Review by Wattle @ Whimsical Nature – State reviewed – Arkansas
True Grit by Charles Portis
Synopsis: There is no knowing what lies in a man’s heart. On a trip to buy ponies, Frank Ross is killed by one of his own workers. Tom Chaney shoots him down in the street for a horse, $150 cash, and two Californian gold pieces. Ross’s unusually mature and single-minded fourteen-year-old daughter Mattie travels to claim his body, and finds that the authorities are doing nothing to find Chaney. Then she hears of Rooster – a man, she’s told, who has grit – and convinces him to join her in a quest into dark, dangerous Indian territory to hunt Chaney down and avenge her father’s murder.
Review: I must admit, I saw this on my list of books to read and sighed. I hate westerns, and had the misfortune (in my opinion) of seeing half of the most recent movie based on True Grit. So it was with dread that I opted to read it first, deciding to read in order of least want to read to most interesting.
How wrong was I?! The writing sucked me in from the start, it wasn’t stuffy and formal as I assumed it would be. However, at times the dialogue felt a bit stilted; and the deeper into the story I got, the more I realised that it had no real complexity. It is simply about wanting revenge to (in Mattie’s eyes) right a wrong.
Mattie is feisty and strong willed. She felt older than her 14 years, no doubt because of the setting she was in; the late 1800s, her father has been killed and she’s the oldest child, so needs to take care of his affairs. Which in her mind, means finding her father’s killer and watching him die. To do this she needs help, and sets out to recruit the best and worst Marshal she can find – which leads her to the drunken and often too quick to shoot Rooster Cogburn.
I liked Rooster (what you see is what you get, and he’s a bit of a brute – though showed great patience with Mattie) and did not like LaBoeuf (an arrogant Texas Ranger who happens to be after the same man).
It was a fine story, but the ending to their adventure felt contrived – and I can’t say I was a fan of the ending proper either. I felt a little cheated that all we really got of Mattie was her experience as a 14 year old, and then many years in the future, and nothing in between. I suppose there was some character growth for her throughout the story, given she had just lost her father and wanted justice; but it was somewhat lost in the details of the story.
Not being from Arkansas (or even America) I have absolutely no idea what the place is like, but I got the feeling that back in the 1800s it was a bit dusty and a bit rundown, with lands that criminals could easily disappear into? There was apparently quite a few of them in the same place (which I suppose is fortunate for the Marshals tracking people).
All in all, this was a quick and easy read but didn’t have the complexity I was expecting and fell a little short for me, but it was still a good read and got me out of my comfort zone!