Book review: True Grit by Charles Portis

True Grit by Charles Portis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I used to be an avid reader of Westerns, but this hasn’t been true for decades (literally). However, I read a commentary on the place “True Grit” should hold in the pantheon of books and decided to read it. All I knew beforehand was that it was made into a movie starring John Wayne.
Imagine my surprise, then, when it was apparent that John Wayne’s character, Rooster Cogburn, isn’t a critical part of the book. Oh, he’s a major character, for sure, but the pivot on which the book turns is the narrator, a woman by the name of Mattie Ross who is 14 years old when the story takes place. Her narrative voice is idiosyncratic, and the author has a gifted ear for colorful and authentic dialogue.
I was delighted by the characters, especially Mattie, and the pragmatic and matter-of-fact air by which the narrator tells even the most unlikely parts of her story. The narrative voice never breaks character, and the evolution of the three main characters, Mattie, Rooster, and a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf from their distrust and dislike from each other to their grudging respect for each other is compelling character development.
It may be a few decades before I read another Western, but I am very glad I read this one! I can see why the book makes the list of greatest American novels. Even if Westerns aren’t your thing, this is a quick and worthwhile read.

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