Book Review: The Splendid and The Vile

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf 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 his 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 advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.

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.

Expected publication: February 25th 2020 by Crown

What did I think?

Everything you ever wanted to know about Churchhill and everything you didn’t know about him at all in one 500 page tome. Details that until now were dormant and lost are all compiled together in this readable play by play historical account of WW2 inside Winston Churchhill’s closest circle.

I didn’t know anything about Churchill’s daughter Mary, and the sections of her diary gives you a side that history books skip over. As Larson states in his interviews Londoners lived through an entire year of the terror that New Yorkers felt on 9/11. It is intense.

I didn’t like it as much as his previous books and I don’t know if it was this subject matter or what, but this took me a long time to read and I read the whole thing before reviewing. I think you’d have to be a die hard fan of either this author or Winston himself to give this a 5 star rating.

As always if you are buying books from Amazon, please use this link as it helps pay for this site.

Leave a Reply