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Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life (2003)

de Gretchen Rubin

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207498,882 (3.65)1
A WALL STREET JOURNAL SUMMER PICK A WASHINGTON POST BESTSELLER Warrior and writer, genius and crank, rider in the British cavalry’s last great charge and inventor of the tank, Winston Churchill led Britain to fight alone against Nazi Germany in the fateful year of 1940 and set the standard for leading a democracy at war. With penetrating insight and vivid anecdotes, Gretchen Rubin makes Churchill accessible and meaningful to twenty-first-century readers by analyzing the many contrasting views of the man: he was an alcoholic, he was not; he was an anachronism, he was a visionary; he was a racist, he was a humanitarian; he was the most quotable man in the history of the English language, he was a bore. Like no other portrait of its famous subject, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill is a dazzling display of facts more improbable than fiction. It brings to full realization the depiction of a man too fabulous for any novelist to construct, too complex for even the longest narrative to describe, and too significant ever to be forgotten.… (més)
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Entertaining. Rubin's JFK book is better. ( )
  timspalding | Jun 5, 2011 |
An intruiging take at a biography of a very odd man. Aimed at, I would say, a freshman-in-college level audience, Rubin breaks up the story of Chruchill into 40 short chapters. In addition to hopping around Churchill's life, recounting his speeches and his oddities, she attempts to deconstruct the notion of a biography by writing parts of chapters from radically different points of view, some of them personal, some of them conflicting. Although occasionally repetative and not always 100% successful, the result is in some ways a more balanced biography than a much longer volume. In terms of content, though, it is rather thin, so think of this book as an appetizer rather than a main course. ( )
  Harlan879 | Jan 16, 2010 |
I first encountered Gretchen Rubin through her blog The Happiness Project. This was during a time when I was thoroughly depressed and needed all the advice I could get. The blog explores the small and large things a person can do in order to feel happier. Rubin makes an engaging blogger; a Yalie lawyer who clerked for Sandra Day O'Connor, she approaches the main problem of philosophy with the brio and curiosity of an inveterate note-taker. ("Zoinks, I love to take notes," she writes. Any woman who combines curiosity with a vocabulary that includes the word "zoinks" is okay by me.)

Rubin has written a couple of hodgepodgey books, one of which I just finished: Forty Ways of Looking at Winston Churchill. This book forsakes the dull chronological march of the typical biography to present the reader with multiple glimpses and viewpoints of the ultimate British bulldog. The result is delightful, says I. It is also meta-biographical, since, by juxtaposing different versions of Churchill, Rubin reveals the ways in which biographies always reveal only certain sides of their subjects.

Churchill (as the author delightedly notes) lived a life that would have seemed incredible in fiction. His outsize personality, endless string of accomplishments, frequent quotability, and (oh yeah) the fact that he almost single-handedly saved Western Civilization from Hitler...they all make him too vivid to be real, yet he was. If you want to read about him, and I think you should, start here.
  subbobmail | Mar 29, 2008 |
A good book giving you a sense of the many sideds to the man and his times. I am not an real fan of biography but this was short and by approaching from 40 angles you get close to a 360 view. I think the idea of 40 ways to view a subject is great and beats a linear approach. It also allows for complexity and contradiction - something I prefer rather than someone having a "take" on a character either positive or critical. The only critisism is that the author's heart did not seem to be in the "anti" Churchill chapters - they were a bit mechanical or essay like - perhaps fair enough given that it is pretty hard to be convincing given Chirchill was fighting Hitler and that the war was in fact won. ( )
  prebs99 | Apr 7, 2007 |
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We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

-Winston Churchill, 'Address to the House of Commons' June 4, 1940
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To my mother and father
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I know exactly when my obsession with Winston Churchill began: on a plane from New York to Anchorage, while I was reading a World War II history that described a scene at Churchill's country house.
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Asked whether he was flattered by the crowds drawn by his speeches, Churchill replied,"It is quite flattering, but whenever I feel this way I always remember that, if instead of making a political speech, I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big."
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A WALL STREET JOURNAL SUMMER PICK A WASHINGTON POST BESTSELLER Warrior and writer, genius and crank, rider in the British cavalry’s last great charge and inventor of the tank, Winston Churchill led Britain to fight alone against Nazi Germany in the fateful year of 1940 and set the standard for leading a democracy at war. With penetrating insight and vivid anecdotes, Gretchen Rubin makes Churchill accessible and meaningful to twenty-first-century readers by analyzing the many contrasting views of the man: he was an alcoholic, he was not; he was an anachronism, he was a visionary; he was a racist, he was a humanitarian; he was the most quotable man in the history of the English language, he was a bore. Like no other portrait of its famous subject, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill is a dazzling display of facts more improbable than fiction. It brings to full realization the depiction of a man too fabulous for any novelist to construct, too complex for even the longest narrative to describe, and too significant ever to be forgotten.

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