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’.
Due to unforeseen circumstances Tom’s Barn is now available 24 June to 1 July 2016.
Douglas’s Barn is available to book for short breaks 3 or 4 nights between 2 and 20 May 2016. Bookings usually start on a Monday or a Friday but if you want a break that starts on a different day get in touch. We are very flexible with bookings.
There are some new attractions added to the list of treats available with the Premier Cottages special privileges card. Amongst them are Renishaw Hall, Thornbridge Hall Gardens (new discounts), Hassop Station Cafe, Village Green Cafe Eyam, Carsington Water Sports and Leisure, Hartington Cheese Shop.