Book Review: True Grit – Charles Portis

I’m a little behind the times, so I still haven’t watched the Coen brothers’ latest film, True Grit. At the library the other day, I was looking through the stacks, waiting for a title to jump out at me, when I saw Charles Portis’ True Grit on the shelf. I wondered if it was the same True Grit that everyone’s been talking about, and when I saw the American Gothic-esque depiction of a teenage girl on the front cover, I was sold.

Portis did not disappoint. The story was short and sweet, an old spinster’s vivid recollection of her mission as a teenager to avenge the coldblooded murder of her father. The colorful cast – Rooster Cogburn the U.S. Marshall and LaBoeuf the Texas Ranger being the most prominent – embellishes the fast-paced, hyper-energetic storyline provided by Mattie Ross’s detailed narrative.

Truly American in its individualistic, go-get-’em attitude, Portis’s story is charming even in its bloodthirsty gore. Landscapes of Texas and Arkansas roll through the pages, peeking out between action-packed chase sequences and gunfights. Mattie Ross is a remarkable and unique heroine, her girlish fancies occasionally slipping through the cracks – like when she names her pony Little Blackie, hardly a name for a fighting stallion. A child’s story told in the voice of an old woman who has seen too much of life, True Grit is a must-read for any American, indeed any lover of the true American spirit of independence and justice.

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