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

by Erik Larson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,4721175,294 (4.25)195
"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."--… (more)
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» See also 195 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 115 (next | show all)
Erik Larson's "The Devil in the White City" was fantastic. So I picked "The Splendid and the Vile" for my book club. I was disappointed.

The book, which covers Winston Churchill's first year as Prime Minister, didn't strike me as having much of a narrative form to it. It was more like "this happened, then this happened, etc."

Don't misunderstand: the writing's is good and there are certainly interesting moments as we're taken behind the scenes of not just policy and military debates and decisions, but of the lives of Churchill's family and close associates. That said, there seemed to be some frivolous moments too which took me from the heavy weight of the war. While it was interesting to see how these folks could live their lives as normally as possible during frequent nighttime attacks and devastation, I just found the many tangents of parties, love affairs, and melodrama to be tedious. ( )
  Jarratt | Jan 18, 2023 |
Splendid and the vile.
This is about a year in the Second World War from May 1940 until 1941. It focuses on the new government of Winston Churchill as he stands up to Adolf Hitler. Churchill comes to power just as the French government surrenders to the Nazis. Churchill takes over and assigns brilliant people to lead the war effort, especially Lord Beaverbrook who oversees the RAF.
The interesting bits of the story are the glimpses into life at Downing Street and at Chequers where we encounter the Churchill family, friends and everyone who works with the British government to secure victory. Churchill is portrayed as a brilliant statesman and strategist who surrounds himself with very competent, knowledgeable and often odd scientist or bureaucrats.
His relationship with Roosevelt is tense at first as he needs American help to win the war. Eventually a Lend Lease program is in place and helps somewhat.
The book is an easy read and very informative. ( )
  MaggieFlo | Jan 16, 2023 |
This book, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson represent a fresh approach both to Churchill and history writing. The book was weighted about one third towards the well-known speeches and political/military leadership of Winston Churchill, two-thirds to his somewhat raucous and disorderly family life. Little known is the disastrous marriage and financial dissipation of his son and daughter-in-law, the latter of whom ultimately married W. Averill Harriman.

My one quibble was insufficient coverage of his brilliant wife, Clementine Churchill. I wanted to learn more about her. The book was recommended by my late mother-in-law's husband, and a worthy referral. I recommend this book. ( )
  JBGUSA | Jan 2, 2023 |
2.25 stars

This book follows Winston Churchill during the Blitz (WWII) in London during 1940-1941. It not only looks at what is happening, politically and in the war, but also follows his family: his wife, Clementine; his daughter, Mary (17 in 1940, I think), who was sent outside London at this time; his son, Randolph, who married, but continue to cheat on his wife, despite having a new baby, gambled, drank, and just generally behaved badly.

From my description, you can guess that I found the personal/family stuff much more interesting in this book. It’s unfortunate, because Erik Larson is probably one of my favourite nonfiction writers, but this one just did not get my attention (I was NOT listening to the audio, either). I’m sure I missed even much of the personal stuff, but of what I did take in, that was the stuff that did keep my attention, even if briefly. One of the “stories” that I liked was Mary out dancing with friends when a bomb hit the club they were in (there is more to it – I just don’t want to give it away). There were bits and pieces of info from Germany, and from the U.S., as Churchill really wanted the help of the Americans. This one, obviously not for me (unfortunately). ( )
  LibraryCin | Dec 11, 2022 |
Just a flat narration of events. The material was drawn from multiple diaries and turned into a narrative, but there weren't any new insights into Churchill or anyone else. ( )
  Castinet | Dec 11, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 115 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erik Larsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Tézenas, HubertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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,
Eulogy for Neville Chamberlain,
November 12, 1940
Dedication
To David Woodrum
--for secret reasons
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No one had any doubt that the bombers would come.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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