The Splendid and the Vile

The Splendid and the Vile

A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

Book - 2020
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In this "portrait of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz, ... Larson shows ... 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, ... Larson provides a new lens on London's darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family"--Publisher marketing.
Publisher: New York : Crown, [2020]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780385348713
Characteristics: xii, 585 pages : illustration, map ; 25 cm
Call Number: 941.084092 LAR


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Non-Fiction - Historical: "History. 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." Join us April 28, 20... Read More »

#4. A Douglas County Libraries top checkout in 2020.

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May 30, 2021

Well written account of Churchill's first year in office during WWII. A personal account of the man and his immediate circle, including family, during the Battle of Britain, with lots of interesting details. E.g., how he wore a silk dragon robe, worked int he bathtub, invited Roosevelt into his room though he was just out of the bath and naked ("Mr. President, you can see I have nothing to hide."), how England instituted double daylight savings time to allow people to get home from work and have time to black out their windows before dark, and the fact that a bomb sliced through Big Ben's tower but the clock struck right on schedule just after the raid, giving the public a sense of survival and courage. Larson makes wonderful use of primary resources (many provided by diaries kept by Mass Observers during the period) and weaves them all together like it's a novel.

May 05, 2021

This is a wonderful book. There is much to learn from the 'up close and personal' presentation of the first year of Churchill as prime minister. Erik Larson combines official records with personal diaries including those of Churchill's secretary John Colville and his daughter Mary, among others. I couldn't put the book down and look forward to reading more by this author.

Apr 28, 2021

I often peruse the new non-fiction section and came across this book. I’ve never read any of Erik Larson’s books but thought this sounded good so gave it a try. I was a little apprehensive having tried another World War Two history and felt I was reading someone’s note cards. This was really very good. Five hundred pages to cover one year had me concerned that it would be every detail unearthed in the research but that was not the case. The story moved along and I came to appreciate the consequence of the year the book covered. Of course not all issues were resolved but, knowing the outcome, I didn’t feel I was left hanging. I found the book to be an insightful, enjoyable read.

Apr 27, 2021

As I have well loved copies of Citizens of London by Lynne Olson and Family Album by Mary (Churchill) Soames, this book, by probably the best non-fiction author currently writing, is in my opinion quite wonderful! I agree with practically all of the opinions stated by other readers and am looking forward to leading discussions of this exceptionally good non-fiction book for 3 of my book clubs!

Jan 26, 2021

As an avid reader of WWII history and viewer of documentaries and films, there was considerable content that was not new to me. Despite that fact, Erik Larson always has an enjoyable way of portraying events and a sense of humor even when depicting what was the worst year of the war for Britain. All the personal information makes this book a wonderful read whether you know little or a lot about the time of the Battle of Britain. Highly recommend. Kristi & Abby Tabby

Dec 31, 2020

THE SPLENDID AND THE VILE’s title comes from a line (see Quotes) in the diary of John Colville, PM Winston Churchill’s secretary, describing his experience of watching bombs fall over London during WWII. Author Erik Larson’s descriptive writing vividly brings history to life and makes the reader feel like “you are there” in the middle of the Blitz and the Battle of Britain. The book focuses on the first year Churchill was Prime Minister, May 10, 1940 to May 10, 1941. Using historical documents like diaries, letters, and memoirs, Larson takes a fascinating and intimate look at the lives, thoughts, and feelings of Churchill and his inner circle, including staff, friends, and family. He also includes some sobering and humorous details of what life was like for British citizens during the War. As in his previous works, Erik Larson’s non-fiction storytelling style makes this book and its subject compelling. I can’t recommend it enough. Churchill was definitely the right leader for the time.

Dec 28, 2020

Globe 100 2020. Churchill's inspiration during the blitz.

Dec 19, 2020

Erik Larson's history of the first year of Churchill's role as Prime Minister is fascinating. He gives a day by day account of some of the key moments during that year, and shows just how devastating the London blitz was, and how Winston rose to the challenge. I especially enjoyed learning about the year through the diaries and observations of people who were closest to Winston during that time, including his daughter Mary and his secretary John Colville. Simple diary entries from several of the thousands of British Observers during that time are very enlightening about what life was like for regular Brits. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in WWII, Churchill's first year as PM and anyone who would like to expand their knowledge in that sector. I'm not usually a reader of non-fiction, but this is thoroughly enjoyable and I learned a lot of interesting things!! I would read a "Volume 2" if it was available. Erik Larson's books are very entertaining!!

Nov 22, 2020

I don't read much nonfiction but Erik Larson can hold my attention tightly. I was surprised how much I like Dead Wake, and now I am so proud I read The Splendid and the Vile in just a few days. This is the saga of the Churchill family in 1940; the first year of his office as British PM and the first year of WWII. Through diaries and proven papers, Larson specializes in bringing these historical characters to life, featuring their personalities, and enabling me to absorb the historical facts. I cannot do nonfiction without characters.

Nov 12, 2020

Churchill's first year in power provides the narrative for this book by Larson as he explores the Blitz and the response of the British people to the Nazi threat. Powerfully written, and the sort of book that compels you to keep reading.

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Dec 31, 2020

“On one of Churchill’s full-moon weekends at Ditchley, Diana Cooper, wife of Information Minister Duff Cooper, told Churchill that the best thing he had done was to give people courage.
He did not agree. ‘I never gave them courage,’ he said. ‘I was able to focus theirs.’’ - p. 483

Dec 31, 2020

“The night… was cloudless and starry, with the moon rising over Westminster. Nothing could have been more beautiful and the searchlights interlaced at certain points on the horizon, the star-like flashes in the sky where shells were bursting, the light of distant fires, all added to the scene. It was magnificent and terrible: the spasmodic drone of enemy aircraft overhead; the thunder of gunfire, sometimes close sometimes in the distance; the illumination, like that of electric trains in the firmament. Never was there such a contrast of natural splendor and human vileness.” - p. 238

Dec 31, 2020

“Tea anchored the day—though at teatime, Churchill himself did not actually drink it, despite reputedly having said that tea was more important than ammunition. He preferred whiskey and water. Tea was comfort and history; above all, it was English. As long as there was tea, there was England.” - p. 186


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Feb 20, 2021

Rec. Leni. 585 p! Reviews: Engaging, readable. Personal details of Churchill family during the Blitz, Also wrote Devit in White City (World's Fair murders), Dead Wake , Isaace Storm (hurricane in Galveston)


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