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

by Erik Larson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,9061234,621 (4.24)208
"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 208 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
Finally finished this #AuthoraMonth for my online Litsy book club. My overall thought is how lucky England was with Churchill: definitely the right man at the right time. After reading this, I wonder if we would have won WWII without him. While I loved Larson's THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, this did become a bit cumbersome. My diary is less detailed than this! Did I need to know his every waking moment? No. Though him taking daily naps was endearing. 😃 ( )
  crabbyabbe | Aug 27, 2023 |
This is the captivating tale of how Winston Churchill, London and all of England survived the first year of World War II and the relentless bombing raids Hitler and the Nazis inflicted in order to break their spirit. Larsen uses quotes from diaries and letters to elevate the story above the facts and figures and dates and make it personal, populated with well-rounded personalities acting and reacting to events impossible to comprehend. He even almost succeeds at making Churchill himself into someone anyone can identify with. Yet the apparent reality of Churchill defies the attempt and he remains larger-than-life. This is a must-read for anyone interested in this period of history.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and Crown Publishing for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review. ( )
1 vote zot79 | Aug 20, 2023 |
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

Histories take various forms. Some concentrate on broad ranges of people and events. Others focus on singular events and a small number of historical figures. Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile captures a middle position, and does it very well. Larson examined the World War II period of May 10, 1940 to May 09, 1941 and focused the narrative on Winston Churchill and the German bombing of England during that period.

Larson deeply researched his work, using personal diaries and official histories from both sides of the conflict, to paint an intimate picture of the Churchill family and the circle of friends and government officials with a significant impact on the year he’s expansively covered. Unlike many histories, Larson avoids the pitfalls of densely cloaking his narrative just with facts, figures and events and ignoring the personal sides of history. This is a history that will enthrall history buffs, but also interest the casual reader as well. It is graced with humor, drama, and tragedy that unfolds as excitedly as a best-selling thriller.

Highly Recommended
( )
  MugsyNoir | Jul 19, 2023 |
Erik Larson is the master of making nonfiction read like a novel, and The Splendid and The Vile really brings that home as he examines Churchill and England during the Blitz. Using a multitude of primary documents and moving around through a variety of people, Larson brings them all to life and sheds light on Churchill’s political and personal life during the time. An absolute must-read for anyone interested in WWII and also for those wanting to learn more. An excellent audio book. ( )
  Hccpsk | May 14, 2023 |
On the one hand, this works well as a military and political narrative of the Battle of Britain; on the other hand it brings in personal matters, such as the tale of Churchill's daughter Mary falling in love, which simply pale in interest and importance compared to the epic events of the war. ( )
  fji65hj7 | May 14, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erik Larsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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