The western has come along way on the big screen since Gene Autry and the Lone Ranger rode out all those years ago. In recent times it’s had a bit of a resurgence what with Unforgiven, Broke Back Mountain and this years below par big budget release of Cowboys and Aliens, a feeble attempt at bridging the generational gap.
Books haven’t fared as well, back in the days westerns were your equivalent of pulp fiction, hard and gritty and what every boy read to fuel a dream of owning a horse and living out in the great outdoors, unfettered by rules or fences. The very first and only western I read was one originally owned by my father, it was “Gene Autry and the Thief River Outlaws”, published in 1944 and still available on Amazon for the more nostalgic of us. My copy is floating round my mum’s house somewhere. Printed westerns have fallen by the wayside and now become a niche read, sought out by the Stetson wearing anorak classes in dusty dark corners at the back of all good bookshops. That is until this month’s read, Patrick Dewitt’s “The Sisters Brothers”.
The Story is excellent overall and keeps you turning the pages and at just over 300 words it’s a book you can easily read in one sitting, as the prose and the chapters flow easily and quickly, a gangly and wordy Dickensian novel this isn’t and after throwing down “Great Expectations” before this and resorting to the BBC’s excellent version, I was delighted to get back into an enchanting and funny read.
This is Dewitt’s second book after “Ablutions” and it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year, but was just beaten by Julian Barnes “A Sense of Ending”. So get in your favourite seat/saddle and join Charlie and Eli for an emotional journey through the Gold Rush, and discover for yourself a real nugget of a novel.
(First published http://www.murphysview.blogspot.com 2011)