Summary

Pulitzer Prize, History, 2016
From the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, a brilliant new biography of Gen. George Armstrong Custer that radically changes our view of the man and his turbulent times.
In this magisterial biography, T. J. Stiles paints a portrait of Custer both deeply personal and sweeping in scope, proving how much of Custer's legacy has been ignored. He demolishes Custer's historical caricature, revealing a volatile, contradictory, intense person - capable yet insecure, intelligent yet bigoted, passionate yet self-destructive, a romantic individualist at odds with the institution of the military (he was court-martialed twice in six years).
The key to understanding Custer, Stiles writes, is keeping in mind that he lived on a frontier in time. In the Civil War, the West, and many areas overlooked in previous biographies, Custer helped to create modern America, but he could never adapt to it. He freed countless slaves yet rejected new civil rights laws. He proved his heroism but missed the dark reality of war for so many others. A talented combat leader, he struggled as a manager in the West.
He tried to make a fortune on Wall Street yet never connected with the new corporate economy. Native Americans fascinated him, but he could not see them as fully human. A popular writer, he remained apart from Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, and other rising intellectuals. During Custer's lifetime, Americans saw their world remade. His admirers saw him as the embodiment of the nation's gallant youth, of all that they were losing; his detractors despised him for resisting a more complex and promising future. Intimate, dramatic, and provocative, this biography captures the larger story of the changing nation in Custer's tumultuous marriage to his highly educated wife, Libbie; their complicated relationship with Eliza Brown, the forceful black woman who ran their household; as well as his battles and expeditions.
©2015 T. J. Stiles (P)2015 Random House Audio
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Critic reviews

"Spectacular...a satisfying portrait of a complex, controversial military man.... Confidently presenting Custer in all his contradictions, Stiles examines the times to make sense of the man - and uses the man to shed light on the times." ( Publishers Weekly)
"Stiles doesn't disappoint with this powerful, provocative biography.... A highly recommended modern biography that successfully illuminates the lives of Custer and his family as part of the changing patterns of American society." ( Library Journal)
"A warts-and-all portrait.... Stiles digs deep to deliver genuine insight into a man who never adapted to modernity." ( Kirkus Reviews)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By JackMargo on 23-06-16

Fantastic!

I thought I might gain a little bit of of knowledge about Custer, believing that I already knew Custer well. I was so wrong. I did not know as much as I thought I knew, and most of what I thought I knew was wrong.
The author has done an incredible job of telling the reader about the man who was Custer and about the people around Custer and the world that Custer lived in. Most importantly, he put the reader into Custer's head and heart and considered the times that Custer faced and who and what made Custer who he was, beyond only being a brave man.
If you like the whole period of American History around the Civil War and the first American depression, then you must read this book.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Catie Scarlette on 17-02-16

a masterful job of cutting through the legend(s)

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Anyone looking for a balanced telling of this story will appreciate the setting of context. T. J. Stiles has done a masterful job of placing Custer within his time, even when Custer himself did not always feel comfortable in his time.

Who was your favorite character and why?

It has to be the engaging, complicated, maddening and delightful Custer himself.

What does Arthur Morey bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His calm reading of the story enables one to remain objective about a subject that is anything but to most Americans.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I listened to the final chapter 4 times - the inquiry requested of the military by Reno made for interesting listening and while some of it was complicated, it was enlightening.

Any additional comments?

The only thing I would add, if it were somehow possible, was a map of the area of the battle. I plan to find one and listen AGAIN to the final chapter in order to fully understand it all. (I have been to the Custer battlefield at the Little Big Horn twice and the picture still eluded me.)

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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