Cover image for A wounded thing must hide : in search of Libbie Custer
A wounded thing must hide : in search of Libbie Custer
Poolman, Jeremy.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury, [2002]

Physical Description:
306 pages : portrait ; 24 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E467.1.C99 P66 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A vibrant, deeply personal portrait of the wife of General Custer.

Brilliant, inventive, but not in any conventional sense a biography, A Wounded Thing Must Hide is Jeremy Poolman's first foray into nonfiction, taking as its subject the fascinating wife of General Custer. He relates key scenes in Libbie's extraordinary life-her brushes with Empress Elizabeth of Austria, Tsar Alexander III, and Henry James, to name a few-each episode proving rich in relishably surreal detail. We see Libbie ferrying dung from Vienna to St. Petersburg (a present from empress to tsar, to ward off cholera and typhus); taking delivery of the present of a bear from Alex himself; stumbling into a soldier who might perhaps be the great-great-grandfather of Bob Dylan. Throughout it all, we catch glimpses of the glorious, wayward career of the General himself, culminating in the famous slaughter at Little Big Horn.

Far from an aridly factual outline of who did what where, Poolman offers us a vividly, tangibly real re-creation of historical events. He gets to places other biographies can't reach, bleeding, at times, into autobiography. Haunted by the death of his own wife, the narrator follows Libbie's itinerary in search of something unnamed in himself. Through exploring a widow's determination to protect her husband's damaged reputation, he hopes to find a way to deal with his personal loss. By exploring Libbie's and Custer's enduring love and devotion, he finds a form for his own.

Author Notes

Jeremy Poolman was born and educated in England, but spends much of his time in the United States. He is the author of three novels, My Kind of America, Interesting Facts About the State of Arizona, and Skin .

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Few historians have written about Libbie Custer, the frontierswoman, author and lecturer who outlived her famous husband, Gen. George Armstrong Custer, by more than 50 years (she died, aged 90, in 1933). Fascinated by the smallest details of Libbie's life, British-born novelist Poolman (My Kind of America) tries to visit every city, town and outpost she experienced His own father had been obsessed with Custer, leaving behind an unfinished manuscript on the famous general, and Poolman, propelled partly by the loss of his wife to cancer, continues his father's quest. Along the way, the author meets an array of odd, disarming characters: Oskar, a former school chum turned neo-Nazi; Herr Taschenbach, an Austrian curator who insists that Libbie believed horse dung held special healing properties; and a husband and wife who live in Libbie's former home and claim to be the Custers. With such larger-than-life characters, the book reads more like a postmodern novel than a straightforward biography. Poolman's reconstructed conversations are far too crafted to be taken as fact; they read a bit like a David Mamet screenplay, with stuttered, questioning, repetitive conversations rife with misunderstanding and futile attempts at clarification. The dialogue makes for an energetic and stylized read, but it detracts from the attempts at factual reconstructions of the past. The strict historian will find this an unusual book, more memoir and personal journey than battles and dates. Still, Poolman has written an engaging narrative with beguiling subjects: General Custer, Libbie and Poolman himself. (Aug. 5) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved