The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt ****
‘Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. Across 1000 miles of Oregon desert his assassins, the notorious Eli and Charlie Sisters, ride – fighting, shooting, and drinking their way to Sacramento. But their prey isn’t an easy mark, the road is long and bloody, and somewhere along the path Eli begins to question what he does for a living – and whom he does it for. The Sisters Brothers pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable ribald tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of losers, cheaters, and ne’er-do-wells from all stripes of life-and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.’
The Sisters Brothers has been on my radar since its 2012 Man Booker Prize nomination, and the hype which inevitably followed. In terms of cinema I’m not at all a fan of Westerns; in fact, I go out of my way to avoid them for the most part. Despite that, I was rather intrigued by the novel. The four- and five-star Goodreads reviews which stated that it was not at all what the reader in question would usually pick up really spurred me on (pardon the pun).
I was pleasantly surprised by The Sisters Brothers. DeWitt’s writing is great, as is the pace he has created here. Eli’s narrative voice is incredibly realistic, and I loved the structure with its short, snappy chapters. The Sisters Brothers is a completely new genre experience for me, and I’m still, three weeks on, a little surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. As a character study alone, it has such depth. There is historical context here, as one would, of course, expect, but at no point does it oversaturate or muffle Eli’s voice. Instead, DeWitt sets the scene perfectly; how the Sisters brothers live is marvellously evoked, and one feels as though one is there, panning for gold alongside them. I will definitely be reading more of DeWitt’s work, and will be branching out to deliberately select books of genres which I have not read before, or have been reluctant to read for whatever reason.
The Suicide Shop by Jean Teule
‘With the twenty-first century just a distant memory and the world in environmental chaos, many people have lost the will to live. And business is brisk at The Suicide Shop. Run by the Tuvache family for generations, the shop offers an amazing variety of ways to end it all, with something to fit every budget. The Tuvaches go mournfully about their business, taking pride in the morbid service they provide. Until the youngest member of the family threatens to destroy their contented misery by confronting them with something they’ve never encountered before: a love of life.’
I have been wanting to read Teule’s books for quite a while, and haven’t come across any physical copies of them to date. When I spotted The Suicide Shop on Netgalley, therefore, it seemed fated that this was the Teule which I would begin my foray into his work with. The novella – for that is what the book essentially is – has been well written and well translated.
Throughout, Teule works with an incredibly simple yet clever concept, the like of which I have not come across in fiction before. The progression of time which he works with fitted marvellously with the whole, as did the dark humour which peppered the whole. An inventive novel, which has made me want to go and find the rest of Teule’s work – and fast!