We haven't heard from resident guest blogger Julia in awhile, but she's back today with two great reviews! The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt and Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones.
"I joined the 50 Book Challenge this year, and I am almost there! #45 and #46 were The Sisters Brothers, and Hand Me Down World, respectively.
Both books are about a person on a journey, although the journeys are taken by very different people and for different reasons. I read The Sisters Brothers on my iPad, and loved being able to highlight and make notes along the way. Hand Me Down World was a good, old-fashioned paper book.
First, the Sisters Brothers. To quote from the book: “Here was the picture of moral negligence”. This tale of two hapless brothers, Charlie and Eli, making their way across the American Wild West in the mid-1800s, leaving murder and mayhem in their wake, is indeed a story of two men who appear to have no morals. They are called “serial killers” and need only invoke their names to bring fear to the people around them. The narrator, Eli tells the story and indeed the reader comes to understand some of his motivation and why things turn out as they do for him. Charlie is clearly the leader, Eli the follower. Yet in some ways Eli is the more thoughtful and perhaps wise brother.
The book is full of quirky characters, including a prospector named Hermann Warm and a horse named Tub. There is bloody, gory mindless killing for sure, but the reader has some sympathy when Eli tells Warm about their childhood. Eli has a poetic streak in him, which makes the telling of the story colourful and always entertaining. For example, when they come upon a fellow reduced to brewing dirt for coffee, Eli says “It would seem to me that the solitude of working in the wilds is not healthy for any man.” Indeed. This is story about two desperados, but with a twist. Not your “normal” cowboy story for sure! Read an excerpt.
The other book about travels, Hand Me Down World, is equally as complex and blurs the lines between good and evil, black and white. This is the story of a black woman (and her colour is important to the story) working in a resort hotel, who gets involved with a guest, and has his baby. This is not a romance novel, so the story does not end happily there. The man confiscates the baby and flees home to Berlin, Germany.
The story is about the woman, and for most of the story we think her name is Ines, travelling to Germany, finding the baby, and then doing what she must to see the little boy, as he is by then. The story is told through the eyes of all the people she comes in contact with through the journey, both to and within Berlin. The Blind Man, The French Man, The Truck Driver. Finally we hear her heartbreaking story, and then the story of the wife of the man.
Again, this woman does some not very nice things to achieve her goals. We sympathize with her, but we do not always like her. As with The Sisters Brothers, the reader is forced to look at humanity from many different sides. Everyone has a story that makes them who they are and makes them do the things they do.
If you read Jones’ book, Mr. Pip, you will know he writes about the dark side of humanity. The story of a woman searching for her child is of one of our most basic instincts, but this story is combined with other human emotions and actions, some lovely and some not so.
I loved both of these books and would recommend them to anyone who likes reading books with complex characters!" Read an excerpt.
As always, thanks Julia for such thoughtful, well written reviews!