanted the Sisters brothers to die or live at its conclusion, but I was eager throughout the book in knowing how the thing wrapped up. There were enough mysteries, humor, and impromptu adventures that kept me absorbed to the very end. The only thing that I found odd was two short chapters called 'Intermission' involving Eli's (I guess) transcendental visions. Apparently, it takes a smarter, more creative brain than mine to understand their significance. That’s okay if I missed the point of the ‘Intermissions’ because, overall, ‘The Sisters Brothers’ was a highly entertaining novel. It’s a pretty good bet I’ll read it again sometime in the future…unless, of course, this bald Mainer goes to that big ranch in the sky.
Top international reviews
There is nothing predictable about the storyline. While we know the main plot from the outset, it’s an interesting undulating route they navigate through the narration, either planned or unplanned.
It was a joy to just lift this book and let the words flow off. The chapters are short and punchy, underpinning a good solid pace to the story. I actually enjoyed the experience of reading this book.
They do in the book. Written in the first person , my preference, Eli's is an engaging voice but we also get deep inside the head of his brother, Charlie. I felt the film wasted too much time on the characters of Warm and Morris. Like all characters, the Sisters Brothers meet, they're an interesting pair, but I feel the book gets under the skin of the protagonists much more. It's well written, good descriptions and as sense of place. I sometimes felt the dialogue and sensibilities were a little modern, but that didn't put me off.
Not much I can say to fault it, best book I've read in a long time.
Initially I found the book engaging, midway through my attention began to wander, wondering whether it would actually amount to anything much. For me the ending helped make the book. Although odd, it seemed to flow from what had come before, and offered a sort of resolution that the beautifully described wanderings were calling out for. Worth a read if you are looking for something a bit unusual, but it won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Unfortunately it all went wrong around mid way, after the appearance of Herman Kermit Warm. The surreal plot became ridiculous. The pace became pedestrian just when it ought to be getting faster. The sparkle went out of the dialogue. The characters failed to convince. Ultimately I just got bored and couldn't wait for it all to finish. Once I'd got to the end I wasn't sure what the whole thing was about. Possibly a parable of redemption, possibly a reminder that people aren't perfect, possibly a warning that concentrated sulphuric acid is bad for the skin. Sadly I just didn't care. I just wanted to get up and walk away from the book.
Patrick deWitt has immense talent, I'm sure. But he needs to spread it right through his books, and not just confine it to the first half.
The charismatic characters of the Sisters Brothers is what carries this book along, especially Eli, the narrator, and the dichotomy of his moral and sensitive soul living alongside a volcanic temper and murder as an occupation, and . . . a weight problem. The Sisters Brothers' characters are psychologically quite modern in their outlook, which is why the adventures they encounter along the way - and the violence and degradation - seem so surreal and often comic. It is like reading a Cohen Brothers movie! Through the dry wit, sensitivity and intelligence of his narrator, de Witt tells a strange tale, it unravels almost like a quest or a pilgrimage, for the holy grail of the Wild West, gold. Or a meaning to life in such harsh climes where survival is still a fight. Or the mysterious Hermann Kermit Warm?
Although it is a riveting read, and highly recommended, I'm surprised by the critical praise for this book, because it hasn't the depth or profound insights of an Annie Proulx or Cormac McCarthy, to give it literary merit. Which is what in the end disappoints about this book, because it promises much - from the writing, which is beautifully concise, from the creation of the Sisters Brothers and the relationship between the two, to the evocation of the turmoil of the beginnings of a new country and its people. But the denouement, if it can be said to have one, is too contrived, and where the book's focus pulls away from the Sisters Brothers, is where it is weakest. It's almost like de Witt, having created these two brilliant characters, didn't in the end, know what to do with them, and they are greater than the story he tells.
So, I want to re-read it immediately but may give the last third of the book a miss. Actually, maybe I'll change my mind and discover it's merits. Watch this space:
I won't bother telling you the story as I'm sure there are plenty of reviews that have covered that. All I will say is if you like Coen Brothers films then try this. I seriously hope someone gives them a copy as I'm sure they would make a fab film of it. It's weird, quirky, bloodthirsty in some places, with a couple of brilliantly drawn central characters who have the most fantastic dialogue traveling to California to carry out an assassination and all their weird and wonderful meetings and machinations along the way with a few other truly wacky characters thrown in for good luck.
I absolutely loved it and I hope you will too. Read it and enjoy!
I bought this copy for a friend's birthday. The writing is exquisite with well drawn characters and personalities - I didn't want the stories to end.
I didn't find this a belly-laugh-a-page novel but it is certainly dark and funny - or at least quirky.
For a couple of out and out baddies I certainly warmed to them especially Eli.
I hadn't read a "western" before though like most people have seen plenty of "western" films and tv series. Don't think though I have seen anything like this. As a novel I would definitely recomment it for something different.
The author has found a distinctive voice that keeps the often mindless savagery less gratuitous than might be expected. From a mildly humourous tone, the book takes on a darker hue as it progresses. This is an ambitious piece of work; it deserved the attention it received from the Man Booker jury.
Incredibly well written and structured, the main characters are entirely believable and bounce delightfully of each with equal shares of wit, compassion and animosity. When they encounter strangers along the way, or find themselves in compromising scenarios (which happens often), the dialogue, drama and excitement the author generates reaches new levels of perfection. There's not a dull passage in the book, and the pace is set absolutely perfectly, without rushing through needed back stories, or over emphasising some of the books climatic stand-offs. The twists, turns and unexpected developments will keep you enthralled, engaged and guessing until the very end, making this book almost impossible to put down.
With some genuinely great characters full of emotion and feeling, set against a backdrop of adventure and intrigue, and written by an author who generates great dialogue, incredible detail and who has a fluid, easy to read writing style, surely this book must be on everyone's bookshelf or Kindle.