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The Splendid and the Vile: Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Bombing of London Paperback – 3 March 2021
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- Publisher : HarperCollins GB (3 March 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 608 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0008274983
- ISBN-13 : 978-0008274986
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 3.8 x 19.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 7,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
PICKED BY BARACK OBAMA AND BILL GATES AS A BEST BOOK OF 2020
‘If you want to look back at a really important part of history with fresh eyes, this is the book for you … Gripping and wonderful’
‘An enthralling page-turner’
O: The Oprah Magazine
‘Fresh, fast and deeply moving … Larson’s deft portraits show the essential connection that words created between the powerful and the powerless, capturing the moments that defined life for millions struggling to survive the decisions of a few’
New York Times Book Review
‘There are countless books about World War II, but there’s only one Erik Larson … There are many things to admire about The Splendid and the Vile, but chief among them is Larson’s electric writing. The book reads like a novel, and even though everyone (hopefully) knows how the war ultimately ended, he keeps the reader turning the pages with his gripping prose.’
‘A particularly gripping read, written with bounce and brio. Larson pulls together vivid vignettes – some moving, some amusing, a few grim … A fine writer of narrative nonfiction history.’
Robbie Millen, Times
‘This book is peppered with eye-popping details … A deeply compelling work of history … Without resorting to heroism, it makes one long powerfully for real leadership’
‘I have an early copy of this book on my desk and idly began reading the first pages―and suddenly time disappeared.’
‘Larson’s skill at integrating vast research and talent for capturing compelling human dramas culminate in an inspirational portrait of one of history’s finest, most fearless leaders’
Booklist (starred review)
‘A captivating history of Churchill’s heroic year, with more than the usual emphasis on his intimates.’
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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Top reviews from Australia
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the author explores the day to day details of life during 1940
heavily referenced it speaks to the trivial but important aspects of survival of its citizens and their government
fascinating and well written
i could not put it down
Top reviews from other countries
Much has been written about Churchill's life and about the war years, but nothing quite like this. The author has looked for some of the less reported stories from the time . He mined the unpublished parts of the war diary written by Jock Colville, Churchill's private secretary, and of Churchill's teenage daughter Mary, as well as of Mass Observation surveys taken among the general population at the time to give something of a feeling for what it must have been like to live through these events. For Churchill the pressure must have been beyond description, but what comes through most clearly is how in times of crises people carry on with their lives too, The loves, the parties, and the sometimes petty concerns of human existence carry on alongside the fear and the hope. This book brings that out brilliantly, as it does the remarkable courage and leadership shown by Churchill himself in the most challenging of times.
There are lots of useful asides from the writings of the nazi leadership, with a fascinating account of Rudolf Hess's rather ridiculous attempts to broker a peace deal (on nazi terms, of course)
At 500 pages of narrative this is a long book, but the story, though maybe familiar in its main events, races along
and I was sorry when I finished it , to the point that I even read the acknowledgements at the end...
Superb reading, and a timely reminder that people have successfully got through much worse than we are experiencing now., and that the good times do come again.
Given that libraries could be filled with volumes dissecting almost every angle of Churchill’s life and WWII, it’s hard to imagine that Erik Larson could offer anything particularly original.
He has chosen, however, not to emphasize the extensive scholarship on this era, but to use journals and other primary sources to retell the Battle of Britain as it appeared to those in Churchill’s immediate circle. Thus, we get details as various as teenage Mary Churchill’s love of dances juxtaposed with his pet scientist’s ability to explain radar technology in a way he could understand.
These personal portraits, drawn from contemporary sources, combine to form a unique saga of what it felt like to be around Churchill in this troubled era. Accomplished with real brilliance, I thoroughly enjoyed Larson’s narrative.
Personal taste for this kind of history will, obviously, differ. Should history be recounted with more ample reference to other scholars? Does the personal inform the world-historical as much as Larson suggests?
These are questions which ultimately have to be answered by every reader. But, to my taste, this technique was an immense success in shedding new light on this dark, but inspiring era, in human history.
This book focuses on the dramatic events between the arrival of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister in May 1940 to the entry into the war of the United States in December 1941. The narrative moves effortlessly between the high drama of the war and the intimacies of Churchill’s family and the contrast between terrible events and the concerns of everyday life, not least the universal pleasures of romance in the beautiful summer of 1940, much of it told through the observations of Churchill’s youngest daughter Mary and one of his private assistants John Colville. This is very much the world of upper class English life but wider social comments come through reports from the Mass Observation correspondents.
Churchill is introduced as an enigmatic figure divisive and unreliable to many political contemporaries but adored by much of the public who believe he is the only man to lead the country out of the dire straits apparent by May 1940. A striking part of the ensuing narrative is how Churchill becomes increasingly respected and even loved by those who work closely with him. He is described with all his eccentricity and unreasonableness but also his warm humanity. The unremitting pressure on him is all too obvious and although prone to dangerous diversions and an enthusiasm for any form of action his strategic sense is a dominating theme. Right from the beginning he sees Nazism as evil and not a force to negotiate with, he sees the absolute need to win the USA to the cause and he understands the power of image and oratory to stiffen morale and see the country through the dangerous months of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. The range of his concerns, his work load and amazing energy are quite remarkable. There are wonderful pen portraits of Beaverbrook, Ismay, Lindemann, Goring and Harry Hopkins but also the sadness of aspects of Churchill’s family life particularly the increasingly tragic figure of his son Randolph. The main themes are peppered with little vignettes such as the importance of tea for civilian life, the accounts for running Chartwell, the significance of radar, and the ceaseless round of Churchill’s purposeful entertaining.
The author manages to bring to life a familiar period of British history with the skill of a novelist and an immediacy to events that take the reader to the heart of the personal and national drama. At the end this reader, at least, was reminded how fortunate civilisation was to have such a champion as Winston Churchill at its moment of greatest danger.