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

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4.22  ·  Rating details ·  74,505 ratings  ·  8,423 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, 546 pages
Published February 25th 2020 by Crown
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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
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
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
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
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
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
Larry
Jan 21, 2021 rated it it was ok
Finally! I absolutely love Erik Larson’s other works, but I could not seem to get interested in this one. And, I couldn’t figure out why until almost the very end. There were too many story lines, centered around too many people that I found uninteresting, for me to stay with it for more than a few pages at a time. And, having read “In The Garden of Beasts” - which I loved - it seemed like this story was a result of all of the research and notes compiled and left over from that book. Anyway, I’l ...more
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
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
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin


No other British city experienced such losses, but throughout the United Kingdom the total civilian deaths in 1940 and 1941, including those in London, reached 44,652 with another 52,370 injured.

Of the dead, 5,626 were children.


Mel 🖤🐶🐺🖤
...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
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 (absltmom, yaya)
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
Anne (On semi-hiatus)
I've read many accounts about WWII and the Blitz, but what Eric Larson did so supremely well with this book, much of which was new to me, was to provides the fascinating inside story of the personal lives of Churchill, his family and the people who worked close with him, including 2 American aides. These details could be funny , poignant or just informative; they read like gossip from People magazine - engagements, marriages, childbirth, love affairs, breakups, unrequited love, broken hearts, te ...more
Joy D
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Holly
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an aside, I was a little depressed by how resilient the British people were during this awful time for their country. They willingly blacked out their windows for safety in the evening, suffered through sleepless nights in air raid shelters during bombings, and then woke up and then went to work the next morning or helped cleanup/retrieve the dead on a volunteer basis. Meanwhile the Americans were selfish jerks who refused to help Britain in any meaningful way until the bombing of Pearl Harbo ...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
Judith E
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, audible
Articulate, charismatic, courageous, honorable, inspiring, admirable, well informed, and someone to trust for guidance - these are a few of the characteristics Winston Churchill imparted to the British while the German Luftwaffe incessantly bombed their Britain.

As usual. Erik Larsen has written his account scouring a barage of documentation that includes personal diaries, military statistics, autobiographies and more. He gives the reader a flavor not only for the air battle but also for the inn
...more
John
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow! What a fantastic book. I had read some of the history of the Blitz, but nothing with this type of depth. It depicts a city and country under horrible siege. It further depicts a country and its people's resilience to the horror.

Larson's work focuses on Churchill, yet gives the reader feeling for the impact of the years of the Blitz on his close associates, immediate family, and the country as a whole. He also delves into the mindset of the German leaders and their anticipated outcome of bo
...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
Ian
Initially I wasn’t going to read this as I felt I’d read enough on this period in British history. I changed my mind after seeing the number of favourable reviews the book has received. To borrow a word from the title, this book is splendidly readable. My edition has about 500 pages, not including the notes, bibliography and index, but I whizzed through it.

I’ve said in other reviews that Britain was incredibly lucky to have had Churchill as leader in 1940. The margin between survival and defeat
...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
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
Maureen
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a powerful, intense non fiction book about Winston Churchill's first year as Prime Minister.
It is eloquently written. Erik Larson is my favorite author of non-fiction. He did extensive research for this book. We learn of the everyday lives of the Churchill family, including Mary his daughter. Mary kept a diary and exposes her observations of her father. There are amazing stories within this book.
I learned much about Winston Churchill the man.
Winston Churchill became Prime Minister on the
...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
Libby
This is my second book by Erik Larson and I found my reading to be both timely and absorbing, albeit at times challenging. Challenging because non-fiction is not my first love, but I find myself much more interested in history these days and whatever light it may shed on our present time. Timely because Larson’s detailed research reveals an intense study of Winston Churchill as a capable and effective leader during Great Britain’s trial by fire, Germany’s blistering bombing raids during1940 and ...more
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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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