I read Charles Portis" TRUE GRIT between the two movie versions. Some people prefer one film to the other but the source material is so strong, I loved them both. And Portis has written several other first rate novels as I am sure regular readers of this blog know.
When I saw a copy at a flea market for $.25 I decided the time had come. I grabbed the book and read it in a matter of hours. The voice of its protagonist, Mattie Ross, was just that compelling. When a writer can create a voice that you can't turn away from, that is magic. The story was simple but told well. It stuck doggedly, as doggedly as Mattie, to Mattie's quest for justice with very few segues.
Mattie Ross is a straight-talking girl from Arkansas who's just lost her father to a deceitful farmhand. Justice for this murder will only be achieved if Mattie can capture Chaney herself.
Chaney, the murderer, is "trash" hired by Mattie's father out of pity. The two men go to Fort Smith to buy horses, and Mr. Ross ends up dead after being robbed by Chaney.
Mattie hires Rooster Cogburn, the toughest deputy she can find, insisting on accompanying him despite repeated attempts to throw her off the trail. He is a one-eyed, trigger-happy drunk but with a lot of the "grit" the impresses a young girl.
Joined by a Texas Ranger, named La Boeuf, chasing Chaney for another crime. the three run down Chaney, now part of the Ned Pepper gang, and win themselves justice though at some cost. The book ends as Mattie, a spinster, tells us about the final days of each of the three posse members.
The book is framed by the conceit of an old woman telling a story from her youth. We see what happens through her eyes, the eyes of a young girl. You can't help falling in love with Cogburn and Mattie by the end of the book. True Grit applies to both of them equally. This is surely a classic American story. I wonder if it's on school reading lists.
For more reviews, see Barrie Summy's blog right here.