I decided to read this book after watching the Academy Awards a while ago. John Wayne received an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role in the 1969 version of True Grit, and the version that came out last year was nominated for ten Oscars. I have not seen any of the versions and decided to read the book before reviewing them. Westerns are not what I normally read, but I have enjoyed reading Louis L’Amour in the past.
The book can be summed up in the first sentence on the first page: “People don’t believe that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go in winter to avenge her father’s blood, but it didn’t seem so strange.” later, although I will say that it did not happen every day ”. Mattie Ross is after the man who shot his good-natured father in Arkansas, and he will stop at nothing until he gets what he deserves. The book is written in a practical tone, with the courage of a stubborn girl who doesn’t take no for an answer. She tells the story as an intelligent spinster, looking back on events that would stay with her for the rest of her life.
Mattie travels to Fort Smith, where her father was murdered, and seeks help from the United States Marshals to avenge the murderer Tom Chaney. She finds the true determination she’s looking for in one-eyed “Rooster” Cogburn. Shortly after she finds him, she is confronted by a Texas ranger named LaBoeuf who has hunted down Chaney for killing a man in Texas. LaBoeuf and Cogburn agree to go after Chaney, but Mattie is not far behind. She stubbornly follows them until they reluctantly agree to let her accompany them.
The journey to avenge her father’s life is not quite what she envisioned: traveling long hours on horseback, listening to drunken men talk, and sleeping on rough terrain is hard work. I loved how Cogburn calls Mattie “little sister” and seems to grow fond of her in a harsh way. The action-packed finale made me shiver a bit when Mattie finds herself wedged into a pit with bats brushing past her from the cave below, and the only thing in reach is a corpse with bells crawling out of the chest looking for a snack. I’m not that big of a fan of snakes.
Although I enjoyed the book, I found the direct narration a bit emotionally lacking and dry at times. I loved the interactions between Mattie and Rooster, with the stories he told her and the way she looked to him for help. It is not a book that I would read again, but it is worth reading once.