Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Splendid and the Vile

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
Penguin Random House: 2/25/20
eBook review copy; 608 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385348713

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 together while 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; Lord BeaverbrookFrederick 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.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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