I do not have the vocabulary to express adequately how superb I felt this book to be. Once I started this book I could not do much else other than get to the end as soon as possible. It is to me the proverbial "could not put it down" (as a cricket fan I even did not watch England beat the Ausatralians in a 50 overs game - a rare occurence)and it was more of a page turner than many a thriller. If I was on a desert island and was allowed to take one book with me until now they were one of the following "The Reckoning" or "The Official Biography of TE Lawrence." This book would now be in contention.
The writing is straightforward and does not get in the way of the narrative - sometimes I think historians write for other historians only and to show how cleaver they are use words that were archaic even in Chaucer's time - not in this book. The writing here is clear e.g. when people die they die - unlike an historian I read recently who used the phrase "passed on" or "passed over" constantly and as a lot of people died in that book that phrase was long and annoying. Mr Pilbrick also avoids unnesssary adjectives or sentances so long that you have forgotten the beginning by the time one gets to the end. This could be used as a text book on how to write clear English for history books.
The story is fascinating particularly if like me you grew up in the days when every second film was a western and some dealt specifically with the Little Big Horn. I was always on the Indians' side and from reading this book I had good reason to be. From what I remember none of these film showed how bad the relationships between the army officers of Custer's command were and how this affected the outcome.
As the book drives to the battle the background of the likes, hopes, fears and blaming of and by the various Army Officers involved directly or indirectly with the battle are introduced where and when it seems appropriate to the narrative. Every officer seemed to have their own aggenda and made their decisions on what that was rather than how they should be in a unified command. The events described here reminded me of a book "The Reason Why" which described (from what I remember) the dreadful relationships between Lords Raglen and Cardigan that contributed to that debarcle known as "The Charge of the Light Brigade.' The selfishness of officers told here could also be applied to the modern world particularly politics and business.
The amount of research was for this book is clearly huge and on pages 209/10 the author discusses profoundly the dilemma that he and all historians face with e.g. their sources - when they written, by whom they were written and accuracy of memories.
I cannot write well enough to do this book justice - just read it.
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