Anmiryam's Reviews > The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
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Dec 22, 2011

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Read from September 29 to October 02, 2011

I wanted to love this book. It jumped off of my pile of shortlisted Booker Prize nominees and demanded to be read first. Everything about it shouted "Yes, it's literature, but IT's FUN." The premise is that of a classic picaresque novel -- Charlie and Eli Sisters, two professional assassins in 1850 are sent by their employer to hunt down and kill Herman Kermit Warm who may, or may not, have stolen something. In the course of their journey from Oregon to California, at the height of the gold rush, they meet a panoply of misfits and losers who provide a steady stream of often humorous incidents that help to explicate the brother's relationship. Add to this set-up, a narrative voice, provided by Eli, the younger of the two gunslinging brothers, that has a deadpan simplicity that is oddly appealing. And, it is worth noting, it has the best cover I've seen in a long time.

With so much going for it, why doesn't Patrick deWitt's novel deliver? Ultimately it is a failure to integrate the disparate events into a cohesive plot or arc for character development. Things happen and some of them are funny, but they don't lay the groundwork for growth in Eli's character that the form demands. It doesn't help that once the brothers find their target that the plot twist that leads to the climax of the book is singularly flat and generates no tension. It also didn't help that there are historical incongruities (particularly around the state of dentistry) that are jarring and out-of-place, even in a story that in no way purports to be realist, realistic details would help to sustain the truth that can be found in absurdity. deWitt is a talented writer, and while I don't think he shouldn't win the Booker for this outing, I do look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
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03/02 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen This is precisely what I felt about the book too, however you said it much more eloquently.


message 2: by Ava (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ava nice review. tnx


Maureen wow, this is exactly how I felt too.


Katherine Hajer I just gave up at page 283 (the gold glowing in the river). I kept waiting to feel pulled along by the story, but it just never happened. "Flat" is a good term for it. For a long time I kept thinking, "Ah, now the pace will pick up", and it seems for some readers it did, but I never got anything out of it.


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