Book Review of
The Splendid and The Vile
On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally—and willing to fight to the end.
In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.
The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when, in the face of unrelenting horror, Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.
The Splendid and The Vile by Erik Larson was an example of the right book at the right time. I am sure I would have enjoyed this book no matter when I read it, but reading it, in the spring of 2020 with all the crazy stuff going on, made me appreciate this book even more.
Reading about other people difficult times is encouraging to me because it reminds me that we can do this. Others have overcome much worse, and we can overcome this.
This is the second book by Erik Larson that I have read, and I can’t wait to read more of his books. I loved Devil In the White City and I loved The Splendid and The Vile.
The Splendid and The Vile is a bit tedious at points. It took me about 100 pages to get into the book, but those details in the first 100 pages are important because it gives you a details building up to The Blitz.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book was the details it gave about Winston Churchill’s both political and personally. It showed his leadership but also the reality of his family life. It portrayed him as a leader, but not a perfect one.
If you love history, especially WWII history, I think you will enjoy this one!