The Sisters Brothers

By Patrick DeWitt

It’s Tapas Thursday in Estepona again; we’ll head over to Bar Toque soon but first I’m going to have some tea and cake at Tolone, no diet here! I’m going to delve into The Sisters Brothers, because I’m taking a break from the other book I’m reading. I just feel like I need something with a clear narrative and the other wasn’t delivering.

I’m sitting outside because it’s packed inside. It’s not really that warm though so I hope my tea arrives soon!

I’m slipping, it’s now Tuesday and this has been the longest period between posts since I started this blog. Perhaps my enthusiasm is waning, but it’s also a case of life taking over I suppose. I’ve had some things on my mind and some things to study and it’s hard to focus on a book in the mean time, even anything light would have felt like too much. I’m on a flight back from Ireland again. 6.30am departure. I wasn’t going to wake up any earlier than I needed to, so when I was through security and had grabbed a coffee I barely even glanced at the bookshop. In any case my husband had been home only the week before and had bought ‘The Sisters Brothers’ in the airport bookshop so there was definitely no need to look.

This book was chosen by my bookclub a few years ago. I’m still on the email list, even though I’ve been gone a few years. Well, I did manage to make one discussion, ‘The Great Gatsby’, last year, so I suppose it is worth keeping up to date. At first I thought I’d try to keep up to date with the books they read, but I gave up after a while. It’s nice every now and again when I notice they are reading some book I’ve read, or if they choose a book sitting unread on my bookshelf it might give me the push I needed.

Rarely for me, I didn’t make it to any of my usual haunts. Despite it being my Mam’s birthday we ended up going on a clothes shopping spree for me. I never truly enjoy clothes shopping in Spain. I fell like such an oversized blob when I can’t fit into their large sizes. I did have a quick look at the shelves in Easons yesterday, though my mind was elsewhere. Some guy came over to me and just said ‘can I speak to you quickly, I just wanted to say that you look fantastic!’. Now, obviously the guy wasn’t Irish, but neither was he Arab, as most people seemed to guess. I’d say somewhere from that vast expanse of Mitteleuropa. It sounds like he was a weirdo, but it didn’t seem like that at all. I just said ‘Thank You’ and smiled and then thought about how to break it to him that I was married, but he just smiled, nodded and walked away. It did brighten up my mood. I wonder if he just does that often for some kicks? I don’t really care. It was nice.

So, The Sisters Brothers. I read it mostly on the plane on the way over (the bus to the airport had no reading light so I just had to try and snooze again). I could try to be clever and pretend I loved it, I mean it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, it had to be good….just look at all those quotes on the back cover! But really, it left me cold. That’s not to say it wasn’t interesting or readable, it’s just that I’ve closed it a short time ago and felt ‘meh, is that all?’

It’s like a road novel or movie. The brothers have a mission, they have a destination and along the way they meet an array of characters, some good, mostly not so. None of them seem to lead happy lives. San Francisco is in the thrall of the gold rush and everybody is hoping to make a fortune. In some way I was reminded of ‘The Wire’. These guys seem to have been born into a life of crime and murder is just a way of life. Some guy gets in their way, shoot him. But no matter how much money they rob or earn they never seem to actually get rich. Eli begins to question their way of life and yearns for a store to run. He finds himself attracted to the few women he encounters along the way that are not prostitutes and resolves to lose his excess weight so that they will fall in love with him.

However the only true love story in the book is between Eli and his poor horse Tub. He ends up with Tub when his previous horse is killed on a job. At first he is not happy but affection for the poor animal grows and when he finds a new horse and has the option to sell Tub  to be slaughtered for meat he chooses instead to sell the other horse.

He and Charlie have the discussion of having enough money to quit, that they could set themselves up with that store. They decide to make their current job their last….Oh, you think, so it’s one of those capers. There is a funny conversation between Eli and the intended victim where he explains that they will be turning away from their life of crime….after this last job.

Some other random musings….the dream with the three legged dog reminded me of ‘The Secret of Walter Mitty’ when I watched on Friday night (Cheryl’s Dog!). Such a beautiful film. I really want to make it to Iceland some time soon.

Despite not buying any books, I’ve brought back a few more from my parents’ house. There are still plenty there I haven’t read (and between one thing and another I don’t seem to be making much headway into mine) but I thought as I’m going to take on board the readwomen2014 initiative that I would try to only select some female authors. So I have ‘The Dogs and the Wolves’ by Irene Nemirovsky and ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett. There were a few more, but once I got to packing I realised they wouldn’t make the cut. I think I do read a fair amount of female authors and I’m not just counting chicklit, but looking back at the list of this blog I suppose it’s not very representative. The thing is at certain points in time, in a lot of earlier eras I believe only a very small proportion  of books were actually written by women, so it can be hard to have a 50-50 split. I saw one guy has said that he will only read books by women in 2014. I think that’s a bit extreme. However, leaving aside the fact that I’m already in the middle of two books by men I will try to read a book by women every second book. I think that’s reasonable.

And on that note, between writing and typing I’ve already finished a book by a woman (no progress made on the other two). I’ll try and hurry to write that one up. It was a good one!


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