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The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance… (2020)

de Erik Larson

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1,2557411,273 (4.29)102
"The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake delivers a fresh and compelling portrait of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz On Winston Churchill's first day as prime minister, Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold the country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally-and willing to fight to the end. In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people "the art of being fearless." It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it's also an intimate domestic drama set against the backdrop of Churchill's prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports-some released only recently-Larson provides a new lens on London's darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents' wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela's illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the cadre of close advisers who comprised Churchill's "Secret Circle," including his lovestruck private secretary, John Colville; newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook; and the Rasputin-like Frederick Lindemann. The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today's political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when-in the face of unrelenting horror-Churchill's eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together."--… (més)

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Es mostren 1-5 de 74 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Very thorough and detailed history of Churchill's first year as PM covering the Blitz and the threat of invasion. It was a fascinating time period and Churchill was a fascinating character -- the right man for the big job he had. However, the book didn't read as smoothly as Larson's other books. Too much detail and too much jumping around to different people and places to read like a cohesive story. ( )
  NMBookClub | Jan 27, 2021 |
An outstanding book ( )
  spec1963 | Jan 22, 2021 |
Loaned by our longtime friend because splendid writing, and about Churchill’s England where we’ve gone for research every year, and she has a house. Her husband kayaked on a Nova Special, from North of Newfoundland to Cape Cod. Larson folds in hourly details from Germany and England, specific characters from “The Coroner,” Chamberlain, whom King George VI supported. (His elder brother Edward VIII abdicated to marry an Am divorcée.) George VI was “knock-kneed, fish-lipped, saddled with a significant stammer”(12). Appointed on the day of Hitler’s blitzkrieg into the Lowlands the King had wanted Lord Halifax, but Chamberlain recommended Churchill, who had been head of the Admiralty in WWI, and was reappointed to that. Churchill said to his personal guard Inspector Thompson, “I am very much afraid that it is too late, “ but was “secretly elated,” and shed tears.”

Winnie hated whistling—as did, ironically, “that bad man,” what he called Hitler. He told the newspaper boy, cheerfully whistling, “Stop that…” Why should I? “Because I don’t like it and it’s a horrible noise.” Boy, “You can shut your ears, can’t you?” This caused WC to chuckle after a bit (16).

The Churchills had many kids, from age 29 to Mary, 17 at that time. In US, the main source of skepticism about Churchill, American ambassador Joseph Kennedy, who told Roosevelt WC had “developed into a two-fisted drinker”(26). Tough to take dictation for WC’s “minutes”: WC’s “slight lisplike speech impediment that caused him to muddy his s’s” (28). WC worked from his bathtub; he took baths twice a day, precise ones, 98℉, tub 2/3 full. These raised some problems when he travelled, for instance, to France before it fell.

Maj Gen Hastings “Pug” Ismey, intermediary between Churchill and three military chiefs (29). He’d been nicknamed because he looked a bit like a pug dog.

Lord Beaverbrook, notorious womanizer, a workaholic like his old friend, Winnie made Minister of Aircraft Production. The good lord called one subaltern at 2 AM, called him back at 8 to ask how he was coming on the assignment (44). WC kept a pistol in his car with him, and a “Bren”light machine gun in the trunk, also a cyanide tablet in his pen cap.

Chapter 9 takes less than 1/3 page. Winston feared a reverse Dunkirk, where 300K troops. including the 100K French, were evacuated by hundreds of small boats. Made possible by Hitler’s fortuitous halting of advancing panzers to give a rest before turning S to France. (60).

Science advisor Lindemann, “Prof,” rigid and so dressed, never forgot details. Once saw a poster, “Stop that dripping tap,” to save coal that fueled water system. The Prof calculated the wood pulp, shipping and fuel needed to make the posters, and figured correctly that the posters took more than they would save, even were they followed (75).
Mary Churchill dreaded “sitting next to Prof as he didn’t make many jokes”(83).
I admit to sharing one feature of this brilliant man, who never stayed over at the P.M.’s estate of Checquers, northwest of London, because he feared “encountering others on his way to the bath.” Bathrooms in so many English homes are way down a corridor; in one such at Emperor’s Gate, London, I walked to it in a bathing suit that some woman down the hall thought boxer shorts, and hid her head, returned to her room.

Churchill’s most-quoted, and mis-quoted, speech on May 13: his first to the House of Commons, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”(30). The next day the French P.M. called Churchill to say, “We are defeated.” Probably his second greatest was also before Commons in June, the 18th, not broadcast live, but in an evening reiteration which people found unenthused and doubtful, possibly even drunk. But no, “Churchill had insisted on reading the speech with a cigar clenched in his mouth”(93).

My reader will appreciate that good British usage smiles on our “Gimme.” “If he needed something [a hole punch was called a klop], he would hold out his hand and say, ‘Gimme,”…he used the same command to summon people, ‘Gimme Pug’”(94). ( )
  AlanWPowers | Jan 21, 2021 |
History brought to life in minute detail but told, as Erik Larson and few others can do, in a way that draws the reader in. This makes details of World War II impress in a way that too few high school history teachers in my way-back days were able to do. The picture of Winston Churchill prancing around 10 Downing Street in a colorful robe (or less) kind of sticks in one's mind forever. ( )
  librarygeek33 | Jan 21, 2021 |
A gossipy, easy to read history of Winston Churchill's first year as Prime Minister. Quirky gives a sense of Churchill's work and life style until you realize that he was many octaves above quirky.
The British memoirs that are primary sources clearly demonstrate British effeteness and blue bloodedness that permeated British political and military leadership during these times. Rationing tea for the proletariate while never seeming to run out of caviar, cigars, vintage champagne, and brandy for the aristocracy. The original nightclub destination to follow the Debutante Ball bombed and full of dead and wounded; not a problem we will find another place to party. Colville and Mary are appropriately seen as very shallow self-centered and unfortunately typical of their social spectrum.
The German mirror that Goebbels wields aptly demonstrates the Fuhrer mentality that dominated German thinking at that time. Churchill, flaws and all, was the right man at the right time as fully realized by Hitler and his top echelon staff.
A similar look at the next year and Winnie's many attempts to "play" Roosevelt so as preserve the British Empire would be an interesting sequel. ( )
  jamespurcell | Jan 18, 2021 |
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It is not given to human beings - happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable - to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events.
--Winston Churchill,
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"The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake delivers a fresh and compelling portrait of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz On Winston Churchill's first day as prime minister, Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold the country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally-and willing to fight to the end. In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people "the art of being fearless." It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it's also an intimate domestic drama set against the backdrop of Churchill's prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports-some released only recently-Larson provides a new lens on London's darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents' wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela's illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the cadre of close advisers who comprised Churchill's "Secret Circle," including his lovestruck private secretary, John Colville; newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook; and the Rasputin-like Frederick Lindemann. The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today's political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when-in the face of unrelenting horror-Churchill's eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together."--

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