The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson is a nonfiction book, taking place between May 10, 1940 through May 10, 1941 following Churchill and his political brinkmanship during London’s darkest hour. Mr. Larson is an award winning author and a writer who spent much time on the best sellers’ lists.
- 608 pages
- Publisher: Crown
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385348711
I have enjoyed several of Mr. Larson’s books, especially In the Garden of Beasts, and I usually enjoy the type of historical stories which, while accurate, also has an eye towards rumors and how people saw it at the time, without the benefit of hindsight. In The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson the author tells of the critical year in London which would make or break Winston Churchill as an admired leader and politician.
At the time Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of England (1940), Hitler was already invading Holland, Belgium, and soon after France. Hitler became focused on England, offering peace treaties and other promises to them. Churchill, to his credit, wouldn’t trust the Nazis and knew they were lying, trying to arm and build an army which, eventually, the English will not be able to beat.
As we know, not everyone were happy with the touch stance Mr. Churchill took, and he realized that he needed the support of the US if he wanted to have a chance beating Hitler. The US, headed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, was in isolationist mode and Churchill had to keep up appearances of not needing their help as he so desperately did.
As a fan of the author, I had high hopes for this book. His talent of for extracting relevant, accurate, entertaining and informative information from the annals of history is something which I envy. Not only does Mr. Larson knows how to research a story, he also knows how to tell it while keeping the reader engaged.
I feel that this book erred on the side of meticulous research, and somewhere the fascinating story the author was trying to tell got lost. There are details of who’s who, what clothes they were wearing, family relationships and roots, while the blitz takes a second seat to the gossip.
Just to be clear, I have not problems learning history through gossip and what people said and thought at the time, without hindsight. This time, though, I felt that it bogged down the narrative so much that it made this book a tough read, and not nearly as engaging as the author’s other books.
Zohar — Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I got this book for free.
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