Thursday, September 04, 2014

Reader's Diary #1060- Patrick deWitt: The Sisters Brothers

There were many things I enjoyed about Patrick deWitt's The Sisters Brothers, the tale of two hitmen brothers in the days of the California Gold Rush. I quite enjoyed Eli, the younger brother and narrator, for his insecurities and self-reflection. He doesn't seem entirely cut out for the business, though it's no fluke that he's been a success in the field. I enjoyed the dry humour, often which comes in the form of the authentically-sounding, but ultimately stupid things people say: in one scene Eli's older brother Charlie is about to partake in a gun-duel, and after declaring that they draw at Eli's count of three, his opponent remarks, "He can count to one hundred if it suits you," to which Charlie makes a face and responds, "What a stupid thing to say. Think of something else besides that."

Still, for all of its charms, I can't say I enjoyed it as a whole. The main plot revolves around their hunting down of a prospector, who, they discover has developed a chemical formula to help easily identify and extract gold sitting at the bottom of rivers or small lakes. It's enough of a plot for me in the one sense, but it's so slow in coming. So many of the chapters in the first half of the book seem almost entirely unrelated. I found these chapters interesting as individual short stories, but throwing the book's pacing off and too distracting to the novel at large.


Teena in Toronto said...

I tried to get into this book last year but wasn't digging it.

Anonymous said...

Well, I loved it. Though I loved it for all the things you mention liking, not for the overall master plot.

What I really loved was the depiction of the bond between the brothers. I really don't find this done well very often. Strangely, I've found it done best in books that I would count as westerns. This one and A River Runs Through It are my two favorites.

For me, this relationship was so well done that I didn't have time to notice any faults in the rest of the book.