There is no knowing what lies in a man's heart. On a trip to buy ponies, Frank Ross is killed by one of his own workers.
Tom Chaney shoots him down in the street for a horse, $150 cash, and two Californian gold pieces.
Ross's unusually mature and single-minded fourteen-year-old daughter Mattie travels to claim his body, and finds that the authorities are doing nothing to find Chaney.
Then she hears of Rooster - a man, she's told, who has grit - and convinces him to join her in a quest into dark, dangerous Indian territory to hunt Chaney down and avenge her father's murder.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 216 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
- Publication Date: 03/01/2005
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780747572633
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.
Review by othersam
Recently reissued by Bloomsbury in the UK, this Western was turned into one of John Wayne's best-loved films. The book's even better! When her father is brutally murdered, Mattie Ross sets out to bring the killer to justice. Mattie is a wonderful character, spiky and brave and incredibly strong-willed - but she's only fourteen. She can't do this on her own. She's going to have to convince the irascible Rooster Coburn to help her! Thrilling, funny and heartfelt by turns, this is a delightful book.
Review by uryjm
Sometimes it's difficult to match the Western up with any other kind of genre, but the best Westerns match anything the others might tackle. Love, hate, philosophy, good versus evil, companionship, betrayal and redemption, such themes are usually covered in Chapter One. Then it's on with the shooting. I wouldn't say True Grit was the best Western I've read and, if anything, it was a little slow, but it was a diverting enough yarn for a couple of nights. And, as you might well guess, John Wayne plays Rooster Cogburn in the book just the same as in the film. It really was a part made for the man.
Review by gaskella
This was our Book Group choice for reading in March. It’s fair to say that while no-one hated it, not everybody loved it like I did. One thing that we were all agreed on though, was that Mattie Ross was a remarkable young heroine, however irritating she could be.If you are only familiar with the 1969 film starring John Wayne as Marshall Reuben Cogburn, you’ll find that the film, although great fun, is quite different to the book. The original movie is more of a star vehicle for Wayne, who indeed won an Oscar for his role in 1970. The book, however, is narrated entirely by Mattie, who looks back on the adventure she had when she was fourteen on her quest to find Tom Chaney, her father’s murderer. This enabled me to disassociate my reading from the original movie somewhat. I’ve yet to see the Coen brothers’ recent movie, but I’m told it’s very close to the book and rather good – might have to wait for the DVD now though …We had a lot of discussion about Mattie. Was she really as determined and clever at fourteen, or was she remembering through the veil of age? She certainly stepped up to take on the patriarchal role of her family. We all loved the scene where she bargains with Stonehill, the auctioneer and stock dealer, over her father’s horses. She has such tenacity, backed up with the threat of a writ from lawyer Daggett, that he gives in to the slip of a girl that has wit and brains way beyond normal girls her age. She knows her own mind, when she asks the Sheriff about which Marshall she should hire, she makes an instant decision. I quote ...“Who is the best marshall they have?”The Sheriff thought on it for a minute. He said, “I would have to weigh that proposition. There is near about two hundred of them. I reckon William Walters is the best tracker. He is a half-breed Commanche an it is something to see, watching him cut for sign. The meanest one is Rooster Cogburn. He is a pitiless man, double-tought, and fear don’t enter his thinking. He loves to pull a cork. Now L.T.Quinn, he brings his prisoners in alive. He may let one get by now and then, but he believes that even the worst of men is entitled to a fair shake. Also the court does not pay any fees for dead men. Quinn is a good peace officer and a lay preacher to boot. He will not plant evidence or abuse a prisoner. He is as straight as a string. Yes I will say Quinn is about the best they have.”I said, “Where can I find this Rooster?”Arguably, it is Mattie herself that has the most true grit, as she wears down one man after another. They don’t stand a chance against her, but she couldn’t do it without Rooster’s help though.The first half of the book is full of wonderful exchanges, between Mattie and Stonehill, Mattie and LaBoeuf (also on the trail of Chaney), Mattie and Cogburn – the dialogue is absolutely sparkling. Once they’re out on the trail, things do drag slightly; there’s too much about Rooster’s ‘biscuits’ and not enough scenery, (something that another classic western story, Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey has in abundance for instance).Set as it is in the late 1800s, our group felt it had an authentic feel, the casual racism, the hanging Mattie steels her self to see at the beginning, the frontier town and pioneer spirit, we were amazed to find it was only written in 1968. Like Donna Tartt, in the introduction to this edition, we also did a compare and contrast with Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, (my review here). Whereas Dorothy is a homemaker in training, Mattie is forging a path away from rather than back home.Over the past months, I’ve really fallen for Westerns big-time – Lonesome Dove is on my bedside bookshelf now too. This is another great read, and I heartily recommend it especially if, like me, you haven’t seen the Coen brothers’ film yet.
Review by clfisha
Excellent American classic Told in memoir format, this is a tale of 14 yr old Mattie Ross who sets out from Arkansas in the 1870s to avenge the death of her father. Its short, amusing, harsh and terribly endearing. It's very easy to see why this is a much loved (and much filmed) book. Mattie's character is simply wonderful, I can't better the description of "harsh innocence and indestructible vitality" andset against the wild west of bounty hunters, hanging judges and criminal gangs she shines like pure gold. Draped in an adults fore-knowledge adds added poignancy to what could be just a coming or age adventure we can root for and sympathise for at all ages, it also gives the story a deeply satisfying ending. Her co-stars, one eyed, drunk maverick "Rooster" Cogburn and pretty boy LaBoeuf, are perfectly drawn opposites; sniping and rubbing up against each other whilst she runs rings around them. Character driven though it is, plot is tightly packed and the action sequences superb (if you can ever get the dramatic climax out of head I will be surprised). It’s a book that stays with and makes smile in a sad/happy way. Highly recommended, forget the films just grab the book.
Review by CarltonC
The story of Mattie's search for vengeange against her father's killer, Tom Chaney, set in the years after the American Civil War, is powerful in its simplicity and very skillfully told. Mattie, a fourteen year old girl made older than her years by circumstance, is the narrator, but she tells her story from the distance of her old age.Mattie's voice is distinctive and she describes the other characters forcefully, but well, especially LaBeouf and Rooster Cogburn, the Texas Ranger and Indian Territory Marshall who help her track Chaney, who has fallen in with a band of train robbers who are hiding in the Indian Territories.An easy and enjoyable read, both for the matter of fact treatment of its subject matter (an unsentimental portrayal of the West before it was civilised) and the fantastic narrator's voice. Portis' portrayal of Mattie is exceptional.