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...

ShadeMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 06-Nov-12 21:28:59

You're doing great Patrick. I'm really enjoying the chat. If you want to save yourself typing out each poster's name you can use the 'Quote' button on the far right at the top of each posted question.

ShadeMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 06-Nov-12 21:29:44

Oops, very slow connection on my end. Tilly beat me to it.

PlusCaChange Tue 06-Nov-12 21:33:04

I've just flicked through the thread and seen that GothAnneGeddes asked the same question as me - sorry for repetition blush!

CockBollocks Tue 06-Nov-12 21:33:30

I will absolutely be reading it again. Something I don't often do with books.

I'm not keen on being a failed reader wink

Ponya Tue 06-Nov-12 21:34:17

Thanks for your answer re intermissions. Really like that they are there for no purpose but just to add strangeness. oddly satisfying!
I love your writing aesthetic by the way.

"Well, I would disagree that that is the book’s principal message"

what is the book's principal message?

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:35:46

PlusCaChange Tue 06-Nov-12 21:27:08
Hello Patrick. I loved this book, especially Eli's narrative voice and the black humour. My question is quite pedestrian I'm afraid: why did you choose to call the protagonists the "Sisters" brothers? Thankyou and please write more books!
Thanks, Plus Ca Change. There's no great answer for this question. Names come and go; often times I wait a long time for them to appear. One day I knew their surname was Sisters. It seemed correct, and so. . .

ShellyBobbs Tue 06-Nov-12 21:36:32

And I thought there was maybe a hint of incest between Eli and his mum, there just seems to be something that you can't make out (think it could be the wanking thing).

afussyphase Tue 06-Nov-12 21:37:29

Someone's already asked about how you researched the book - there were definitely some grim times, and in a way, there have been recent echoes of the gold rush in the rush for oil, in Alberta, and the resulting boom... I'm wondering: is there any chemical basis for a formula that could make gold glow like that?

EdgarAllansPo Tue 06-Nov-12 21:37:39

I don't have a question (I have only joined Mumsnet recently and have not read your book) I just wanted to wave a hello and say I'm enjoying reading this thread as it unfolds. I really want to read the book now!

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:38:47

Thanks for your answer re intermissions. Really like that they are there for no purpose but just to add strangeness. oddly satisfying!
I love your writing aesthetic by the way.

"Well, I would disagree that that is the book’s principal message"

what is the book's principal message?

That's the thing, there is no principal message. A lot of themes come and go - loneliness, the perils of ambition, etc. - but I didn't want to drive home a particular message, which is something I bristle against as a reader. Life is fascinating enough on its own without searching for larger meanings. Or, the smaller meanings have always been more interesting to me.

PlusCaChange Tue 06-Nov-12 21:38:55

I think I read that you have also written screenplays - do you find that a significantly different process to writing a novel, and would it bother you if someone else wrote the screenplay for a film of the Sisters Brothers?

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:41:06

ShellyBobbs Tue 06-Nov-12 21:36:32
And I thought there was maybe a hint of incest between Eli and his mum, there just seems to be something that you can't make out (think it could be the wanking thing).

The Wanking Question. Yes, it's an oddity for one's mother to encourage her son to masturbate. I don't know why I did this. I'm open to the idea that there's something wrong with me.

ShellyBobbs Tue 06-Nov-12 21:43:47

But it created the mystic that kept the reader thinking about it. Not an easy thing to pull off (if you'll excuse the pun).

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:44:37

afussyphase Tue 06-Nov-12 21:37:29
Someone's already asked about how you researched the book - there were definitely some grim times, and in a way, there have been recent echoes of the gold rush in the rush for oil, in Alberta, and the resulting boom... I'm wondering: is there any chemical basis for a formula that could make gold glow like that?

I looked into this - actually my (much more intelligent) uncle looked into it and he discovered that gold in totally inert, and could never be made to glow.

You're probably already onto it, but just flagging up questions up-thread from:

southlondonlady
My question: because of Charlie's injury, both brothers will need to make a new life. But if that hadn't happened, do you think that Eli would have had the strength to go his own way? As he seemed very tied to/easily influenced by Charlie.

sunshine panda
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?

fairy armadillo
interested to know what background research Patrick did. Life in that part of the world, in those days sounds so grim!

Apologies if you're already answering...

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:45:17

ShellyBobbs Tue 06-Nov-12 21:43:47
But it created the mystic that kept the reader thinking about it. Not an easy thing to pull off (if you'll excuse the pun).

You just made me laugh, Shelly Bobbs.

afussyphase Tue 06-Nov-12 21:46:28

Hm, interesting; come to think of it, I guess its non-reactivity is one reason it's so valuable, as it doesn't tarnish, degrade, etc.

Back2Two Tue 06-Nov-12 21:47:08

Hi Patrick. Just wanted to say hello, it's great to read tour answers i'm really enjoying the thred.

I loved The Sisters Brothers. And now, having read some of your answers I love it even more. I like that you're not forcing meaning/s on the reader. It seems like a gentle read with rough edges. A bit like Eli himself. And it would not be complete without the intermissions, even though I got a bit wrapped up with trying to find "the meaning". Now I know, I didn't have to. Thanks, you're a kind author with a lovely style.

I hope there is a film; Coen brothers maybe?

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:48:09

southlondonlady
My question: because of Charlie's injury, both brothers will need to make a new life. But if that hadn't happened, do you think that Eli would have had the strength to go his own way? As he seemed very tied to/easily influenced by Charlie.

I don't know, Southlondonlady. I like to think he would have done the right thing but fear he wouldn't have been able to.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:49:45

sunshine panda
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?

There were some I cut, yes. I didn't want it to be violent for the sake of being violent. But, when you write a book about hit men, the bodies do tend to pile up.

Oh, and I'm going to be selfish and flag up my questions too:

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

(And, if we have time to answer this one, do you think women would have equally rushed for gold? did your research throw up any women who were out there with their own stake?)

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:52:14

fairy armadillo
interested to know what background research Patrick did. Life in that part of the world, in those days sounds so grim!

I did minimal research. I tried at the start but found it a slog and wound up making things up. After the book sold I did a cursory fact check run through but I didn't adhere to the results unless I felt this suited the book.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:54:25

Back2Two Tue 06-Nov-12 21:47:08
Hi Patrick. Just wanted to say hello, it's great to read tour answers i'm really enjoying the thred.

I loved The Sisters Brothers. And now, having read some of your answers I love it even more. I like that you're not forcing meaning/s on the reader. It seems like a gentle read with rough edges. A bit like Eli himself. And it would not be complete without the intermissions, even though I got a bit wrapped up with trying to find "the meaning". Now I know, I didn't have to. Thanks, you're a kind author with a lovely style.

I hope there is a film; Coen brothers maybe?
Thanks very much. I hope there's film, also. I'm actually in Los Angeles right now working toward that goal. The option's in good hands, and I'm optimistic.

ShellyBobbs Tue 06-Nov-12 21:56:09

Matt Le Blanc for the dentist?

Yikes, we've only got 5 minutes left, so quickly flagging up Gerry's question too: If your book IS made into a film (which we're all assuming), do you have any strong feelings about the soundtrack?

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