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...

DuchessofMalfi Thu 27-Sep-12 10:41:07

I'm in - already got a copy on my kindle smile

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 28-Sep-12 09:59:21

There are still a few free copies of The Sisters Brothers left (thank you, Granta). It's a great read - fairly hurtles along, has laugh-out-loud scenes but is also tender and philosophical.

ShadeMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 28-Sep-12 15:02:44

All the copies of The Sisters Brothers have now gone.

gazzalw Fri 28-Sep-12 18:29:10

I'm looking forward to reading this very much....

It's quite .................... gruesome!

HipHopOptotomus, the gruesomeness settles down as the book goes along - or maybe I just became desensitised by that stage! I usually can't face any gore or violence, yet this book completely captivated me. Eli's voice becomes more and more moving, so I sort of didn't see the nastiness as I was so focused on him.

Interested to hear if others found it gruesome?

gazzalw Mon 08-Oct-12 12:02:26

Sounds a bit like that Johnny Depp film from about 12 - 15 years ago .....

DuchessofMalfi Mon 08-Oct-12 14:03:18

I'm coming up to half way through and there's been a few stomach churning moments so far. On the whole, though, I like it. Eli comes across as thoughtful, and intelligent and there is kindness hidden in his character, in spite of the acts of violence he commits with his brother Charlie.

Tilly I think it stayed pretty gruesome. The whole matter of the gold etc was horrific.

I didn't 'get' the book while I was reading it. I Love Joe Nesbo (for example) so I'm not shy of quite violent subject matter, however in this book - well perhaps it was the pointlessness of the violence and what it achieved - so depressing. (well all violence is pointless but you get what I mean).

I think I perhaps need a re-read. I found it ultimately a depressing tale that I did not enjoy reading at all. However I did read it, I did finish it, and it has stayed with me, so clearly it has made something of an impact.

It is a gruesome septic stubbed toe of a book.

I did think it would make a marvellous screenplay however.

gazzalw Wed 10-Oct-12 07:37:15

I'm more and more intrigued...

Just got a copy through the door but no email to tell me I won - sounds very 'interesting' need to get some time to read it now!!

Nigella, you beat me to it - was about to post to say Granta put 50 copies in the post on Monday night. So hopefully a few more of you will be hearing a thud on the doormat today...

Sorry to all those who didn't get lucky this time, but hope you have all found a copy - it is a remarkable and rewarding book, and very refreshing.

Looking forward to hearing what you think, keep posting your thoughts throughout the month and we'll gather questions for Patrick as we go.

HipHop, I agree, it reads very like a screenplay, and the author is a screenwriter etc. And the secondary characters are all very cinematic. But for me, Eli had a depth of character that made it become more of a novel, lifted it above the sensational and the violence for violence's sake.

Did you find it funny, as well as depressing? Or not at all?

I felt less depressed by the violence and more depressed by the lust for gold, the overall discarding of dignity that overcame everyone during that Gold Rush era. (Just made me wonder whether nastiness performed in the name of money today is really very different to how it was then - it is just organised by far larger companies and in more insiduous ways. Which is more depressing.)

But I did find a lot of humour and lightness in the book too.

Certainly a book that will provoke a good debate...am intrigued to hear how it affected everyone.

gazzalw Wed 10-Oct-12 13:04:38

One's just dropped through our letterbox just now! It looks quite a quick read so very much looking forward to it as my commute read of the week!

ShellyBobbs Wed 10-Oct-12 13:56:17

Ooooohhhh, I've just received a copy, I'm really, really chuffed and Wednesday's are 'hang around' days for me with kids clubs. Can't wait to get started on it.

I did laugh out loud a couple of times Tilly so yes I found it funny in parts. But the bleakness of life - for the Sisters as well as all the wretched creatures they encountered - well it touched me. And I'm a wimp.

I didn't realist de Witt was a screenwriter - it's certainly a hugely visual book, which I found tough going in places. And yes I did go a little soft on Eli, and I was rooting for him to cut loose.

DuchessofMalfi Wed 10-Oct-12 22:44:34

Well I've just finished. I've changed my mind. I didn't like it. As I read on the violence just got more unpleasant. I didn't desensitize.

I agree with you Hip-hop, septic toe pretty much sums up my opinion too.

Will come back with a question later. <shudder>.

DuchessofMalfi Wed 10-Oct-12 22:47:09

No offence to Patrick DeWitt intended blush.

CockBollocks Thu 11-Oct-12 21:06:06

I got my copy Tuesday. Really looking forward to getting into it.

Oh gosh no blushgrin

daisy4mae Fri 12-Oct-12 23:07:03

I got my free copy the other day (thank you very much Mumsnet!) I've been steadily reading it and whilst, yes, it is a little gruesome at times - I'm thoroughly enjoying it (maybe that speaks volumes about me!)

I've found it a gripping book and I agree that it's very visual. I could imagine this easily being turned into a rather dramatic film.

Parisbanana Mon 15-Oct-12 19:06:10

I read this earlier in the year for my book club and wasn't impressed when it was selected. Never in a million years would I have picked it up in a shop or library. BUT oh my, I loved it. What a read. All I can say is thank goodness for book clubs that make you read things you wouldn't normally choose. I would've missed out on probably my favourite book of the year.

So, no questions spring to mind just now, but just an overwhelming thank you for an eye opening riveting read.

I love it when a book creates such diverse opinions - like The Slap. Looking forward to discussing further but meanwhile...

... it is time to start putting advance questions to the author, so please pop them up here anytime this week and I'll forward them onto Patrick at the weekend.

Looking forward to the Booker tomorrow, wondering if Patrick feeling sympathy jitters for those 6 finalists.

Parrish Mon 15-Oct-12 21:29:59

I could not put this down. Would never have chosen it. Almost vomited at the horse surgery scene. Little House on the Prairie it most definitely ain't! Might be to read that again to calm my shattered nerves!

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?

FairyArmadillo Sun 04-Nov-12 22:56:08

This isn't the type of book that I would normally choose to read. But that's why I joined this book club- to expand my tastes and try reading something I'd never think of choosing for myself. At first I was put off by the descriptions of the book being gruesome, but I personally found the description of the execution of Anne Boleyn in last month's book (Bringing Up The Bodies) more harrowing. The humour in Patrick DeWitt's book offset the violence. With the way he wrote it, I found the horse surgery scene with both horrendously disgusting and funny! I thought this book was very well written and enjoyed it.

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

GothAnneGeddes Mon 05-Nov-12 12:02:34

I'm not into Westerns at all, but was lured in by the title and cover.

I absolutely loved, devoured it like a really good meal.

I recommended it to my sister and she's been begging me to recommend something as good ever since.

My question to the author would be about the title/character name. When and why did you decide they'd be the Sisters Brothers.

freerangechickens Mon 05-Nov-12 23:35:48

I read this book several months ago, having seen it recommended somewhere in a book thread. I found it rather funny that I was born in Oregon City, spent my life moving up and down the I-5 corridor, and ended up living back in OC for the past 5 years, and the way I found out about the book was from a British parenting website, in some sort of odd circle of life type way. I'm not interested in Westerns at all, but I got it due to the Oregon City connection, and liked it more than I thought.

I found there were parts that I had to read with one eye closed as they were a bit gruesome, but, like others loved the relationship with the horse. I did also find the ending a bit jarring, as if the rest of the book was paced at a ramble, and then all of a sudden everything quickly got wrapped up into a neat package at the end in a very short period of time.

There really isn't a question in here, is there?

ripsishere Tue 06-Nov-12 02:01:14

I missed the chat angry.
I loved this book, DH bought it for me on kindle, I didn't fancy it but read it out of desperation and adored it.
I did remark to DH that it would be a film <prophetic.>

typicalvirgo Tue 06-Nov-12 09:42:28

No you havent Rips its later today !

Ermm.... I cant think of a question at the moment, but I really enjoyed the book, I liked the descriptions of the characters and I didnt find the violence too bad hardened

What irriatated ma a little in the hard copy was the way each chapter started about 3/4 of the way down the page. I'm not sure what the purpose of that was but I'm sure its not something patrick would have had control over.

My question is how and what gave you the inspiration for this story ? is it visiting these old places, or a childhood fascination or what ?

Hullygully Tue 06-Nov-12 09:47:16

Great book, Patrick. Very very clever to make psychopaths so sweet and endearing. Very hard balancing act. Cool beans to you.

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 06-Nov-12 11:08:04

ripsishere

I missed the chat angry.
I loved this book, DH bought it for me on kindle, I didn't fancy it but read it out of desperation and adored it.
I did remark to DH that it would be a film <prophetic.>

No, no, no!! You haven't missed it, it's tonight at 9pm. Hope you can still make it.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 11:22:00

<taps microphone> testing, testing...

(this is MNHQ, we're just double-checking Patrick's log-in ahead of tonight)

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 06-Nov-12 19:17:44

Patrick, thanks v much for coming on, welcome to Mumsnet.

I thoroughly enjoyed your book. The lyrics, "Mama, put my guns in the ground/I can't shoot them anymore" were going through my head at the end <shows age>.

If your book IS made into a film (which we're all assuming), do you have any strong feelings about the soundtrack? Thank you.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 20:43:18

Hello Mums. Thanks for having me over. I'm going to go have a cig but'll be back at the top of the hour. . .

southlondonlady Tue 06-Nov-12 20:52:37

Hello, loved the book, the story has stayed with me and like others have said, it was all very visual! I think the gold rush era is fascinating. 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.

Evening everyone

Months ago, when the date of the this webchat was settled, I had no idea it would be US election night. I now feel it is all rather appropriate that we're about to discuss the nature of greed, the struggle for identity and the search for wads of cash. And I am delighted that Patrick de Witt is joining us tonight (from the other side of the Atlantic) to throw light on the inspiration and research behind his Booker-shortlisted, brilliant novel.

We already have many questions to get through, so off we go...

Patrick, firstly, thank you very much indeed to taking the time to be here. And many congratulations on such a successful, memorable book. We'll kick off with the advance questions from further up the thread. And then we'll aim to get through as many new ones as possible over the next hour (although getting through all the posts above may take a good chunk of that...)

I'd also like to add our two standard MN Bookclub questions (which we like to ask all authors):

Which childhood book most inspired you?

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

Over to you...(when you've finished your cig)

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:02:48

Thanks, Tilly. Here's the first answer:

In the beginning the characters of Eli and Charlie were very similar in their temperaments. But at a certain point Eli came into focus as the more sensitive of the two, as the more busy-minded, and so he was an obvious choice for the narrator. It would be a completely different book if Charlie narrated it. It’d be an unpleasant pamphlet. Charlie isn’t a searching sort, the way Eli is.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:03:51

Not sure if you can tell who asked the question/what the question is. I'll post the q/ and a/s together from here on out. . .

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:04:58

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. &#8232;&#8232;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?

I knew at a certain point that they would go home, but I didn’t know what ‘home‘ would look like - whether or not the house would be there, whether or not their mother would be there, whether or not she’d be happy or sad to to see them.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:05:38

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

I’d like John C Reilly to play Eli. Charlie changes in my mind. Viggo Mortenson? Sean Penn?

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:06:39

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.&#8232;&#8232;I wonder about the author's own relationships with women, and whether they coloured this book intentionally or subconsciously? That would be my question for him.

Well, I would disagree that that is the book’s principal message, though I’m tempted to agree with the sentiment, at least in relation to a certain type of man: ambitious to a fault, self-centered, etc. I’m not sure what to say about my relationship with women, other than to point out that I prefer the company of women to men, and always have, and always will.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:08:09

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

The ending isn’t working for some readers, and I knew it wouldn’t when I was writing it, but I stuck with it because, for me, it simply IS the ending: it strikes me as factual, as if it actually happened, and I felt I couldn’t turn my back on it.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:16:11

Ponya Tue 30-Oct-12 16:08:02
What are the intermissions sections all about and what is the purpose of the peculiar girl?

I don’t know, and I don’t know. I tend to work from a place of instinct rather than intellect. I like mysteries, in the work of others and in my own work as well. It’s common for me to write sections that don’t serve a specific purpose but feel necessary to me, and the intermission sections are good examples of this. I can’t say that they propel a narrative or ‘do’ anything, but I find them crucial in fleshing out the landscape, illustrating its strangeness and dangerousness.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:19:01

ShellyBobbs Thu 01-Nov-12 11:57:14
Patrick, could you explain the relationship between the mother and Eli and Charlie?

Explain it? I’m not sure what you mean. I think it’s pretty clear that Eli is the favored son, and that his failing to live up the the mother’s moral standard has damaged their relationship very seriously. Charlie’s actions have also hurt his mother; these disappointments have made her hard, cynical. The specter of the father seems to hang over their every word, and has colored their lives in a toxic way. Not a very happy family, in other words.
PS - Am I doing this right? I'm not what you'd call tech savvy. . .

CockBollocks Tue 06-Nov-12 21:23:53

Sean Penn & John C Reilly? They are exactly how I would imagine the two, but about ten years ago!!

ShellyBobbs Tue 06-Nov-12 21:25:37

When Patrick said John Reilly, I thought, 'of course it's Eli!'.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:26:55

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.&#8232;&#8232;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.&#8232;&#8232;Some of the elements that didnt really go anywhere were quite distracting. The little girl and the boys mother for example.&#8232;&#8232;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.&#8232;&#8232;What were Patricks reasons for moving through the encounters so fast? The book is quite short, I was certainly left wanting more from it.

I think we’re dealing with a mismatch in taste and aesthetics, here. Sometimes I’ll meet a reader who really dislikes my work, and the attitude they tend to adopt is that I’ve failed them in some fundamental, personal way. On the one hand this can be disconcerting, but I have to admit that I understand this attitude, because I feel the same thing, in reverse, which is that this person has failed me as a reader.
This type of back-and-forth is ultimately counterproductive in that nothing can be done about it. So, it’s something I try to avoid.

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!

You're doing great - I did just send you an email about the Quote button (so you don't have to cut and paste) but no particular worry if you want to keep on doing it this way.

I think your answer about prefering the company of women to men is interesting - do you think women would have gone to such lengths to get gold, had it not been so dangerous? Did any women go and try or was it completely out of the question?

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?

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:58:55

TillyBookClub Tue 06-Nov-12 21:49:59
Oh, and I'm going to be selfish and flag up my questions too:

Which childhood book most inspired you?
Tough question. I loved Roald Dahl and still do. A nice combination of bile and humor.

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?
Just to read, is all. To read constantly, and to search out lesser known authors, living and dead.

(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?) Good question! I suspect it would have been a more thoughtful process, less a mad cash grab, if more women had been involved in the process of gold removal.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 22:00:14

TillyBookClub Tue 06-Nov-12 21:56:37
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?

I'd love to see some Moondog on there, and Michael Hurley.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 22:01:24

Are we winding up? Well, thanks so much once again for having me. I'm sorry if I missed any questions. Best wishes to all of you. . . .

Back2Two Tue 06-Nov-12 22:02:14

Bye. Look forward to reading more from you!

ShellyBobbs Tue 06-Nov-12 22:03:13

Thanks Patrick <waves>

That's all we have time for, folks. As always, it has gone far too quickly and has been immensely enjoyable - thank you, everyone, for excellent questions and all your contributions

Most of all, Patrick - thank you very, very much indeed for giving your time and energy and wit and generosity. We really appreciate it.

And congratulations again on a stupendously good book. Can't wait to read whatever you write next (are you able to quickly tell us what your current project is?)

Good luck with the film option - we'll all be looking out for the posters soon.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 22:09:40

That's all we have time for, folks. As always, it has gone far too quickly and has been immensely enjoyable - thank you, everyone, for excellent questions and all your contributions

Most of all, Patrick - thank you very, very much indeed for giving your time and energy and wit and generosity. We really appreciate it.

And congratulations again on a stupendously good book. Can't wait to read whatever you write next (are you able to quickly tell us what your current project is?)

Good luck with the film option - we'll all be looking out for the posters soon.

I'm working on another novel, this one inspired by Central European and Jewish fables, folktales, etc. No wanking as yet, but it's still pretty early in the game. . .
Cheers, all.
xo
PD

PlusCaChange Tue 06-Nov-12 22:10:51

Thankyou Patrick and I hope the film gets made

gazzalw Fri 16-Nov-12 15:23:35

Sorry, rather late to this discussion but I've just whizzed through this fantastic novel in a matter of days - it's the best page turner I've read for a long time and found the style and chapter lengths very accessible and easy to read on a commute with many changes.

I cannot quite put my finger on why I loved it so much but I was raised on cowboys films and this tapped into my psyche in a big way. It also really reminded me of that Johnny Depp film where everything that could go wrong for him on his travels does......

I did not find it graphically OTT at all. As others have posted, it was a very visual novel and any gruesomeness was really descriptive rather than being gratuitous! They were violent and rough times and nothing was saccharine, particularly in the 'Wild West'

I personally could not imagine Matt Le Blanc as Eli, but I see what the poster was getting at. One of the Bridges would be good but they've been there done that haven't they really?

DW also read it and really enjoyed it too - it was a picaresque novel and as such intriguing and you couldn't really begin to guess what would come on the next page...

I look forward to reading more of Patrick's novels!

OatyBeatie Sun 25-Nov-12 18:06:50

I've just finished this excellent book. I'm sorry to have missed the discussion -- I was afraid to read in case of spoilers.

I enjoyed the book very much indeed. I loved the near-surrealism of it, which seemed partly achieved by the incongruity of the brothers' violence with the poetry of their thought and of the storytelling itself. Eli's gentleness and delicacy was wonderful, and achieved from the very first page.

It was very funny. (I am looking out on Amazon for a Conclusive Blanket) but so very sad. The black humour in the combination of violence and poetry seemed to convey what I think gets called incongruity of affect -- where we react with smiles to the most bleakly awful things because we are so overwhelmed and disorientated by them. It displayed just how lost Eli was.

I'm hoping my teenaged sons will read it now. I can imagine it appealing to them as much as to me, which is rare in a book.

I'll certainly look out for the film. I'll be worried, though, that so much of what is very original and beautiful in the book is close enough to some Western movie cliches to get coarsened in a film.

Poor Tub. I half expected his resurrection. RIP.

SlubberMistressOfPain Thu 29-Nov-12 23:45:35

And RIP the beavers. Poor beavers.

Can't believe the formula was all made up! Was looking forward to a little chemistry essay at the end to explain what horrors were contained within.

Loved the book, well the audio book. The guy who reads it was absolutely sublime.

gazzalw Fri 30-Nov-12 07:52:11

I assumed the formula contained mercury for some reason but just knew that it was going to turn out to be deeply toxic....;-(

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