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The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

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4.23  ·  Rating details ·  30,212 ratings  ·  4,038 reviews
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 Frankli ...more
Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Published February 25th 2020 by Crown
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Linda I couldn't have said it better. He cured me of the desire to write. He's so brilliant and you can see the hours of blood, sweat and tears put into his…moreI couldn't have said it better. He cured me of the desire to write. He's so brilliant and you can see the hours of blood, sweat and tears put into his research and books.......wow
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Liz
Erik Larson is my favorite author of nonfiction. He writes books that just grab me as well as always teaching me something new.

Looking back on Churchill, it’s easy to assume he was always loved and admired. But that’s not the case. He had many detractors on both sides of the pond. Larson does a wonderful job of giving us a flesh and blood Churchill - kimonos and all. His strength lay in being able to give the English hope and a willingness to fight on. After his moving speech about fighting on
...more
Dem
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommended, ww2
What a poignant read for the times we are in as the world is fighting a different type of war without the guns and bombs and those in government must make the tough decisions to keep us safe. A few Winston Churchills wouldn’t go amiss in heading the Governments of today.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few (Sir Winston Churchill)


I have always had a gra for Winston Churchill and was excited when I heard that Erik Larson was writing a book portraying Lo
...more
Beata
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A terrific account of the 'darkest hour' from the perspective of the Churchills. Mr Larson has a special talent which allows him to engage a reader and leave them satisfied, like myself. This non-fiction is about the times when Great Britain was on the verge of falling into the Nazi hands and regime, and yet, Churchill and his charisma at that very moment prevented the catastrophy. The is not much politics although one might expect a huge portion of it opening a book in which Winston Churchill i ...more
Elyse  Walters
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Few authors are as gifted writing - ‘non-fiction’ - that reads like - ‘fiction’, - as Erik Larson does.
With tenacity and sensitivity, Larson gives us an compelling account of history by humanizing the facts with the interesting array of characters.

Larson masterfully reimagines the “The Blitz and the Battle of Britain”, ( bombs dropping & German invasion), in uniquely human terms..... filled with personal and political drama....(tragedies of war, love, family, friends, colleagues, infidelity, d
...more
Holly  B
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was fascinating, thrilling, and filled with those "go team" moments. Britain and the world VS. Hitler.

I took my time to read this history filled book. It was part memoir of Winston Churchill's first year as Prime Minister of Britain during WWII. I read lots of WWII fictional novels, BUT this author brought the battle front and center, behind the scenes and was almost impossible to put down.

I loved learning about Churchill and his circle. He was quite a fascinating, and courageous leader
...more
JanB
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Never was there such a contrast of natural splendor and human vileness.” (John Colville’s diary entry about the peculiar beauty of watching bombs fall over the city)

What better time than during a pandemic to read about the unrelenting courage of a people during one of the darkest periods of history? During the Blitz, Londoners endured fifty-seven consecutive nights of bombing. Tens of thousands of people died. How did the people endure such a terrifying ordeal? What was it like living day afte
...more
Jeanette (Again)
Publication day has finally arrived. Enjoy!

Be sure to set aside plenty of time to work your way through this deep exploration of one year in the life of Churchill and those close to him. It will require some patience, but if you're not inclined to read the multi-volume biographies about him, this book is an effective distillation of the man as he navigated his first year as prime minister.

May 10, 1940 through May 10, 1941 was a pivotal year, with the fate of England entirely uncertain and world
...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
I have read several books by Eric Larson but “ Devil In The White City” was always my favorite, but after reading “The Splendid And The Vile”, this one is a tie for me with the above book.

I have never read another author who can make learning about history engaging and easily readable. It was a bit hard to read in part because of the pandemic we are still struggling with. However, it was such a story of human strength, determination and victory that I found it uplifting.

I had never researched W
...more
Greta
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"An airplain carrying Hitler, Goebbels and Göring crashes, all three are killed. Who is saved? The German people!" joke in Berlin during the Blitz

Londoner milkman going to work

In "The Splendid and the Vile" Erik Larson guides us through the Blitz; the London bombings from 1940 to 1941. Larson uses intimate diaries, as well as public documents to make this book amazingly well written, fast, deeply moving but also involuntary humorous at times.

The silver lining is Winston Churchill, around whom
...more
Nilufer Ozmekik
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is splendid, intense, emotional, perfectly crafted and so far one of the best nonfictions I’ve read.
The author’s fantastic talented writing hooks you from the beginning and you see so many similarities about the portrait of Churchill has been adapted into Joe Wright’s movie Darkest Hour which has been brought Gary Oldman an Oscar statuette.

We learned so much about Battle of Britain and how British folks’ destiny has been sealed by a powerful and fearless leader’s smart tactics and powerfu
...more
Faith
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In the Sources and Acknowledgements section of this book, the author states “...I set out to hunt for the stories that often get left out of the massive biographies of Churchill, either because there’s no time to tell them or because they seem too frivolous. But it is in frivolity Churchill often revealed himself, the little moments that endeared him to his staff, despite the extreme demands he placed on all.”

This is the kind of history that I like to read, social and political but not primarily
...more
Kathleen
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Leadership! Apparently King George VI felt that Churchill had something that the country needed when he appointed him to replace Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in the spring of 1940. Observers, at the time, felt Churchill was “flamboyant, electric, wholly unpredictable” and a questionable choice to be Prime Minister. Larson’s excellent non-fiction account confirms that Churchill was all of that and more. But most of all he was a leader who knew how to move a nation with the force of his pers ...more
Marialyce
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
5 outstanding stars

As always is the case, books by Erik Larson transcend the usual historical novel. This author always goes above and beyond in his books and provides the readers with a story that not only flows smoothly, but also is able to provide facts that are fascinating, erudite, and ultimately educate the reader, in a way that is fascinating and captivating.

There are multiple books about Winston Churchill, but this one merged together flawlessly pieces of his life. Winston had the uncan
...more
Joy D
I have always admired the British for standing up to Hitler’s forces in WWII, after almost all of Europe had fallen under Nazi control. How did they endure the almost nightly bombing raids? This book focuses on Churchill’s first year (1940-1941) as British Prime Minister, the Battle of Britain, and what life was like for Churchill, his family, and his inner circle. As Larson states in his introductory notes to readers:

“Mine is a more intimate account that delves into how Churchill and his circl
...more
Chrissie
The book follows one year in the life of Winston Churchill, the first year at his post as prime minister and the initial phase of the Second World War. It takes us through both the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. Starting in May 1940, it moves forward pretty much day by day. Nothing here is conjectured; all that is presented is based on solid fact and diary entries. What isn’t known is not said. It attempts to recreate the day by day happenings of not only Churchill but also those close to him. ...more
Barbara
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have read a fair amount about Churchill, the bombings of Great Britain, and the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt (not to mention having viewed many movies and documentaries). While there is necessarily some factual overlap, I found this book, told mainly through the lens of the Churchill family, to be a fresh and intimate account of those dark days. John Lee did a great job narrating the audio version. His voice really brought Churchill alive. I knew of Churchill's intelligence but ...more
Sue
Larsen has written an intimate portrait of Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister of Britain, undertaking his duties as Hitler and Germany resolve to break the island nation to their will. He writes of Churchill himself, his peculiarities, his resilience, his dogged determination to obtain assistance from Roosevelt and the United States. Additionally, he adds details from the viewpoints and the lives of Winston’s daughter, Mary, a somewhat starry-eyed eighteen year old, son Randolph, a married ...more
Tammy
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who was Winston Churchill? He was irascible, mischievous, mercurial, politician extraordinaire, an iconic statesman, brilliant orator, prone to eccentric sartorial choices during his personal time, husband, father, and father-in-law. Most importantly, he was a strong and decisive leader. The Blitz occurred during his first year as Prime Minister and he united the British people as they faced the most serious threat to freedom. Larson’s book provides a singular and superior perspective of the man ...more
Michael
A common reaction to this title is “why in heaven do we need another book about Churchill and the Battle of Britain?” For me, knowing Larson’s talent for homing in on obscure human stories amid historical events, I could only rush to dive in and see what he picked up on and how it could achieve fresh revelations. Despite my fairly recent reads of the Manchester/Reid biographical trilogy on Churchill and Korda’s history of the Battle of Britain, “On Wings of Eagles”, I was well satisfied with thi ...more
Jeanette
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This starts dense and difficult and as you progress it gets: better, better, better, best, beyond best, phenomenal!

Really, this author is a master at putting you into Chequers and the "group". 90% of the read is within the period 1940-41. It's the years just before the war and the first 2-1/2 years primarily from the view and within 10 Downing St. And London, Coventry, Plymouth, and various places between are depicted to a quality you can "live". Seriously, this goes beyond every WWII from Allie
...more
Jill Hutchinson
What can I possibly say that hasn't already been said by the hundreds of reviewers of this book! Superb comes to mind....masterful....enthralling....future classic.....WOW!!! Erik Larson has taken his place in literary history with his series of books which seem to just be getting better as time goes by. His research appears to be infallible and often doesn't depend on the usual sources.

if your are a particular lover of all things Churchill, it sometimes is hard to find a book that offers new in
...more
Book of the Month
Why I love it
by Jennifer Morrison

“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” —Winston Churchill

I lean toward fiction in my reading taste, but The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson’s captivating and inspiring story about the twists and turns of Winston Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister in 1940, grabbed me from page one. The tactics that Churchill employed truly changed the course of history. He spoke with total authority of “the essential human freed
...more
TXGAL1
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
Erik Larson has done it again! The Splendid and The Vile is the one nonfiction book you need to move to the top of your TO BE READ list now. If you are a lover of history but not the “put-you-to-sleep” book of facts and figures, this book is definitely for you.

Mr. Larson selects the first year of Winston Churchill’s service as Prime Minister of Britain, 5 May 1940 – 5 May 1941 to focus our attention on not only the life of Winston Churchill, but also his family and others that come into his sphe
...more
Dax
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Larson does a splendid job of utilizing primary sources, particularly the diaries of Mary Churchill and John Colville, to bring Churchill to life. Detailing Churchill's first year as Prime Minister during WWII, 'The Splendid and the Vile' captures the challenges, the bravery, the destruction, and the beauty of London during the Blitz.

Churchill is, of course, the highlight of this wonderful book. Larson pays due respect to his capabilities as a leader, but he does not ignore other aspects of his
...more
Julie  Durnell
I've always admired Winston Churchill and thought I would like this new take on his life by an author I enjoy-I totally was captivated by it! It will surely be my favorite non-fiction book for 2020 and maybe even favorite overall. Larson researched this very well, using fitting quotes from the people closest to the Prime Minister that filled in the harrowing story of the London Blitz. The courage and perseverance, the anguish and deprivation of the British comes through so clearly in these words ...more
Betsy Robinson
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A year or so ago, I commented on a friend's Facebook post that the political event she had written about had felt to me like 9/11. I was immediately taken to task by one of the other commenters (a guy in California), chastising me for saying that a political event could possibly have the gravitas of 3,000 people being killed.

In an explosion of self-righteous moral outrage, I railed at the guy not to assume he knew my experiences—declaring that I had lived 9/11 up close: I was here. It was my li
...more
Linden
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Erik Larson is an exceptional writer. His meticulous research, coupled with a conversational writing style, make his nonfiction books as enjoyable to read as a novel. He tells the reader about Churchill, but more importantly, we get to know people around him: his wife, his 18-year-old daughter, his spendthrift son, and most importantly, his entourage, all of whom worked tirelessly during the war years. The descriptions elicit a very visceral reaction—I felt almost as if I were a witness to the t ...more
Martin Strouse
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Winston Churchill is my hero. I have two busts of him in my home. Many books that he wrote sit on my bookshelf. I am a Churchill junkie.

I often ask what America would look like today if we had Churchill as our leader. Would he be playing golf during a plague or race riots, fighting with the news media, tweeting on Twitter or looking for conspiracy theories that don’t exist. Alas, we will never know.

YES WE DO KNOW! Winston Churchill is the antithesis of our present leader. The man took his job s
...more
Boudewijn
“I never gave them courage, I was able to focus theirs."

The Splendid and the Vile isn’t merely a story about war and diplomacy, but a story on how the Churchills and their circle coped with the strains of war. Larsson draws from personal accounts of those around him, especially his private secretary John Colville and Mary Churchill. It is through their diaries that we get an intimate insight in Churchill and his inner circle. It are these stories of the different side characters which make this
...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
This is a richly detailed account of Winston Churchill's first year as Prime Minister of Britain beginning in May, 1940, as France fell to the Germans and World War II was heating up. It includes stories about his family, friends, and staff, his dealings with President Roosevelt, and what life was like in London and outlying areas during the nearly nightly bombing raids. One comes to understand the meaning of perseverance in the face of adversity! It's an enthralling read and a very personal gli ...more
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60,842 followers
Erik Larson’s latest work of narrative nonfiction is DEAD WAKE: THE LAST CROSSING OF THE LUSITANIA, which became an immediate New York Times bestseller. His saga of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing, and lingered on various NYT best-seller lists for the better part of a decade. Hu ...more

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