December Countdown, Day 20 : Eggnog

December book meme (details here).  Eggnog – a book that was out of your comfort zone :

Sisters brothers

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Just finished reading The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt and will say what a great read this was, in spite of my reservations!

Firstly, great cover, secondly, great name and thirdly – one of the characters is called Herman Kermit Warm – which frankly sealed the deal!  My intrigue-ometer was off the chart.  Anyway, aside from that one of my very good friends, who has introduced me to so many good books over the years, recommended this, in fact she specifically said ‘I would love it’ (with that ‘or else’ tone!)  And, I actually did which was a BIG surprise to me.

Okay, the reason this was a surprise?  This is a western and I’m not really a Cowboys and Indians type of reader but sometimes you just have to put the comfort blanket aside.  The story is told by Eli Sister (yes, that’s the surname).   Eli and his brother Charlie are a couple of guns for hire working out of Oregon for the chief honcho, The Commodore.  Their latest mission, which they have chosen to accept, is to travel to San Francisco and kill said Herman Kermit Warm (HKW).

In between Oregon and San Francisco they become involved in a number of scrapes along the way that usually end with some form of violent altercation (frequently ending up quite badly for the other character or characters involved) until they finally reach their destination and things get turned on their head.

The characters – the brothers are brilliant to read.  The dialogue between the two is highly entertaining.  I’ve read that this book has a comedy (dark) element – I definitely wouldn’t class this as a comedy but the conversation between these two is very effective.  The way the two brothers are written is plain and simple, as is the description of place, and yet the author manages to conjure them perfectly.  I never had any problems imagining either of them and they’re also joined by some other entertaining characters along the way.  Again, all easy to picture.

This is a simple and quick read with a good story that unfolds at a decent pace.  You see, basically, Eli is starting to question this way of life.  Why are they going to kill HKW?  Wouldn’t a quieter life be easier?  They could try it for 12 months.  Their reputation doesn’t really lend itself to a quiet life after all.  He’s started to seek out a bit of female companionship – although this doesn’t come natural to him and his brother seems to enjoy the lion’s share of any attention to be had.  Eli, is apparently  a bit portly and enjoys his vittles.  This definitely lends quite a bit of humour as he becomes probably the first gun fighter come hired assassin that I’ve ever read about who is on a diet.  Bless his grubby little socks!, On top of that he seems to be developing not only a conscience about his fellow man but also a bit of compassion for his animals, or in this case his horse! Inconceivable!!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the boys end up in SanFrancisco during 1850’s gold rush.  Patrick deWitt also does a great job of capturing the essence of the fever and hysteria.  He shows families gone to wrack and ruin over blood lust and the levels that people sink to for a bag of gold.

There certainly isn’t a shortage of killings or ‘ick’ moments, but, I didn’t find any of it off putting.  It’s just not gratuitous and is told in a very matter of fact way – ‘this is how people lived so get over it’ – sort of style.

I really can’t fault this and thought it was very entertaining.  I would definitely recommend it regardless of if you think you like westerns or not.  Well written, good story, entertaining, great dialogue and two brothers who you feel compelled to follow on their journey.

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers