Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton's Reviews > The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932

The Last Lion by William Manchester
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it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction, biography, history, classic
Read 2 times. Last read September 6, 2013 to January 19, 2014.

There are few political leaders that have captured my imagination like Winston Churchill does. William Manchester not only tells the story of what is perhaps Britain's greatest prime minister, he does it in fantastic detail. I've read complaints that Manchester uses perhaps too much detail, but I could not have enjoyed it more.

Manchester paints a picture of life at the end of one era--the Victorian--and beginning of the next, the Edwardian. Churchill's life straddled change in eras, and Manchester doesn't just write Churchill's biography, but a history of the time that is full and vibrant. Churchill isn't just a great leader, but a product of both the past and the future. His lived as colorfully and dangerously as any writer could have imagined, in spite of a beginning that was marked by comfort and wealth.

Born to a wealthy aristocratic family, Winston was raised by a nanny while his father and mother (an American) were off gallivanting with the nobles of England. Along the way, Winston proved to be a poor student and got himself kicked out of several schools. Never close to his father--if at all--Winston would write pleading letters to his mother to come visit him during the years he would spend at prep school. His father died young after being marginalized from a career that put him on the threshold of England's prime minister-ship.

The family's wealth mostly squandered, Winston was required to find a career, unique from his aristocratic peers who were used to living off of their families' wealth. He had always had an interest in the military, and he pursued a career that combined writing and military action, utilizing his mother's influence in the aristocracy to go where the action was. He saw action in Afghanistan and Sudan, and he sent home breathtaking accounts to the newspapers that catapulted him into the nation's consciousness. When he was taken as a POW in the Boer War, and escaped, he became a celebrity.

And it only gets better. Winston would feed himself by his pen for the rest of his life, writing articles, stories, books, and even publishing an entire newspaper during a nationwide general strike. He served as First Lord of the Admiralty at a time when Britain ruled the waives and the British Navy was unrivaled on the seas. Though later blamed for the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, Winston would be a remain force to reckoned with in the House of Commons through out his life. Winston would levy powerful rhetoric in defense of his allies and against his enemies, giving "impromptu" speeches after hours of preparation the night before.

This first volume of the biography covers the first fifty eight years of Churchill's life, up to a time when many politicians would be entering the twilight of their careers. Faced with setbacks and defeats, Churchill himself switched parties twice over the course of his career. With yet, his greatest hour, and Britain's, would come later with World War II.

I look forward reading the next volume in Manchester's trilogy.
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Reading Progress

May 23, 2013 – Started Reading (Paperback Edition)
May 23, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read (Paperback Edition)
May 23, 2013 – Shelved (Paperback Edition)
Finished Reading (Paperback Edition)
May 26, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read (Paperback Edition)
September 6, 2013 – Started Reading
September 6, 2013 – Shelved as: classic
September 6, 2013 – Shelved as: biography
September 6, 2013 – Shelved
September 6, 2013 – Shelved as: non-fiction
September 6, 2013 – Shelved as: history
September 8, 2013 –
page 39
3.93% "Manchester is as articulate as his subject."
November 4, 2013 –
page 150
15.12% "Geez. Who knew that English nobility was so promiscuous?"
November 7, 2013 –
page 200
20.16% "Reading about Churchill's youth has made me more acutely aware of my blissful and blessed childhood, not to mention how...wonderful, I should say, my own mother was and is."
November 28, 2013 –
page 400
November 30, 2013 –
page 500
50.4% "As we approach the Dardenelles, I can feel the foreboding of imminent failure..."
December 18, 2013 –
page 600
60.48% "It's really hard not to love Winston, his passion, his language, and his vitality."
December 31, 2013 –
page 800
80.65% "For a guy who changed parties several times, Winston is remarkably consistent."
January 19, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Amy (new)

Amy Last time I browsed the biography section of my local bookstore, I was struck by the number of and girth of the Churchill biographies. Now it makes sense; I didn't realize that he himself was a writer. That definitely gives much more fodder for biographers to piece together a comprehensive life story. Churchill is definitely on my list of people to eventually read their biography. This one sounds like an interesting version.

Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton Amy wrote: "Last time I browsed the biography section of my local bookstore, I was struck by the number of and girth of the Churchill biographies. Now it makes sense; I didn't realize that he himself was a wri..."

Winston was a very prolific writer, and he did his best to make sure that history put him in a good light. I don't think it diminishes his real accomplishments, but it sure did help in their promotion.

message 3: by Steve (new)

Steve Sounds like an excellent book. Your review certainly was, Daniel.

Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton Steve wrote: "Sounds like an excellent book. Your review certainly was, Daniel."

I enjoyed it, though it's hard not to enjoy Churchill.

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