The Sisters Brothers – Patrick de Witt

sistersbrotherscoverREAD FOR BOOKERTHON

Set in the American west coast in 1851, this book is a Western parody

✔ “Eli and Charlie Sisters are brothers and assassins living on the West Coast of America in 1851 during the Nevada Mountain gold rush. They are hired by a wealthy businessman called the Commodore’ to kill a man by the name of Hermann Kermit and steal his formula which will apparently make gold easier to find.

The brothers set off across the state, through Oregon and down to San Francisco in pursuit of their target. Their Odyessian adventure may sound like a typical Western but actually this novel dips into several genres including Western, parody, satire and is full of comedic value.

Eli is the dominant partner in the killing business. Charlie isn’t as keen and begins to question their chosen profession, but is put in place by his older brother. The men bicker like brothers do all the way through their journey, while plodding along on their sad horses.

Unsurprisingly for a Western and a comedy, the men find themselves in all sorts of predicaments along the journey. They are constantly running from people, losing things, finding things, stealing things, meeting eager ladies and suspicious men. As such there is a big cast of cast of characters from all walks of life and the narrative steers through all the emotions of living in the Old West as well as those of two people bound by blood.

Returning his pen to its holder, he told us, ‘I will have him gutted with that scythe. I will hang him by his own intestines.’ At this piece of dramatic exposition, I could not hep but roll my eyes. A length of intestines would not carry the weight of a child, much less a full grown man.

This book was such a surprise on the shortlist. Neither of us expected something so hilarious being recognised by the Booker Prize, an award synonymous with serious literature. We both admitted we were captured instantly by this one and laughed out loud from the first page. The lyrical and easy flow of the narrative and its satirical humour made reading the book effortless. Woven amongst the hilarity was a strongly structured story with themes of humanity, faithfulness and morality. A pleasant surprise in the shortlist.

Published 2011
225 pages

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