The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
Penguin Random House: 2/25/20
eBook review copy; 608 pages
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
by Erik Larson is a very highly recommended portrait of Winston
Churchill and London during the Blitz. This riveting nonfiction account
reads like a novel.
I will always read anything Erik Larsen writes and have done so since I first read Isaac's Storm. The Splendid and the Vile continues Larsen's excellence in nonfiction.
This is an excellent compelling portrait of Winston Churchill’s
first year as British prime minister. From May
1940 to May 1941, the German air force launched an assault
against the city of London. The relentless bombing campaign was to
terrorize and demoralize the population in preparation for an invasion.
It is before the USA was in the war. Churchill had to hold his country
continually reaching out to President Franklin Roosevelt.
Larsen profiles Churchill, but also looks at those close to him including, in part: his wife Clementine; their 17-year-old
daughter, Mary; their son, Randolph, and his wife,
Pamela; his private secretary, John “Jock” Colville;
Frederick Lindemann, and others. He also covers the actions of Nazi leaders during this time. Larsen uses diary and journal entries from the people involved, original archival documents, and
once-secret intelligence reports, as well as other documents from the
time. The people come alive as real humans living through an
extraordinary time while under tremendous stress.
The historical narrative is told through day by day events for the year. It is an eloquent, richly detailed and long account, but the historical facts are written in such a way that it reads like a novel. The history comes alive in this account. You know
what is going to happen, but it is still a compelling, fascinating narrative that will grip your attention throughout.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.