1939, several days after its invasion of Poland nine months earlier. Within days, Churchill is told that the French armed forces, together with the British Expeditionary Force, will not be able to withstand the onslaught of the German military. Within weeks, the allied forces are driven to the sea, and the famous Dunkirk evacuation takes place.
Larson, using personal diaries, government archival documents, and communications between Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, weaves a story of the next eleven months. We are told the story of an inspirational leader, his family members, and those whom he called on to do the seemingly impossible. The book follows the prime minister, day after day, from May 1940 until May 1941. We learn of his many eccentricities, his powerful oratory, his overwhelming personal debts, and his petulance when he learns that his favorite honey has been used to sweeten a batch of rhubarb. It provides an intimate look at his family and his ever-supportive wife Clementine, who gives him direction when she feels he needs it. She gives General Charles de Gaulle a tongue-lashing in perfect French when she thinks he needs it. We meet Mary, their teenage daughter, who seems to grow from a party-loving kid into a serious adult in the span of a year. We meet Randolph, the Churchills’s twenty-nine-year-old wastrel, drunken, gambler of a son, even though we wish we hadn’t.
I greatly enjoyed reading this book, and I think you might, too.
Note: The Splendid and the Vile is located in the World War II section on the second floor of the Library.
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