Young Mattie Ross, fourteen & with the fires of revenge in her eyes, sets off across the perilous native lands of Arkansas with a drunkard Marshal & a Texas bounty hunter to lay justice at the feet of her father's killer.
If this premise sounds badass, it's because it absolutely is.
The best part of this novel is our narrator, Mattie Ross. She's fearless & armed with an intimidating knowledge of Bible scripture. Her story is spoken without the self-interest or manipulation you may expect from an adult with a reputation to maintain.
Mattie is unashamed to admit that retribution is her vice, and your opinion on the matter is of no consequence one way or the other.
The clever but unadorned language used to spin this tale really set the tone for a harsh Western winter in the 1870's. I was particularly fond of the way Portis wrote the interactions between characters; there's an effortless authenticity here that feels true to the time period even now 50 years after it was published.
So, why only a 3.5 stars?
Honestly, it comes entirely down to personal preference here. I don't know for sure whether or not I am a fan of the Western genre, as I don't have a lot of experience with it.
When I think Western stereotypes, I think of the following:
~Dusty but suave male lead who has an easy time of getting women to sleep with him.
~A scene in a bar (with optional bar fight.)
~A scene in a jail.
~Showdown/duel style finale.
This isn't a narrative I can get excited about.
However, when I first watched Tarantino's Django Unchained, I was struck with an instalove strong enough to rival even the shittiest of Young Adult novels.
Here was the type of Western I didn't know I needed in my life.
Ever since, I've had a tough time not comparing my Western endeavors across all mediums to that film. As far as this book is concerned, it actually measures up quite well. I love the characters & I think it definitely delivers the quality story promised in the premise.
It just didn't WOW me enough for a full 4 stars. I enjoyed it, but I won't be choosing this book to accompany me on a deserted island.
I'm glad to have finally read True Grit, as I think it's very much worth reading, and I'm even more glad that now I can watch both the 1969 and 2010 adaptions with a clear conscience!