True Grit by Charles Portis

Perhaps this book really needs no introduction, like many classic pieces of literature. It has had two major movie adaptations, and was for a long time required reading on school book lists, so it’s widely known and loved.

It’s the story of 14 year old Mattie Ross, a determined teen who lives in frontier territory. When her father is killed by one of their hired hands while on a trip to buy ponies, Mattie goes to collect her fathers body, and sets out on a course of revenge on the man Tom Chaney, who killed her father. She hires a lawman called Rooster Cognurn, a hard drinking man with questionable morals, but who is deadly with a gun. But in the process, she finds herself also stuck with LaBeouf, a fop who is after big cash for the bounty on Chaney.

Neither of the men want a 14 year old girl tagging along, but Mattie is not one to be trifled with. The story is told from her perspective as her memoirs of the events, and her tone is stern and decisive. She knows her own mind, scorns others stupidity and dissipation, and a lot of humour in the book derives from her way of being so sure of things, telling it like it is. Mattie is one of the best characters in literature, because she’s bold, calm, unafraid and real.

In a way, the story is a road trip, taking in the town and her ability to use her confidence to navigate it, and then onwards into the wild west where bandits and gangs of thieves in a series of events that brings Mattie and her bickering companions closer and closer to her quarry and her revenge. It’s beautifully written, full of humour and adventure. Mattie is indomitable.

Read It If: This is a true classic, lovers of Westerns and adventure will love it, but so will those of you who love crime and drama genre books. Highly recommended.

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