This is not a biography as much as a social history of the circle near Churchill during the Blitz, all taking place within one year. It highlights info gleaned from many diaries, some which have only recently come to light, and the author states in the introduction, that if he says Churchill raised his eyebrow, it is because someone documented seeing that. None of the details or dialogue here is imagined and superimposed, and it is just astonishing to consider the amount of seamless piecework this author achieved in this book. It is a triumph just in the telling, let alone in what it describes.
I’ve read a lot of historical fiction, but this volume filled in gaps, and really gave me a complete sense of the time in a memorable way. The Splendid and the Vile reads like a novel, with the advantage that it is all fact.
One comes away with a remarkable understanding of Churchill and the time, and how the two were inextricably woven together. Churchill’s courage, eloquence, and carefully chosen “carry on” attitude, led a whole country through a most difficult time, in a way you realize another leader may understandably have folded and surrendered. The pulling together described in this book is needed now in my own country (USA), and I can’t help wondering who will do it? While both being unique characters, Zelinsky in Ukraine is manifesting very much the same ability of marshaling against attack and incredible stamina for going forward that Churchill expressed. Were they made who they are by the time or for it?
I give this varied, chockfull book five stars. Everyone in my book group loved it too. If you know someone who enjoys exceptionally well written nonfiction or history, this would be a great gift. I listened to it on audio, which was wonderful as well. The print in the paperback is awfully small, so if you are going to buy a paper copy, I’d recommend the hardcover!
I will certainly read it as Churchill is a hero of mine. He sent the little ships to help the big boats evacuate soldiers stranded on Dunkirk beach. My Dad was one of them – he was 21 and got safely back to the UK. He went back to fight in North Africa and then Italy and eventually came home in 1946. So great respect for Churchill, a courageous wartime leader.
Devil in the White City
In the Garden of the Beast
Both I could not put down.
Just got the Churchill book.
So glad you like it!
Me and Oprah love Eric Larson!
Two good Nashvillians giving you two thumbs up❤️
I’ve just finished this book and I loved it! Thanks for recommending it. I now have a greater appreciation for what my parents went through.
I was born soon after the end of the war and we were living in Bristol, UK. Bristol was very badly bombed as it was a major port at that time. I remember seeing bomb sites everywhere that were yet to be rebuilt, and we still had food rationing, though as a small child I wasn’t really aware of that.
My parents were happy to talk of their wartime experiences, though there are many things I wish now that I had asked them about!
My mum volunteered at an ARP centre and manned the telephones. She met my dad’s sister there and was introduced to dad when he came home on leave! They married in 1946 when he eventually came home for good.
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