Read with popcorn!
This western, set in the 1850s, is like a Coen Brothers movie but in book form. Perhaps the film-makers have bought the rights already? So I googled the book title and 'Coen Brothers' (one can chase down idle whims so lazily now). My sense of cleverness soon deflated — others have been chasing down this thought long before me. The Man Booker Prize marketers said, in their blurb about why The Sisters Brothers was nominated, that “Told in deWitt’s darkly comic and arresting style, The Sisters Brothers is the kind of western the Coen Brothers might write – stark, unsettling and with a keen eye for the perversity of human motivation.”
Eli Sisters, the narrator, and his brother Charlie, are hired killers, but since they do get a wage for that, it lends their occupation a certain legitimacy, at least in their own mind. They do what needs to get done. The narrator's voice has a slightly formal quality - there are few contractions in his speech. Although capable of seemingly mindless violence, Eli is also a thinker, and is frequently the more empathic brother. "The creak of bedsprings suffering under the weight of a restless man is as lonely a sound as I know." Charlie is more focused and laconic; when Eli asked him how he came to be injured, he said, "The men were hesitant to loan me their equipment. Well, they'll not need the axe, now."
It captures the greedy delirium of the gold rush, and the naked lawlessness of the west. A great read.