Review: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Are you a memeber of the Dabbler Book Club yet? If not, you’re missing out on the chance to get your hands on a free copy of some of the best new books on release. This month we’re about to get stuck in to Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander, (and there’s still a chance to sign up if you’re quick!) Last Month’s Book Club choice was The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt, which seems to have been very popular with the Dabblers, some of whom provide their Sisters Brothers reviews below…

Dabbler Editor, Brit:

I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a contemporary novel – which is to say, one that has just been released amidst hype and prize-nominations – as much as I did The Sisters Brothers. It is a terrific read and might even stand the test of time.

‘Comedy Western’ doesn’t really do it justice. It is a western, and it is funny, but the tone is Coen Brothers rather than Blazing Saddles. It is the story of two sympathetic psychopaths called Charlie and Eli Sisters (and, to his great credit, having come up with the ‘Sisters Brothers’ gag deWitt doesn’t milk it any further than that) who inhabit that unromantic version of the West that I most associate with Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, where being a successful gunslinger is less to do with quickness on the draw than with personality. In other words, there are killers and there are normal people. Charlie and Eli are killers, but what makes this book so compelling (you’ll likely read it in a minimum of sittings) is the tension between their contrasting brands of psychopathy. Charlie’s is cold and steady; but Eli – our narrator – is a genial, obliging sort subject to occasional bouts of red-hot violent rage.  

 There are a number of vivid set-pieces – very cinematic, I’m sure someone will make a movie of this – including a gunfight in which the brothers use a crafty hustle when outnumbered, and a superb evocation of a gold-crazy San Francisco where everybody is both a conman and a willing dupe. The ending, which veers sharply from cheering to very sad before a consoling coda, is beautifully realised. Highly recommended.

And this from Dabbler J Denham:

I read The Sisters Brothers in one sitting, which is very rare for me. I thought it was absolutely fantastic. I probably wouldn’t have sought it out if I hadn’t won the thing. I love Clint Eastwood as much as the next man, but westerns aren’t usually my bag. It probably would have passed me by if it hadn’t have been for The Dabbler and the generous Dabblebot.

It’s difficult to pick out exactly what I liked the most about the novel. The plot was mysterious and engaging. There were so many colourful, darkly comical characters. The two brothers had something of a Lenny and George dynamic at times, giving the whole thing a deeper meaning that’s often missed with this sort of thing.

I genuinely think this novel might have passed a lot of people by if it hadn’t have been picked up by the Booker judges. It makes me happy that original literature is rewarded and read today, when most of what we see on the shelves is utter rubbish – I’m talking Twilight and its ilk, here. The Sisters Brothers has been one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in ages. I’ll be passing it on to others, as well as my recommendation to check out The Dabbler.

Thank you both for your reviews, we love to hear what our book club members think of the books we review, if you’ve read The Sisters Brothers too, please let us know what you thought of it in the comments section below.
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About Author Profile: Worm

In between dealing with all things technological in the Dabbler engine room, Worm writes the weekly Wikiworm column every Saturday and our monthly Book Club newsletters.

5 thoughts on “Review: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

  1. Worm
    March 14, 2012 at 14:03

    I read The Sisters Brothers and thought it was ace too. I actually watched a Coen Brothers film this previous weekend called True Grit that had some sort of TSB similarities. I loved the anti-hero immorality of both the brothers, and the speed of the plot was great too – it was refreshing to read a new ‘literary’ book that doesn’t faff around trying to fill in superfluous pages just to make it thicker.

    After the gritty story, the ‘magic realism’ of the ending kind of screwed up the story for me but I still enjoyed reading it even if it was a bit silly. Best book that I’ve read in a while.

    Hey Skipper
    March 16, 2012 at 16:49

    I bought Sisters Brothers solely on Brit’s recommendation (his track record, excepting lamentable lapses regarding Joyce, is that good).

    Worm nails it.

    March 16, 2012 at 20:28

    Thanks Skipper (mostly).

    I thought the ending, with the illuminous poison, was stunning.

    March 16, 2012 at 21:24

    Don’t get me wrong I loved the whole book, including the ending, but I found the rather non realistic ending jarring compared to the gritty warts and all story that went before it

      March 16, 2012 at 21:26

      As a similar example I’ll cite ‘the life of pi’ and the magic island as another story that I loved that kind of spiralled off into something that didn’t sit right, but was still enjoyable

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