Sunday, 18 December 2011
One Man's Opinion: THE SISTERS BROTHERS by PATRICK DEWITT
A short while ago, I was waxing lyrical about Edward Grainger's Cash Laramie. Mentioned that it was outstanding and gave me a lot of pleasure.
She told me about a Western she'd recently loved, The Sisters Brothers. Her enthusiasm was big, as was her generosity, so the next time we met up she passed it on for me to read.
I was wholly taken by the cover. It's brilliant and certainly aroused my curiosity. And the title's nigh on perfect. All systems go.
I met two brothers in the book, the Sisters brothers of the title. They were on the way to do some killing for their boss, all the way out in California as it happened.
It's a gentle opening about the beginning of their journey and though it didn't hook me entirely, I was curious.
I soon came to look forward to their gentle tales as they meandered from one incident to another, from one town to another and one whore to the next.
Eli tells the story and I think it's better that way. He has a rich vocabulary and a questioning mind, which means there are open questions for the reader to ponder as the tale unfolds.
Charlie, on the other hand, is cold and calculating - a born hit-man. Not only is he pragmatic and ruthless, but he's fast on the draw and cool as Luke.
As you can imagine, on a journey of this scale, the horses are a big part of the story. As in other cowboy lore, it's through the way the horses are dealt with and cajoled that we see a lot about our protagonists. That's all very well done.
There are some very entertaining encounters with dentists and hoteliers and drunks that add extra layers to the story as it is and was in the past. There are even some laugh out loud moments once you get to know them.
I found myself relishing their encounters, especially the matter-of-fact disposal of people who got in their way. The brutality is clean and powerful and very well done indeed.
The problem for me came at around the half way stage. The pace of the work didn't really break from an occasional trot. It seemed to pale before me, dilute itself to the point of little taste. What was revealed seemed to have an air of repetitiveness about it. I began to switch off a little and needed something to pep things up. It did arrive, but when it did it was also told as a fairly slow burn.
I felt the voices were all a little too similar for the bigger players, something that began to stand out a little too proud.
As things were brought together, there was some fulfilment in having made the effort, but I'd say I wanted a little more.
This may seem harsh.
I wouldn't want to put people off buying it and, after all, lots of folk out there have obviously loved it (including the owner of my copy).
There is a lot in there to treasure. Problem for me was that the further the story went on the more like panning in rivers it became to find it.
I'd try another DeWitt novel, but it won't get in there before a rather exciting looking To-Be-Read pile and certainly not before I've read Cash Laramie 2.
Posted by Nigel Bird at 20:11
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For me. this wasn't about the action. It was about Eli's sudden bout of conscientiousness. As he began to loathe the way he and his brother lived their lives, their lives fell apart. I felt this slow arc and then crashing calamity before the end was incredibly well done.ReplyDelete
Jen, good point. Thing is, I had no issue in terms of pace as such, it was the maintaining of interest in the great characters I'd met. The rise in Eli's moral clarification took too long to focus for me, needed to be sharper in its impact on their relationship and the conclusion. The ending just didn't fit the story for me, like throwing fireworks into a sunlit sky.ReplyDelete