Friday, 28 June 2013

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

I love the cover of this book. Simply love it. And I'd hoped that I'd be as excited by the words inside the pages. Unfortunately, not so much. It wasn't bad, it just never quite grabbed me, never convinced me of the genius that existed between the covers that caused it to be nominated for so many awards.

If I'd read it without the hype, perhaps my reaction would be different. But I read it when I read it, after seeing it on bestseller lists for most of a year, and my reaction is an overwhelming "meh."

It didn't upset me, or anger me, or frustrate me. It just neither grabbed me, shook me, or entranced me.

The Sisters Brothers, Eli and Charlie, are hired guns for a mysterious man known only as The Commodore. And that's about all we ever learn about him, either. They have been sent, as they have been sent many times before, to track down a man and kill him. In this case, a man named Herman Warm. They don't know why. They don't care why. Or rather, Charlie doesn't. Of the two, he better fits the definition of cold-blooded psychopath. Eli, on the other hand, has an anger problem, but is also by far the kinder of the two.

On the way, they run into a witch, a bear, a dead Indian, prospectors, whores. The men tend to be stupid or cunning, or a strange mix of both. The women are mostly there for Eli to fall unrequitedly in love with.

They find Herman Warm, eventually, and find themselves joining forces for a time. Not with the greatest of outcomes.

I suppose this is a meditation on killing, but it doesn't really seem like it. Eli wants to get out of the business he's been in for so long, but that's about it. A meditation on what men will do for money, of either the cash or glittery variety? Perhaps.

This book has the feel of a fable, that slightly removed from reality gaze that tells you that this is a morality tale of some kind. But there's no real lesson at the end.

The syntax I found more disconcerting than effective. At the beginning, Eli, in particular, doesn't use contractions. But then he does. Sometimes. I spent more time trying to figure out the logic of his grammar than paying attention to what was going on for the first hundred pages, and I'm not really sure that's where you want a reader to be.

Eventually, however, that faded into the background, but it never seemed like it added to the story. It does give it a certain cadence, but it's not consistent enough to drive the rhythms of the prose.

There is some good stuff here, and I don't mind having read it, but as for the something more that it could have been, that just seemed to hang elusively out of my reach.

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