I recently accepted a challenge from Mr FH; he would choose a book from our overflowing shelves and I would have to read it without arguement. The only stipulation I made was for it not to be a sport related book of which we seem to have an increasing number. Deep down I wasn’t concerned. He has good taste in books and we often share titles. This is what he chose (10 sentences starts below!).
14 year old Mattie Ross seeks a vigilante or lawman; in fact anyone loyal to her cause will do, as long as they show grit in the pursuit of her father’s killer who is rumoured to be holed up with a band of rampaging outlaws in the Indian territories of Arkansas. Many more suitable and sensible candidates present themselves, but she chooses one-eyed, murderous drunkard marshal Rooster Cockburn for the job, insisting she accompany him on the quest. She is fearless and uncompromising in her determination for justice and retribution, she is bright, older than her years and she often keeps the marshal in check with her bossy manner so when her vulnerability becomes obvious you love her all the more for it.
True Grit tells Mattie’s version of the chase to find her father’s killer which she narrates from her old age. As she remembers back to the events of that winter, she does not overplay her own role, she does not honey coat or romanticise the harsh conditions during their search for the outlaws, the reader is under no illusion of the dangers she faces in the company of Cockburn and his sidekick, the Texas ranger called Laboeuf. Portis manages to strike an ideal balance between the risks portrayed in his wilderness drama and the genuine affection Mattie feels for the rough relic of the civil war, Cockburn. The deadpan exchanges and warmhearted chastisements between the two are touching and often amusing.
This is a mini masterpiece about friendship and loyalty forged during a few weeks of uncertainty and intense adventure. It’s just lovely.