by John Hough Jr.
Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Page Count: 320
Release Date: June 14, 2014
How got: personal buy via Amazon
First attention getter: subject matter
Little Bighorn is the beautifully written, uniquely American story of the coming-of-age of eighteen-year-old Allen Winslow during the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the fraught weeks immediately preceding it. The novel abounds with memorable characters, including Allen himself, his beautiful sixteen-year-old traveling companion, Addie, and the brave but monomaniacal Gen. George Armstrong Custer. Hough brings to life the American West and heartbreaking history, brilliantly portraying the flawed and tormented Custer.
Star Rating - 4
I had the opportunity recently to re-visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield after twenty years. I first visited as a child and of course at that age you’re not really paying attention nor can grasp the true significance of the events discussed. Now, I was able to absorb so much more and immerse myself into the history presented. So of course my interest was perked to read more on the battle. I’ve had this title on my Kindle for quite a while, two years in fact. It’s been on my to-read list for three. So now was a great time to dig in.
Given what I've recently learned after my historical immersion, the author seemed to have stuck pretty closely with the history that’s known, without an excessive use of creative license. As Allen goes west and is sucked into the Custer family’s orbit of influence, the reader travels along with him into the historical record.
From small period details like travel by train, dress, and daily army fort life to analyzing aspects of the battle itself and interpersonal politics between the officers, Hough shows he’s taken the time to get the historical details right and relay them to his audience perfectly. The author even discusses how he went to the battlefield itself so he’s seen the landscape and immersed himself as well. That’s dedication…
Hough also does a fairly well done job in characterization. He gets into the mind and personal feelings of George Armstrong Custer, giving us a possible insight into why Custer did what he did and how he felt. This mystical American West figure feels more human in Hough’s hands. Allen and Addie are the perfect foils to tell the main story through. Their initial innocence and emerging maturity make the journey very relatable. The reader can’t help but be drawn into their struggle and lives as they deal with the momentous events that was Little Bighorn.
The one hitch I found for this work was the writing style. Descriptive passages were done well, giving a great sense of the vastness that was Montana and the Dakotas at that time (and really still is) and also the workings of the various historical settings. Yet, when it came to conversations/dialogue, the narrative tended to turn choppy and abrupt. Rather than being incorporated into other paragraphs, people talking mostly got their own paragraphs, even if conversation exchanges only involved 3-4 words.
Despite that discrepancy, Hough tells a rousing tale of bravery, maturing through epic events, and humanization of history. He has relatable characters and conveys the history of his story descriptively. I was swept along for the adventure and the tragedy, living each moment with Allen, Addie, and Custer. I’d recommend this work to any lover of history, especially the American West. It takes a seminal event in that historical timeline and brings it to vivid life.