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The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz Paperback – Large Print, March 10, 2020
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“Through the remarkably skillful use of intimate diaries as well as public documents, some newly released, Larson has transformed the well-known record of 12 turbulent months, stretching from May of 1940 through May of 1941, into a book that is fresh, fast and deeply moving.”—Candice Millard, The New York Times Book Review
“Fascinating . . . The entire book comes at the reader with breakneck speed. So much happened so quickly in those 12 months, yet Larson deftly weaves all the strands of his tale into a coherent and compelling whole.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“I have an early copy of this book on my desk and idly began reading the first pages—and suddenly time disappeared.”—The Seattle Times
“The popular historian Erik Larson has done it again. As I read this book, I kept wondering what the swelling of powerful emotion was that I felt, sometimes in an almost physical sense.”—Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny, in Air Mail
“Still, it is a time of sadness, fear, grief and uncertainty for so many, and I find myself comforted by reading about other supremely challenging times in human history, and about resilience, and hope. For this, there is no better book right now than The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson.”—Mackenzie Dawson, New York Post
“Nonfiction king Erik Larson is back.”—PopSugar
“Spectacular . . . Larson, as America’s most compelling popular historian, is at his best in this fast-moving, immensely readable, and even warmhearted account of the battle to save Britain.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“William Shakespeare once wrote, ‘There is a history in all men’s lives.’ Certainly, this has been lived out in the remarkable writing career of Erik Larson. His dynamic ability to tell tales from deep within the dusty pages of history in a gripping and cinematic way has earned him wide acclaim. What sets his work apart is his signature way of using painstaking research through personal journals and historical records to spin a gripping nonfiction tale through the ordinary lives of the men and women who succeeded, failed, and perished as a result.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“The Splendid and the Vile delivers the great saga with a novelist’s touch. It’s like you’re watching and hearing the days and nights of 1940 as a passenger on a double-decker London bus.”—Chris Matthews, Churchill Bulletin
“A propulsive, character-driven account of Winston Churchill’s first year as British prime minister . . . Readers will rejoice.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Larson’s skill at integrating vast research and talent for capturing compelling human dramas culminate in an inspirational portrait of one of history’s finest, most fearless leaders.”—Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
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But if Winston Churchill is the main character in the book, Larson has a wide ranging cast of supporters, including his wife, Clementine, his children (including his fascinating daughter-in-law, Pamela Digby), other government officials, and, of course, the British people, who faced down months of the German Blitz in 1940 and 1941. Larson does his regular meticulous job of research and the book is a reader’s delight. I was going to write “a history reader’s delight”, but then I realized that Larson’s writing transcends classification and appeals to so many more readers than a typical history does.
Given that libraries could be filled with volumes dissecting almost every angle of Churchill’s life and WWII, it’s hard to imagine that Erik Larson could offer anything particularly original.
He has chosen, however, not to emphasize the extensive scholarship on this era, but to use journals and other primary sources to retell the Battle of Britain as it appeared to those in Churchill’s immediate circle. Thus, we get details as various as teenage Mary Churchill’s love of dances juxtaposed with his pet scientist’s ability to explain radar technology in a way he could understand.
These personal portraits, drawn from contemporary sources, combine to form a unique saga of what it felt like to be around Churchill in this troubled era. Accomplished with real brilliance, I thoroughly enjoyed Larson’s narrative.
Personal taste for this kind of history will, obviously, differ. Should history be recounted with more ample reference to other scholars? Does the personal inform the world-historical as much as Larson suggests?
These are questions which ultimately have to be answered by every reader. But, to my taste, this technique was an immense success in shedding new light on this dark, but inspiring era, in human history.
This is not dry history! Larson writes like a novelist but his book is backed up by years of research. The reader gets to know the figures in the book and to care for their fates. England was a brave nation as in their finest hour they faced the horrors of the Nazi menace with great courage and determination to never surrender. Anyone who is interested in Churchill, World War II or history in general will profit from this excellent book. This is the kind of book which could well get a young person hooked on history! Kudos to Erik Larson!
Top international reviews
A great insight and a new prospective on this period in World War 2
After an hour plus with service center trying to fix problem it still continues.
He takes you down the path of truth with a flair for the novel.
It makes you stop and wonder if you are truely reading fiction.
That is a talent in itself.