Monday, July 18, 2011

An Historical Delight

Son of the Morning Star
Son of the Morning Star 

"Like Crazy Horse, he almost always escaped unhurt.  In a skirmish near Brandy Station he was cut by shrapnel.  Otherwise he charged through the Civil War with nothing worse than a touch of influenza or poison oak." (p 113)

Once in a while you find a book that is so well written that beyond the days of reading, long after you have finished it, the book continues to haunt you. Son of the Morning Star is one of those books. The beauty of Evan Connell's prose and the excellence of his history make this book a minor masterpiece. Perhaps the larger-than-life presence of the central character, who the Indians named "son of the morning star", General George Armstrong Custer, is partly the reason for the magnificence of the book.

“Even now,” Evan Connell writes in his book, “after a hundred years, his name alone will start an argument. More significant men of his time can be discussed without passion because they are inextricably woven into a tapestry of the past, but this hotspur refuses to die. He stands forever on that dusty Montana slope.”

Who knows the mind of Custer and the reasons that led to his demise at Little Big Horn. Maybe Evan S. Connell hits on the right one by thinking the most simply: Custer had never known defeat, perhaps couldn’t see it even when it was only one hilltop away. Few non-academic histories have been so well-written as this and have such compelling central themes that you can't put them down. Near-masterpiece is the best thing I can say when recommending this to anyone who enjoys reading a great book. It was simply a delight to read.

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parrish lantern said...

Custer's one of those individuals that has despite everything written, remained something of an enigma. My opinion based on nothing more that films & the odd remark is of an arrogant vain man & yet he seems to have been able to lead his men wherever he went.

James said...

Your comment is reasonably accurate and not surprising given his reputation. His success was not based on likability but he knew how to get ahead and he had his head in the clouds until the end. Custer was described as "an enigmatic and extravagant figure, fearless in battle and sentimental in repose."