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The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt: a clever title and a clever cover. I’m not quite sure how clever – rather than simply entertaining – the book itself is and after our annual husbands-invited Christmas book club evening I feel none the wiser.

Truth be told, I started off at a disadvantage. Everyone else present had heard of the book which had apparently been talked of exclusively in the literary press throughout 2011, and was short-kisted for the Man Booker prize! Where was I when all this was going on?

Last Saturday night over a quite delicious meal and a taxi ordered for the six Parwich folk so no worries about sticking to soda water we discovered that everybody had enjoyed it, which is quite a triumph when twelve people of assorted reading tastes get together to discuss a book. We have had some disasters in the past, which actually makes for far livelier – if uncomfortable – discussions than when we are all basically in agreement as we were on Saturday.

The Sisters Brothers is essentially a cowboy story: Charlie and Eli Sisters are paid assassins and the fear of the west, at the time of the California Gold Rush in the 1850s. Charlie, the elder, is a damaged soul who shows no reluctance to kill to order, even for the flimsiest of reasons. Eli, the younger, is a much gentler and more likeable soul who begins to question what they are doing and harbours dreams of setting up a clothes store! However, he worships his older brother and continues to follow in his shadow until eventually Charlie rather significantly loses his right hand – his shooting hand – after they try to search for gold using a patent but lethal ‘mixture’ which highlights the gold but corrodes animal or human flesh at the same time.

The story unfolds as a series of adventures, told in little bite-sized chunks (ideal for reading late at night when the concentration is going). Gradually the roles of the two brothers are reversed as Eli, the gentle, self-analytical one who is frightened of spiders (and witches) and worries about his horse grows up, becoming more self-confident and the binge drinking and shallow cruelty of Charlie – and the loss of his right hand – takes him down to second place. So, not your usual cowboy story by any means and in fact it slowly emerges as more an anti-cowboy, anti-hero story about failed dreams, the relationship of two brothers and the destructive power of greed.

So, an intriguing, most unusual and thoroughly readable tongue-in-cheek cowboy story, described very aptly by one reviewer as ‘a quirky and stylish revisionist western’ – ‘so good, so funny and so sad’.

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  • Last Minute Availability for 23 October 2017

    Due to a late cancellation Douglas’s Barn has become available from 23 to 30 October 2017. Full week, Monday to Monday or part week Monday to Friday or Friday to Monday. Late deal rates, 7 day break £495, 3 night weekend, Friday to Monday or 4 day Monday to Friday break £345.

  • Special discounted rates.

    Why not treat yourself to a few days away in the Peak District in Douglas’s or Tom’s Barns. The prices have been reduced from 17 November to 7 December 2016. The days may be shorter but it is great to get out for a few hours for a walk or drive in the lovely countryside. […]

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    Decided it was time to give the outside of the barns a bit of a face lift. We have replaced all the barn doors, all the exterior has been repainted, new furniture outside and new parasols t shade that lovely sun that we are still getting. A big thank you to all the skilled trade […]

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