When I discovered this Classic
I discovered this Classic when I watched the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit at the cinema.
Why I chose to read it
I needed to read a book narrated by a female character for research, and remembered that True Grit is narrated by Mattie Ross. I hadn’t initially considered True Grit for the Classics Challenge, but on reading it I felt like it was a great Classic with which to end the year.
What makes it a Classic
True Grit is a Classic for a number of reasons. First, the strong first-person narration by Mattie Ross, unflinchingly honest, and unintentionally funny. Second, the evocation of a time and place in US history which holds far-reaching interest. Finally, the appeal it holds for readers of any age – something that Donna Tartt explores anecdotally in her introduction to the novel.
What I thought of this Classic (may contain spoilers)
True Grit is the story of Mattie Ross, the fourteen year old girl who, discovering that nothing is being done to capture her father’s murderer, resolves to hire a lawman with ‘true grit’ to take her into Indian Territory to bring the man to justice. It is also the story of said lawman, Rooster Cogburn, whose chequered past and pragmatism hide a fund of compassion. The language of the book has a strong brush of King James English, which, combined with Mattie’s uncompromising judgements, naïveté, and total lack of a sense of humour, adds a comic dimension to what she relates. The novel is intriguing as well for how little the central character changes. The story is told by the adult Mattie, looking back from the end of her life, and the interjections of the older woman are of a piece with the exhortations of her younger self. Mattie remains constant, while all around her changes.
Will it stay a Classic
Although some critics considered True Grit to be a great American novel on publication, and it was taught in high schools for a while, it seems to have fallen out of favour in recent times. I hope that the excellent 2010 film adaptation will encourage others to seek out the book, but I’m not sanguine that it will get the attention it deserves.
Who I’d recommend it to
Anyone. Everyone. This is a wonderful, funny, poignant book, which I hope more people will read.