Lately I have been abandoning many non-fiction books one after the other. Apparently I had been too hasty in my book selection. In order to break the chain and refocus my mind, I decided to read a quick fiction book this time. I picked up True Grit from Charles Portis as a tale of revenge, bravery and honour. It follows the story of Mattie Ross, a 14-year old girl whose father, James Ross, who was killed by one of his helpers, Tom Chaney. She hires the help of an US Marshal, Rooster Cogburn and a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf. Mattie is shown as an innocent, yet clear-headed and stubborn girl who is persistent on bringing his father’s killer to justice. No matter how hard various people around her try to dissuade her from the foolhardy journey, she heads on, almost with a robotic single-mindedness. The book follows the adventures of the team of three as they venture into Indian territory in search of the gang that Chaney had joined.
I found Mattie’s portrayal pleasing and humourous at first, but soon it got quite repetitive and annoying. No wonder full-grown adults threw up their hands in the air whenever it came to dealing with her. For some reason I also watched the 2010 movie adaption by the Coen brothers along with reading the book. The character’s portrayal in the movie only confirmed my view that often, Mattie became nothing but more annoying to people around her.
The book runs only 215 pages long and can be finished in a few days. At times, the stories of Cogburn do get boring but more or less the book is an entertaining read. The only complaint I have about the story is how they chose to end it. In case you have not read it and don’t want any spoilers, I suggest you do not read this review further.
Their journey comes to a climax with Mattie coming face to face with Chaney and getting kidnapped in the process. Her rescue by Cogburn and LaBoeuf is what wraps up the final episodes of the book. But after she is rescued and taken to a doctor, the story jumps a few decades when the narrator says that she never got to meet both her companions afterwards. And by the time Mattie got around to searching for Cogburn (when she is now in her 40s), she finds that Cogburn is deceased. Now this is the part that jars me, that a headstrong girl who was so determined to avenge her father’s death that she heads out on a journey all alone at first, would not take the effort to search out her rescuers in this very journey until it was way too late. Cogburn would have had a more fitting and honourable death instead in the rescue attempt itself, especially when he jumps into the pit of snakes where Mattie was trapped. It sounds almost insulting to have Cogburn meet his death in the background of the story.
Other than this niggling issue, I enjoyed the book. The movie on the other hand was quite avoidable (surprised to read that it was nominated for ten Academy Awards!) Maybe it was because reading the book and watching the movie at the same time was too overkill for my brain to process.
True Grit is a short and enjoyable adventure of revenge in the Wild West. Fans of the genre will enjoy it. For the rest, I daresay, watch one of its movie adaptations.