Patrick DeWitt must be a genius. His talent for using his writing to craft a truly cinematic world is astonishing. What we have here is a Coen brothers movie just waiting to happen, in fact during most of my reading I’d cast the adaptation in my head. DeWitt has a skill for dialogue that Hollywood would kill for and his characterisation is sublime.
Enough with the gushing, although after thinking long and hard, I’m not sure I have a bad thing to say about the book.
The novel is based around two for hire killers in the Wild West, the titular Sisters Brothers. Eli and Charlie Sisters are travelling the gold rush trail in search of their next target, Herman Kermit Warm. Along the way Charlie lives a true outlaw life killing any who stand in his way and taking their possessions as his payment. Despite their notorious status, Eli tires of their life and longs for more. What proceeds is the touching story of the love of two brothers and their differing opinions as they encounter horrifically violent moments in life.
The best thing about the book is the relationship between the brothers and how it changes throughout the turbulent plot. What opens as a trusting and agreeing partnership soon becomes suspicious and tense, but running underneath is still a sense of love. This of course adds some interesting highlights to situations.
One gets a sense that Charlie is actually jealous of Eli’s sensibilities and change of heart. This is shown particularly when Eli shows any affection towards the fairer sex. Charlie is always quick to dispel any feelings reciprocated to Eli and often leaves Eli broken and doubting himself. The Sisters Brothers is more a tale of brotherly love and tensions than it is crime and the gold rush.
The lot takes several twists to the bizarre, much in the way a Coen Brothers picture might. This is particularly noticeable when Herman Kermitt Warm enters the story and the Brothers find exactly why he is their next target. Without giving anything away, the plot point that Warm brings in is utterly intriguing and leaves you wondering ‘what if?’
It’s a pacy novel and one that passes before your eyes. DeWitt’s writing is so easy to read that you feel very little effort as you turn the pages. By the time you reach the end you will have new favourite characters and long to go back and read it again, if only to track down the subtle nuances between the Brothers and throughout their journey. A fabulous work and DeWitt certainly deserves to move to the Booker shortlist, if not steal the actual prize.