The Sisters Brothers, and Undermajordomo Minor ~Patrick deWitt

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I confess a slight bias when it comes to reviewing these books. As with my past author binges (most recently, Joseph Boyden), I end up having a bit of a literary crush on the unsuspecting scribe. I heart, Patrick.

I’ve recommended these books to several people. They come to mind every time someone asks who my favourite Canadian author is. I’m not sure he is my favourite, but he definitely is the one I feel most comfortable recommending.

Firstly, he writes literary historical fiction, which as you’ll come to know, is my genre of choice. Secondly, his stories are off the wall, unsuspecting and littered with quirky, dark humour. And there is plot!! So very rare in literary works (my humble, unqualified opinion). In short, he writes the way I would like to. I’m jealous, in a sycophantic sort of way.

Let’s start with, THE SISTERS BROTHERS because it’s my favourite and the one I’ve read more than once.

This western is set during the American gold rush. Charlie and Eli Sisters are hitmen, hired to ‘off’, Hermann Kermit Warm who lives on the other side of the country. Like, Undermajordomo Minor, the protagonist is unreliable: Eli has a conscience and is quite conflicted by his occupation. The novel is full of moments of wisdom that slap you upside the head if you’re not paying close attention to every word. Eli is an intriguing character. There are also unsuspecting moments of magical realism, don’t be put off though, they are fleeting and serve well in advancing the plot. You’ll find humour, humour and more humour… if your humour is a bit dark and backhanded (like mine). This is not an Adam Sandler script.

UNDERMAJORDOMO MINOR is the coming-of-age story of, Lucien (Lucy) Minor. Set sometime in the middle ages (I think?), Lucy the liar sets off on his first big adventure. He accepts a position as under majordomo (under butler/steward) at Castle Von Aux. The story is replete with love triangles and strange, unsuspected violence, and it has a faint upstairs/downstairs whiff — think Downton Abbey meets Pulp Fiction. (Pretty sure, Mr DeWitt would hate that comparison, and it’s not exactly accurate, but it gives a vague picture).

Both stories have many a twist and turn in the plots (often bizarre and shocking ones). What, Patrick does so well is create a sense of pace— each chapter ends with a page turner; each chapter captures a single moment or scene. It’s like watching the story through a viewfinder. Some chapters are a single page, others are five. As a result, you’re never bored, you’re always kept on the edge of your seat.

And the sentences! Beautiful, beautiful sentences throughout both books. I could go on and on, but I’ll simply say: Read them. Start with The Sisters Brothers. READ IT… and let me know what you think.

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