True Grit by Charles Portis (Book Review)

True GritTrue Grit by Charles Portis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fifty-seven out of five stars for True Grit.

Bookshelves: the-shit, wild-wild-west, western, coming-of-age, americana, action-with-a-body-count, adventure, love-the-cover, comfort-favorites, classic

Unless you’ve lived under a rock your whole life, you already know the story – young girl in 1870’s America hires tough old U.S. marshal to hunt down her father’s killer. But even if you’ve seen either or both of the movies, the book is worth reading simply for that joy only a bibliophage can know–that of a master wordsmith practicing his craft.

Mattie Ross is one of the best characters I have ever read. She jumps off the page at you, fully alive and telling an action-packed story in her unique, full-throated voice. I started the book on a Monday evening, settling in with it for my bedtime reading, and finished it on Tuesday night, after a (mostly) full night’s sleep and a full workday. Mattie pulled me headlong after her. Rooster Cogburn is merely a co-star.

Over the years I’d seen bits and pieces of the John Wayne movie but never watched it in full — the bits I caught here and there seemed hammy and overacted to me, and I wasn’t interested. More recently I did watch the redo with Jeff Bridges, more because I like Jeff Bridges than for any other reason (when they were both younger, my first husband looked so much like Bridges he’d occasionally be asked for his autograph), and I really enjoyed it, especially watching Hailee Steinfeld flat-out own every scene she was in. After reading the book I figured I’d better watch the Duke’s movie so I’d be fully informed on the matter. The Bridges version is much truer to the book, and was a better job in my opinion. The Coen brothers made it clear that their version was not a remake, but was a new interpretation of the book it was based on, and I think it did the book much more justice.

I had this book in my possession only by chance. I bought it in 2010 for my husband (a huge John Wayne fan) to read while recuperating from open-heart surgery and was disappointed when he never even cracked it. I’m rather surprised I even packed it to move to another state, when I was already having to winnow my book collection down and leave so many behind. I was finally motivated to read it after Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby (the first Spenser novel written by somebody else after Parker’s death, and that’s a whole rant I’ll spare you) disappointed me so, but I didn’t fail to notice the mini-homage to True Grit tucked inside it. So Lullaby was good for something besides convincing me once and for all to never read another not-written-by-Parker Parker book again.

But I digress. I’ve found a new comfort book. Cannot recommend this highly enough.

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Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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