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I have read three biographies of Winston Churchill, one of them (by William Manchester) was itself three volumes, so I was not sure there was much about his life that was there to be learned and had some hesitation about buying this book. But Boris Johnson, who is himself an interesting politician with an even more interesting background, has written a book which is not a biography but a book about what made Churchill capable of being the one man who saved Western Civilization from the horrors of Nazi Germany. Thus Mr Johnson looks at the things that made Churchill who he was and how those characteristics contributed to the one person who was essential at a truly pivotal moment.
But Mr Johnson has created a canvas of more than just World War II and looked at Churchill’s contributions in The Boer War, World War I, World War II and the period leading up to the start of the European Union and shown how, at each point, Churchill’s contributions were essential to Britain’s victories or were ignored by those in power resulting in decisions that left Britain far worse off than it could have been. Indeed, while Churchill and World War II are at the core of how people remember Churchill Mr Johnson spends a great deal of time covering Churchill’s work on behalf of the working poor in the UK, his efforts to improve the living conditions of the poor throughout the British Empire, his efforts to secure a united and peaceful Europe after the war and much, more more. As part of this we are treated to many stories and anecdotes, both true and false, about Churchill’s life, we look at what helped make him the person he became and how the world we are living in today is largely his legacy. The book is amusing at times, sorrowful at others but always interesting.
The book is not an academic approach but is clearly a work of admiration for a truly great man and Mr Johnson makes the case that there was no one else who could have taken Churchill’s place, at least during World War II, and that had he not been who he was the world we live in today would be very, very different. The book is narrated by Simon Shepherd who does a very good job. Highly recommended for those with an interest in recent British history.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
I have been fascinated with Winston S. Churchill since I was a child. I try to read everything I can find about him. I was shocked to read in the book that the young people in Britain do not know who Churchill was. Johnson said he wanted to write about Churchill in such a manner as to bring Churchill to the attention of the young. Johnson thought the young might enjoy Churchill’s eccentricity.
This book is written by the current Mayor of London. The element of self-identification in Johnson’s writing is too obvious to ignore. This book is not just another biography. Rather, it is a series of polemics in which Johnson takes up the cudgels against Churchill’s critics.
One of the allegations against Churchill is that he wasn’t very nice to the little people in his life. That in private he was a mean-spirited and short tempered. Johnson relays a story to rebut this charge, told to him by Nicholas Soames, Churchill’s grandson. Johnson also discusses the accusation that Churchill was an unprincipled opportunist and he also addresses the charge of incompetent leadership during World War One that led to Gallipoli. Johnson also discusses Churchill’s literary output and explains how Churchill managed to fit all this into a busy life.
Johnson has created a canvas of more than just World War II but also looks at Churchill’s contributions in the Boer War, WWI and the period leading up to the start of the European Union and shown how, at each point, Churchill’s contributions were essential to Britain’s victories or were ignored by those in power resulting in decisions that left Britain far worse off than it could have been. Johnson also addresses Churchill’s work on behalf of the working poor in the UK, his efforts to improve the living and working conditions of the poor throughout the British Empire.
The book is written with wit, and reveals fascinating nuggets of information I found fascinating. I believe Johnson has been successful in his defense of Churchill as a uniquely great man. Simon Shepherd narrated the book.
9 of 11 people found this review helpful