Join Patrick de Witt to talk about October's Book of the Month, The Sisters Brothers, Tuesday 6 November, 9-10pm

(112 Posts)

Another Booker-shortlisted masterpiece this month. THE SISTERS BROTHERS by Patrick de Witt was a 2011 contender, and the first ever western to make it onto the list. It is set in the 1850s, Gold Rush California, where the famous killers Eli and Charlie Sisters are on a job for the big boss, The Commodore. Eli is not your average hired gun. He unsuccessfully tries dieting, he's evangelical about his new toothpaste, he has complex loyalties to his horse, Tub. He's tenderhearted, protective and philosophical. He also has to watch out for his volatile brother, whose regular bouts of brandy-sickness and violence make their relationship somewhat fraught. But by the end of their madcap roadtrip, a strange kind of honour and truth emerges, far more precious than the gold that bewitches all around them.

If this novel were a movie, it would be directed by the Coen brothers: O Brother Where Art Thou? crossed with True Grit. But the strongest feeling that lingers after the last page is that it is just very much itself: blackly funny, exquisitely voiced, deeply human and completely original.

Our book of the month page has lots more about THE SISTERS BROTHERS and Patrick.

You can get a Kindle edition or a paperback copy of the novel here.

We are thrilled that Patrick will be joining us to discuss the book and answer any questions about THE SISTERS BROTHERS, the Booker and his writing career on Tuesday 6 November, 9-10pm. See you there...

Mymumsdaughter Tue 16-Oct-12 07:11:42

I've found it well written and very cinematic in that Eli is the most 3 Dimensional character and the only one I have attempted to picture. THe story has gripped me and I'm hoping Eli gets his redemption. I haven't found it grusome as such the description and language evoke the time and the activity.

Question for Patrick How did the idea develop to make ELI the narrator and does he think the story would have reached a different conclusion if it was told from Charlie's perspective

UntamedShrew Tue 16-Oct-12 07:22:44

I enjoyed it and look forward to passing it on to my DF who will love it, I'm sure. I agree it's hugely visual - I don't usually spend so long imagining who will play the leads for example.

Without (I hope) giving too much away - Patrick did you always have that ending in mind or were you ever tempted to have things turn out differently for Eli?

And.. Who do you see playing Eli & Charlie?! grin

simbo Tue 16-Oct-12 10:31:43

I think the principal message of this book is that there is no redemption for men except through women. Left to their own devices the men sink to base levels, killing, accumulating wealth, which they do for it's own sake rather than earning money for a positive purpose eg to feed their family; none of them even has one. Each man is in some way a caricature. To the outside world Eli is one half of The Sisters Brothers, only through his internal monologue do we see him as a person.

At some point Eli realises that there is more to life than the way that they are living. He wants to have a relationship, have a meaningful life, and failing to do so (the bookeeper being his only prospect in the story), returns to the only place where he can be loved unconditionally.

I wonder about thebauthor's own relationships with women, and whether they coloured this book intentionally or subconsciously. That would be my question for him.

DuchessofMalfi Tue 16-Oct-12 10:32:55

I think that because the novel is so visual, and I saw every scene clearly as I was reading it, was why I found it so hard to like in the end.

What finished me off was the scene towards the end with Charlie's arm. Hope that wasn't too much of a plot spoiler for everyone still reading it. I have to admit to skimming the horse surgery bit - I'm a bit squeamish with stuff like that grin

No doubt at all that it was a finely crafted novel though. That was a good point Mymumsdaughter about Eli as narrator. Eli's the more thoughtful and intelligent one, where Charlie is the one to whom killing comes more naturally, maybe not much of a thinker, but would be interesting to hear some of the story from his perspective too.

simbo Tue 16-Oct-12 11:07:48

I think the principal message of this book is that there is no redemption for men except through women. Left to their own devices the men sink to base levels, killing, accumulating wealth, which they do for it's own sake rather than earning money for a positive purpose eg to feed their family; none of them even has one. Each man is in some way a caricature. To the outside world Eli is one half of The Sisters Brothers, only through his internal monologue do we see him as a person.

At some point Eli realises that there is more to life than the way that they are living. He wants to have a relationship, have a meaningful life, and failing to do so (the bookeeper being his only prospect in the story), returns to the only place where he can be loved unconditionally.

I wonder about thebauthor's own relationships with women, and whether they coloured this book intentionally or subconsciously. That would be my question for him.

Great questions, interesting point about the men not having families...

I realised that I jumped the gun a little - due to half terms, the discussion night is a little later than usual (6 November) so we have lots of time to send Q's over to Patrick. So keep posting your thoughts/questions/likes/dislikes over the next two weeks...

spooktrain Tue 16-Oct-12 14:11:40

I loved this book. I loved the pace of the writing: I am normally a very fast reader but this book (maybe the short sentences?) makes you take it at its own pace. Which is the reflective, drawn out pace of the main character's thinking.

I could really see the Coen brothers directing a film version. Images from True Grit came to mind while I was reading it.

If you had the choice, who would you cast in the role of Eli?

Parrish Wed 17-Oct-12 22:25:10

Contrary to other posters, I didn't think this book was "cinematic".

So many of the novels that I read DO read like the author has one eye on the big screen and it drives me potty. I start imaging who would play the characters, the set, the styling.....spoils the book. And I get cross with the author for being so bloody obvious about it.

But this book, no I did not have those suspicions at all. Which is surprising given that i now know that the author is a screenwriter (up thread).

I could really see the Coen brothers directing a film version.
Oh yes, me too!

MrsKeithRichards Tue 23-Oct-12 21:40:44

Jumping in late hopefully my copy arrives in time! Really need to put a kindle on my Santa list!

For future reference, how do I go about getting a chance of a free copy next month?

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 24-Oct-12 11:11:24

MrsKeithRichards

Jumping in late hopefully my copy arrives in time! Really need to put a kindle on my Santa list!

For future reference, how do I go about getting a chance of a free copy next month?

Hello, this explains how the book giveaways work. So no one is guaranteed a copy, but we hope that if 50 people get a free copy of our book of the month, it will encourage more people to get stuck in to our monthly book club discussions with the authors. And we hope that the books we choose are ones that people would like to read and discuss anyway, whether or not they get a free copy. smile

gazzalw Wed 24-Oct-12 20:44:06

Right, just waded through The Master and Margarita which was an interesting read so now ready to focus on The Sisters Brothers - no pressure with a fifteen day deadline ;-).

I am very intrigued though by comments thus far on this thread...

babyputu2013 Fri 26-Oct-12 14:22:22

I am going to start this weekend. I only joined Mums net the other day, luckily I have a copy of this on my kindle already! Judging by the comments, it will be a quick read!

ShellyBobbs Sat 27-Oct-12 18:27:52

I would never have bought this book, but I'm so glad I read it.

I didn't find it in the least bit gruesome as everything in it was appropriate for the time in which it was set.

I found it to be a very visual book, I liked how short the chapters were and it put me very much in mind of 'Fear and loathing in Las Vegas' as I was reading it.

I loved the characters, Eli seems to have just been swept along with the whole 'Sisters brothers' thing, obviously the violence in his lifestyle was set from a very young age seeing what he did and for Charlie it was an obvious necessity, so it was bound to be built into his character. I was quite surprised that it was suggested that Eli was usually the 'lead man' on jobs as I felt his heart just wasn't in it, it was just something that paid him money and he was good at it, where despite his drinking, Charlie was pretty blood thirsty and enjoyed all the violence. Eli just didn't come across as a lead man at all, but suppose he was the more sensible of the two.

The horse was a welcome addition for me, I thought it was such a good idea to put it in, I felt really sorry for it and was so glad when Eli softened up to it. For me, the most humorous parts were with Eli, Charlie and the Horse, I could picture the absolute frustration and bafflement of Charlie trying to figure out the relationship between Eli and his horse, especially when you think of when this book was set.

A shame we couldn't have met the dentist on the way back, but I do understand why we didn't, although I would have liked to have seen him as much as we did the crying man.

I have to say that I really didn't like the ending, it just seemed far to easy, I think I would have liked to have seen them carry on struggling and for the book to have finished like that. I think for me it was just too neat an ending to a chaotic book.

All in all I absolutely loved this book and warmed to all the characters, it was just the right length and I will certainly be recommending it to my reader friends.

My question to Patrick would be why he chose this nice neat ending?

Ponya Tue 30-Oct-12 16:08:02

shellybobbs with you on Eli not being a likely lead man and at first I thought he had been it before, however having re-read that bit it I don't think Eli ever was lead man but that previously there was no lead man at all so they both got equal pay but now Eli gets less.

The book was extremely compelling. Got it for DH not thinking it would be my thing at all however it drew me in from the first page and i couldn't put it down, poetic and strange in places, brutal and funny in others. I'm also not sure about the ending, it just doesn't sit well somehow, but i'm re-reading it so I may change my mind.

Question to Patrick - what are the intermissions sections all about and what is the purpose of the peculiar girl?

ShellyBobbs Tue 30-Oct-12 16:54:52

Yes Ponya, that makes more sense. I'm going to have another re-read too.

Ponya Wed 31-Oct-12 08:52:24

In terms of the ending though - I actually did want Eli to be able to change his life and i didn't want a continued struggle for the brothers, so in one sense I'm glad of how things turned out, but the end still didn't quite work for me - not sure why. Maybe it was the exact way in which this happened or the tone of it. I didn't quite get the mother thing, so perhaps that was it.

ShellyBobbs Thu 01-Nov-12 09:27:41

No I didn't get the mother thing either Ponya was there a hint at something there? It just didn't follow at all and seemed all rather strange that this is the end!

I think this is where you and I differ for the ending, I would have loved to have seen them amble off into the sunset skint, and on the look out for another adventure. To me, they just seemed like drifters in life that needed people telling them what their next mission in life would be.

Hope everyone's had time to read their copy amidst the Halloween craziness - its quite a fittingly ghoulish book, come to think of it...

Just a reminder to put any advance questions up here by the weekend, as I'll be sending them all over to Patrick on Saturday.

And looking forward to seeing y'all here next Tuesday 6th, 9pm

ShellyBobbs Thu 01-Nov-12 11:57:14

Patrick, could you explain the relationship between the mother and Eli and Charlie?

The dad thing may have come into her's and Charlie's relationship but that isn't touched upon either.

CockBollocks Thu 01-Nov-12 15:01:48

Well, I think I am going to read it again!! Loved the idea and style but felt unfulfilled by the content, I wonder if maybe I didn't get into the story properly.

I just couldn't get any feeling from it, I read and just found myself wanting to get to the end so I finished it.

Some of the elements that didnt really go anywhere were quite distracting. The little girl and the boys mother for example.

For me they seemed to skip through the journey too fast giving the reader only tiny snapshots of the characters they met - I wanted to know more.

What were Patricks reasons for moving through the encounters so fast? The book is quite short, I was certainly left wanting more from it.

afussyphase Sat 03-Nov-12 22:34:14

I quite liked it - I liked the lyrical tone of it and the fact that Eli had an uncharacteristic sensitivity and the occasional eloquence. I thought the way they lost all three of their different fortunes in a few quick pages was too coincidentally timed, and I found the ending a bit unsatisfying. But I don't know what would have been better, except maybe drawing it out more to develop their ? I like that they sought a form of redemption/rebirth (which would fit with going home to mother, I guess), and maybe that's what losing all their money was about, really. I guess that's my question, such as it is:
Did their losing all of their three fortunes have a specific significance in terms of starting again, being almost reborn?

Janimoso Sun 04-Nov-12 14:32:55

I thought when one reader said the book was gruesome... it put me off reading it, but I am glad I did read it. It wasn't that bad! Don't think I have ever read a book so fast! Got it on Thursday, finished it on Sunday afternoon! I liked that the chapters were short and snappy. Liked the characters, especially the fact that the main one appeared to be sould searching and he had a concience about his lifestyle. The main story was sad but the humour was delicate and welcomed. All in all a good read. My husband is gonna set about it now too lol!!! I am glad to have stumbled accross mumsnet book club and will try to keep up!!!! Regards x

Janimoso Sun 04-Nov-12 14:37:10

Ps couldn't help it but kept picturing Heather's boyfriend out of eastenders for the character Eli lol!!!!!!

SunshinePanda Sun 04-Nov-12 15:32:12

When reading the book I was quickly able to empathise with Eli. However I did find the graphic descriptions hard to read and at times skimmed passages. Whilst writing the book were there any violent scenes that you were unsure whether to include and if so how did you reach a decision either way?

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