Book Review: True Grit

True GritTrue Grit by Charles Portis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I grew up only knowing of True Grit from the John Wayne western. Didn’t have a clue it was based on a book until the Coen Bros remade the movie a few years ago. I really loved their version (being a pretty big Coen Bros fan to begin with), and I was particularly interested to hear how much they liked the novel. I filed that away, thinking I might give it a chance sooner or later.

Having just finished it last night, it’s officially become one of my favorite books. I loved it from beginning to end, and I would recommend it to just about anyone out there.

What’s so great about it? First and foremost, the narrator. It’s told from the point of view of Mattie, the young girl who goes looking for someone to help bring her father’s murderer to justice. But it’s an elderly Mattie actually telling the tale. She’s looking back at events much earlier in her life, and she can’t resist inserting little lectures and sermons now and then to try and convince her audience of the errors of their ways. It’s a very straightforward, no-nonsense kind of a voice, and it’s amazingly consistent. Even better, it’s able to pull off some great humor by contrasting what’s being described and the way it’s described. There’s a scene in the Coen Bros movie where Mattie is negotiating with a horse dealer. I loved it in the film, thinking the Coens had inserted some of their quirky flair into the movie.

It’s all lifted straight from the book, folks. The Coens didn’t have to insert anything.

So the dialogue is great and the voice is one of the best I’ve ever read (seriously). Beyond that, the plot is simple, straightforward, and still unexpected. It drives the book forward from one adventure to the next. The climax is edge of your seat exciting, and yet still the voice continues in that no-nonsense fashion. Nothing’s over-hyped. Everything’s said with a straight face.

Speaking as someone who’d like to think he can write some interesting voices, I was blown away by Mattie. I wish I could ever write a character like that. The book is worth it for her alone, but there’s so much else there to be found. It’s a fast read, and it’s 100% worth every minute.

Check it out.

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