Yeehaw! True Grit by Charles Portis

November 6, 2013 Coming of Age, Western 26

Howdy Bookworms,

I know it’s Wednesday and I don’t normally post, but since I didn’t do a Top Ten Tuesday yesterday, I figured I’d get a little crazy. (Yes, doing thing off schedule qualifies as “crazy” in my world. Don’t judge.) You never know what you’ll like if you never try anything new, right? I thought it might be fun for me to branch out and read something out of my comfort zone. Sarah at Sarah Says Read RAVED about how awesome True Grit was a while back, so it’s been on my radar ever since.

truegritTrue Grit was my first Western (well, my first Western that didn’t have Harlequin stamped on the cover… We all have our vices.) It had all the elements I expected: horses, pistols, cowboy hats, campfires, harmonicas… It was the geography of it all that surprised me a little bit. When I think “Western,” I think the Southwest- California, Arizona, New Mexico. True Grit took place in Arkansas and Oklahoma. It’s not like it didn’t make sense, it’s just that… Well. Tumbleweeds. You know?

Lack of tumbleweeds aside, I freaking LOVED Mattie Ross! This little half pint is one of the strongest female narrators I’ve ever read. Mattie is 14 years old and has left her home to claim her father’s body. Because, you know, that’s a totally appropriate task for a 14 year old girl. Her father was murdered by his hired hand Tom Chaney, and Mattie isn’t ABOUT to let that punk get away with it.

Powered by pure gumption, Mattie Ross recruits federal marshal Rooster Cogburn to help her bring Chaney to justice. Mattie is stubborn, sassy, and strong. She’s also got a great storytelling voice. There was a point in the novel where Mattie and Rooster were waiting for a troupe of bandits to show up. Rooster tries to kill the time by telling Mattie his life story, and things started getting a little long… Just as I was getting bored with Rooster’s story, Mattie breaks in and says that she fell asleep for a while and when she woke up, he was still talking. Ha! LOVE!

Now, while I simply adored Mattie, I’m still not sure I’m sold on the whole Western concept. Mattie will go down as one of my favorite characters ever, but True Grit probably won’t make my list of favorite novels ever. I suppose cowboy lore isn’t really my cup of tea. Still, if you want to read an AWESOME female lead? You need to meet Ms. Mattie Ross.

Okey dokey, Bookworms. Mattie Ross isn’t alone out there in literature land. Who are some of your favorite young female leads? Talk to me!

*If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of True Grit for yourself, please consider using this link. 9 out of 10 mamas won’t let their babies grow up to be cowboys, but they all want me to keep my reading habit funded. My affiliation with Book Depository nets me a small chunk of the proceeds of any sales I send their way.*

26 Responses to “Yeehaw! True Grit by Charles Portis”

  1. Charleen

    Yeah, Westerns aren’t really my thing. I suppose I should confess my ignorance in that I’ve never actually read a Western, but they just don’t appeal to me at all. Never cared about the movies either (unless Back to the Future III counts).

  2. Megan M.

    I’ve never read a Western either. I can handle the films (Bad Girls, anyone? Anyone?) but I’ve never had the urge to read one. I did see the newish True Grit movie with Tommy Lee Jones and I remember being very amused by Mattie. She is a great character!

    Hmm, favorite young female leads. Frankie from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars. Liesel from The Book Thief. Claire from the Morganville Vampires series. Ingrid from the Echo Falls mysteries.

  3. Daddio

    When I wuz a kid … My grandpa and I watched Palladin and Gunsmoke on TV. My Mom hand made a bed spread with my very own brand stenciled all over it. My next grand adventure with westerns was lying in an Army hospital bed reading SciFi. The guy in the next bed over was a tough old sergeant who admitted that his reading list was limited to “horseshit and Gunsmoke” and as he was leaving he left me his copy of Tales of a Gunfighter. It was a really easy read, little literary value but a great escape. Not my cup of Joe but many thanks, Tracy!

    • Words For Worms

      Oh Daaaad. I love it when you go all old man and start telling army stories… And Grandma stories. She was the best- she totally WOULD have made a crazy cowboy bedspread.

  4. kristinshafel

    Yay, I’m glad you liked it too! We have similar feelings about True Grit. I loved Mattie and I really liked Rooster too actually, but… eh, Westerns in general aren’t for me, I think.

  5. Joules (from Pocketful of Joules)

    I saw the movie version of True Grit when it came out a few years ago and I thought it was great. You should definitely rent it to fully complete your grit-ness. And the girl who played Mattie, Hailee Steinfeld, was so darn good!

  6. Samantha

    I haven’t read the book, but I did watch the True Grit movie, and of course I don’t have a comparison to the book, but Mattie was great in the movie too. The actress they chose to play her did a really good job.

    My favorite young female leads? Liesel from the Book Thief, Claudia Kincaid from The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Harriet Welsh (Harriet the Spy) and Pippi Longstocking. I also remember loving one of the main characters in The Egypt Game, but it’s been so long since I read it. (I know, most of them are beloved from when I was young, but they’re so great!)

  7. Jayne

    One of my favorite young female leads is Flavia de Luce, her series starts with Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. She’s a 11 yr old in a small English village that is obsessed with chemistry (self-taught from a dead distant relative’s books and equipment) that happens to stumble upon dead people and takes it on herself to investigate their murders behind the polices’ backs (she does try to involve them, but what cop is going to listen to an 11 yr old?). She’s precocious and smart and the books are a lot of fun.

  8. Wayne

    Never read the book. However, the *first* movie with John Wayne and Kim Darby the stars is a classic. John Wayne’s shouting “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” while charging four mounted outlaws with a rifle is up there with any of the best Borgart lines.

      • Wayne

        Highly recommended. John Wayne was at the tail end of his career but the pairing of Kim Darby and him was wonderful. Also, Robert Duvall is in the movie playing a bad guy. Incidentally, John Wayne was a very kind and nice person. He’s buried in Newport Beach, CA.

  9. Quinn Read

    I just put this one on my list! I confess to a soft spot for westerns. Lonesome Dove is one of my faves. I also enjoyed Doc — Mary Doria Russell’s take on Doc Holliday.

    As for favorite female leads, I have to cast a vote for Hermione Granger! And Meg from a Wrinkle in Time.

  10. Sarah @ Sarah Says Read

    “and Mattie isn’t ABOUT to let that punk get away with it.”

    Ha! Oh Mattie. How I love her. I started getting really bored with Rooster’s story too, but luckily Mattie’s sass and then some action helped get away from that.

  11. Candiss

    I’ve meant to read this for years. I recall seeing it on the counter of a jumble shop in my small hometown some 30 years ago and asking the owner about it. He rhapsodized about the book, and I added it to my mental to-read list. I’ve still never managed to get around to it, although I loved the recent movie remake. (I wasn’t fond of the older movie adaptation.)

    I need to move this one up my list!

  12. Christy (A Good Stopping Point)

    I do want to read True Grit someday – I enjoyed the recent film adaptation. This year I also read Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry which was amazing. Can’t say that I have read any other westerns besides Lonesome Dove, and I think in some ways, McMurtry is aiming to undercut some of the cowboy myths with his story.

    Anyway, favorite young female leads: Ree Dolly of Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell; Francie Nolan of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith; and Deeba Resham of Un Lun Dun by China Mieville.

Talk to me, Bookworms!

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