22 May 2008

200-word review: 'True Grit' by Charles Portis

Wow. It’s a long time since I read a book this fast! When I got ‘True Grit’ as a birthday present, the title and front cover put me off – why would I want to read a book about guns and grit? But I’m so glad I did, because this is a good ol-fashioned gripping yarn!

It’s a Western, based around the 1870’s, about a teenage girl (Mattie Ross) who goes into Indian Territory with a maverick marshal, Rooster Cogburn, to avenge her father’s murder. I’m not a big fan of Westerns, but what drew me in was the narration. The story is told retrospectively by the older Mattie and the style is fascinating. It comes across as very dry, almost matter-of-fact, with a lot of attention to detail. This makes the action of the story really stand out, and gives the sense that the older Mattie is numbed to the harsh realities of what she went through then. The realities are harsh – gunfights, snake-infested pits and corpses galore, and the narrative has the effect of making this action more believable.

Even if you hate Westerns, read this. If you don’t like it, even a little, there’s something wrong with you.

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