True Grit – Charles Portis

Close Encounters Books Without Pictures returns! and it’s not A Song of Ice and Fire related! This month we read through Charles Portis’ “True Grit”, a book from a genre I have no experience of reading.

First impressions were that it would be an “easy” book to read, coming off the back of George RR Martins almost tome-like novels, I figured a tale weighing in at just over 200 pages would fly by. I. Was. Wrong. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I genuinely did, by the end, but the journey there was, for me, difficult and full of obstacles and frustrations, and funnily enough this changed my opinion on the lead character as I reached the end.

So, True Grit is a Western, it follows a 14-year-old girl, Mattie Ross, whose father is murdered by a man he had tried to help, Tom Chaney, and who grows frustrated that nobody is willing to hunt this man down and bring about justice, or at least in not as timely a manner as she would like, she hires a U.S. Marshall, Rooster Cogburn and a Texas Ranger, LeBoeuf, and they travel into “Indian” territory to find Chaney, with Mattie tagging along despite the more experienced men’s assistance it’s not safe for her to do so.

What follows is an examination into the supposed maturity of a 14-year-old girl, though throughout I found her to be pushy, unable to see fault in her own logic and a poor, biased narrator. 

That’s to be expected, considering her age, the book reads kind of like how you’d expect it to be written if it was a teenage girl, regardless of what era she’s in, detailing her conversations, thoughts and experiences, language used is really rather simple and the recording of the conversations she is a party to are done so in that’s very much like Matt Lucas’ “Vicky Pollard” character: “Yeah but he said like whatever” said I…. 

Despite its low page count the entire tale feels much longer than it really is, I think it only takes place over a couple of weeks, but the journey through the Indian territory feels so much longer, initially things move along incredibly quickly, but once everyone saddles up, it slows to a crawl and I personally began to feel as frustrated as Mattie did until, finally, the party comes across Chaney and then things really escalate and you’re barely able to catch your breath as events play out and you feel as helpless as Mattie does, both in her own actions and those of others, this is a character that does not like to be in control of any given situation.

And so, as we learn more about Mattie’s feelings towards the men she hired, the man they were hunting and the situation she found herself in, we begin to relate better, in hindsight I might add, to Mattie as a character, and I think now that I know more, this is one tale I’d like to return to at a later date (though certainly after I’ve watched the Coen brothers 2010 adaptation which is on Netflix).

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