"True Grit" by Charles Portis

book cover for true grit - movie tie in cover - by charles portis

Fourteen year old Mattie Ross is on the hunt for the drunken coward who murdered and robbed her father.  The criminal, Tom Chaney, has run off to the Indian Territory and joined up with a well known gang of thieves.  When Mattie hears about the reputation of US Marshall Rooster Cogburn, she searches him out and hires him to help her get her man.  A Texas Ranger shows up, also hunting Chaney, and so all three enter the Indian Territory to track him down.

I really didn’t know much about this story, other than it was recently made into a movie (again).  I had wanted to see the movie, but never quite got around to it.  I saw this book at my local indie/discount bookshop and I snatched it up.

I loved young Mattie pretty much from the opening page. She has spunk, backbone, intelligence, and she is fierce.  Do not try to take advantage of this one; she will cut you down.  I love a strong female protagonist like this.

She tells her story plainly, as though for the historical record, and not a memoir of her grand adventure at age fourteen.  This is her story of seeking revenge for her father’s murder, and she tells is with a surprising lack of sympathy or sentimentality.  I suppose that is a reflection on how life was in the plains in the late 1800s…  but really,  you just can’t help but accept her unflinching honesty.

Despite this, you know that she is not cold hearted.  She has a funny sense of humor as well, though I’m not sure it is at all times intentional.  Rooster is a great character as well.  He and Mattie make a great team.  Rooster can tell a great tale, and while it may sound like he is exaggerating, deep down you know it is the truth.  The man has grit.

This was a great book…  I am still surprised to find that I enjoy Westerns!  I certainly haven’t read many, but I like the air about them.  I like the hardness in the characters and the wild landscapes.  This is definitely a genre I’d like to explore some more…  I already have more Cormac McCarthy and Willa Cather on my TBR bookcase.

*****
True Grit
by Charles Portis
Overlook Press, 2010.  First Published 1968.
235 pages
Source:  Purchased New
*****
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11 thoughts on “"True Grit" by Charles Portis

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  1. I wanted to read it after hearing about the movie (which I haven't seen) but was never really a big fan of Westerns. It sounds really interesting though, hmm…. Need to look into this more.

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  2. If you liked True Grit you might also like The Searchers by Alan LeMay. It is the novel that the John Wayne movie is based on. Another novel I read recently and it isn't a Western in the traditional sense of the word but that was good nonetheless is “Remember Ben Clayton.”

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  3. If you liked True Grit you might also like The Searchers by Alan LeMay. It is the novel that the John Wayne movie is based on. Another novel I read recently and it isn't a Western in the traditional sense of the word but that was good nonetheless is “Remember Ben Clayton.”

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  4. Once upon a time, True Grit was one of my favorite movies. I loved John Wayne. When I heard all the glowing reviews, I had to see the remake and I wasn't disappointed although it was quite different. I've been meaning to read the book ever since. I've got to bump it up on my list.

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  5. I loooooved this book. I've been meaning to read his others since but haven't quite gotten there yet.

    I read this just before seeing the new movie, and I was really impressed. You should check it out, it's a great adaptation.

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  6. The original True Grit with John Wayne has been one of my favorite movies since I was a little girl. I didn't even know that it was based on a book until the remake came out.

    I absolutely loved the book. I loved the way Portis told the story through Mattie. I thought he did an amazing job of writing as though she was actually speaking. I was intrigued when I found out that True Grit used to be taught in school much like To Kill A Mockingbird.

    Like you, this is the first Western I ever read but I will definitely be more open to adding other books in this genre to my to-read list.

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  7. The original True Grit with John Wayne has been one of my favorite movies since I was a little girl. I didn't even know that it was based on a book until the remake came out.

    I absolutely loved the book. I loved the way Portis told the story through Mattie. I thought he did an amazing job of writing as though she was actually speaking. I was intrigued when I found out that True Grit used to be taught in school much like To Kill A Mockingbird.

    Like you, this is the first Western I ever read but I will definitely be more open to adding other books in this genre to my to-read list.

    Like

  8. I saw this when the new film came out and thought it looked interesting, but then promptly forgot about it, as you do.

    Thanks for reawakening my interest though – I'll be keeping an eye out for it 🙂

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  9. I loved True Grit. Mattie was so tough and smart! Other good Western-esque books you should try (If you haven't read them yet): Lonesome Dove and The Sisters Brothers. Loved them both!

    Melissa

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  10. Oh how I loved this book! I can't remember why I picked it up, it's not something I would normally be drawn to. I'm so glad that I did though, it blew me away.

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