The Splendid and the Vile

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 May 2020

Member Reviews

As an Erik Larson fan I was thrilled when I received this ARC.  I’ve read 4 of Larson’s previous books :  Dead Wake, Isaac’s Storm, In the Garden of Beasts and The Devil in the White City.  While The Splendid and the Vile did not engage me as much as the others,  it was a well-researched and we’ll-written account of Churchill’s personal and public life around 1941.  This past summer I had the chance to see the Churchill War-rooms in London and this was the perfect follow up.
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I like learning about history and have more of an interest in it now than when I was younger and in school, having to read and memorize people and dates! During a trip to Dover Castle last year, we visited the underground tunnels where Churchill secretly held meetings during World War II. Its amazing how history comes to life when you can see something up close like where Churchill worked and where the battle of Dunkirk was planned.

If you ever go to Dover, England, be sure to visit Dover Castle and the tunnels underneath! Europe has such a fascinating history and I hope to visit again and learn more.

But I digress!

Take a look at The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson which is coming out next month!

“Mine is a more intimate account that delves into how Churchill and his circle went about surviving on a daily basis: the dark moments and the light, the romantic entanglements and debacles, the sorrows and laughter, and the odd little episodes that reveal how life was really lived under Hitler’s tempest of steel.” –Erik Larson

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.

This is an incredible non-fiction book and offers so much detail that I encourage you to set aside plenty of time to really drink this in! History buffs will absolutely want to get their hands on this amazing book. Prediction- it will be a best-seller!

Coming out on February 25.
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This is my first Erik Larson book and it didn’t disappoint. He is a master historian who brings the reader into each conversation, each meeting and each private setting as though you are a part of it as well. I will say that I had heard Larson writes history as a novel, which makes him such a brilliant historian bc he engages the reader. This book was engaging but it wasn’t written as a novel, it was written as though you were reading journal entries. That is my only complaint.
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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 terrible bombings—but there are moments when he also injects humor. (Roosevelt sent his emissary Harry Hopkins to meet with Churchill in 1940; Churchill took him to review the fleet on a very cold, blustery day. Hopkins “looked for a place to shelter …from the cold and wind…and found a spot that seemed ideal. A chief petty officer approached him, saying ‘Excuse me sir, I don’t think you should sit there—that, sir, is a depth charge.’”)
I highly recommend The Splendid and the Vile, not only to readers with an interest in history, but also to those who usually don’t care for nonfiction. Thanks to the publisher and to Netgalley for providing this Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Splendid – that’s an accurate description of "The Splendid and the Vile" by Erik Larson. It is fabulous read. The book covers Winston Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister at the start of World War II. It is a wonderfully researched and executed rendition of a terrifying and heartbreaking time when Britain becomes the sole country battling Nazi Germany. Larson uses primary sources in innovative and effective ways to cover Churchill and historic events using typical resources as well as Churchill’s daughter Mary’s diary, diaries of ordinary people, and even German sources, thus giving almost a 360-degree view of extraordinary times. "Splendid" provides personal insight into Churchill and his group but also the British people who lived and carried on despite the brutal and sometimes constant bombardment by the Nazis. Even though we might think we know the story and the ending, Larson actually imbues the book with suspense and drama. It is a story of true leadership, and courage and hope.
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I enjoyed Erik Larson's previous work, so I jumped at the chance to read his newest book, even though I'm not the biggest fan of Winston Churchill (beyond his leadership in WWII - even though I'm aware there were issues there as well). 

Even though voters turned him out of office very soon after the war, Churchill definitely had a strong hold on the British public with his strength and courage in weathering the Nazi blitz and facing down Fascism until its ultimate defeat. Larson shows this Churchill along with the side of him never seen by the public, as well as bringing his family's personalities and actions to light with details I've never come across.

All together, a very engrossing and well-written book, as you'd expect from Erik Larson.
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Popular history at its best
This is a very humanized account of one of the most pivotal times in English history providing a up close portrait not only of Churchill but also of his family members and closest aides
It was a real page turner
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Well researched telling of life in Greaat Britain and the Churchills's lives in the arly stages of World War II, as Winston became Prime Minister.  Using primary sources, Larson outlines the affects of the London Blitz and the war in general on everyday people as well as members of the Government.  Reads like a novel at points, but well documents.  HIghly recommended for fans of Larson's earlier works and for those interested in World War II and British History.
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Erik Larson  never fails.Another engaging involving informative book each of his books takes us to a tie in history that teaches and entertains.Highly recommend.#netgalley#crownbooks
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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 uncanny ability to unite a nation that was bombarded with everything Nazi Germany had in its arsenal, but still managed to carry through to victory. It was also a fine tribute to the men and women behind the scenes, those who carried on because of Winston, and those family members who so believed in their husband and father. Winston didn't believe in failure and though there were many, his indomitable spirit seemed to transcend defeat and inspire in the British people that spirit, and drive that nothing could or would crush them.

Winston's character, that tough cigar chomping man who had various idiosyncrasies, was a marvel among men. His spirit and determination led a beleaguered country to its ultimate goal, that of staying a free Britain. He was a masterful leader of people, who made those around him strive for things it seemed impossible to achieve. The populace adored him, as he made himself one of them, walking through the ruins of war so gallantly and heroically, delivering speeches to the people, standing tall in the face of an imminent defeat. He was the man England needed and he pushed through valiantly, providing his nation with the spirit and determination it so needed in its hour of darkness. “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the hard may be; for without victory there is no survival.”

If you are at all interested in history, in a man, in a country that stood up to what others might have claimed as unbeatable odds this book is one for you. I recommend it most highly for its authentic look at a man and a time that should always be viewed as the epitome of the human spirit.

Thank you to Erik Larson, Crown Publishing, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this fabulous book due out February 25, 2020.
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Another very interesting and informative book by one of my favorite authors, Erik Larson.  I am sure that I never realized just how alone, and for such a long time they stood after France fell to the Nazis. I would like to think I would bear up under the  cold , hunger, and lack of sleep due to rationing of fuel and food, and night after night of bombing.  A very enlightening book
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Really well researched and interesting story by one the best research authors today. He never misses a beat and tells great stories of real events and people.
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Erik Larson has a unique way to telling us the story insdie of history. He doesn't create all his characters but he brings them to life and he makes them both relatable and equally extraordinary. The Splendid and the Vile tells the story of Churchill and his inner circle, both political and domestic. Larson uses diaries, archival documents, including declassified intelligence reports to tell the story of the Londond Blitz. 

At times, it feels like the day-to-day life of Churchill and his cohort will run out of intrgue but Larson brings the story back again and again using both the professional and personal to tell this story.
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Erik Larson is a great author and all his books are highly recommended for fans of history. Recommended for purchase.
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Wow! Erik Larson does it again! And this time about Winston Churchill. An interesting look at WWII from perspectives and stories we don't typically hear as much about this era. If you like Erik Larson/non-fiction that reads like fiction, pick this up ASAP!
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I rarely read nonfiction, but the exception I try to make is to read Erik Larson's work, so I was excited when I received an ARC of his newest work.  The story centers on the first year of Winston Churchill's tenure as Prime Minister.  I started the book with good intentions, but unfortunately, the topic did not pull me in enough to complete the book.  However, for those who enjoy historical fiction about World War II, you should add this book to your must-read list. Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC.
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Once again Erik Larson's new book is nonfiction that is as hard to put down as the best fiction.  The Splendid and the Vile recounts the early days of Churchill as prime minister, when France fell to Germany and the British empire stood alone against Hitler.  He makes no attempt to gloss over Churchill's eccentricities and faults, and despite those faults it is clear to the reader that Churchill was the only man who could have saved the empire.  An extraordinary book about an extraordinary time in history, impossible to put down even though the reader knows the outcome.
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Erik Larson's The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz is sharply focused on the man, his family, and friends from May 10, 1940 when Churchill took office until America finally enters the war.

The book is meticulously researched and still personal and relatable.  Churchill is presented in all his glory and all of his eccentricities.  Letters and diaries from friends and family fill in life during the period from Hitler's invasion of the Low Countries and the rapid fall of France, the crucial evacuation  at Dunkirk, the fear of occupation, and the devastation of the Blitz.

One thing I was not aware of was that in 1937 the Mass Observation Diary Project was formed.  The Archives provide primary source material of the everyday lives of the 500 volunteers.  An excellent source at any time, but during those years preceding and during the war--an amazing resource.  

"A pioneering social research organisation, Mass Observation was founded in 1937 by anthropologist Tom Harrisson, film-maker Humphrey Jennings and poet Charles Madge. Their aim was to create an 'anthropology of ourselves', and by recruiting a team of observers and a panel of volunteer writers they studied the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. This landmark digital project opens up revolutionary access to the archive. "(Source:  the above link)

 The Splendid and the Vile ranks among my favorite nonfiction books this year (or ever), an absolutely engrossing account of disasters, courage, and defiance; of great leaders, elegant language, and of ordinary people.

Read in November.

NetGalley/Crown Publishi
History/Nonfiction.  Feb. 25, 2020.  Print length:  464 pages.
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Many thanks to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for sending me an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way by the publisher.

Erik Larson does it again! No other non-fiction author melds quotes, speeches, letters, etc so seamlessly together that it makes you feel as if you are reading a fictional novel. And trust me, as a history major, I have read my fair share of poorly written and dry non-fiction books. I have always been impressed with Larson’s ability to combine facts and personal perspectives in such a way that leaves the reader on the edge of their seat wanting more.

It is evident that Larson researched Churchill and England during the Blitz down to the last details. Larson provides personal accounts of Churchill’s family and political life, while also giving data on the official war efforts of England. I'm not a huge numbers person (math, ugh), but I enjoyed being given the full experience of the war instead of just a small part.

I enjoyed the fact that Larson found and utilized multiple different viewpoints for this book. Mary Churchill and Churchill’s private secretary, John Coville, both reveal different sides of the prime minister, while also giving life to the book. Throughout the book they fall in and out of love and continue to live their lives despite the repeated bombings in London and the stress of the war. 

My one major critique is that I wish the book had included a stronger viewpoint from a figure in the United States. A major sub-plot in this book (you know beyond the whole war thing) is Churchill’s attempts to convince Roosevelt and the Americans to join the war. I would have like to hear more from everyday Americans or from a government official on their perspective and reasonings why it took America so long when they were hearing accounts of what was happening in Europe.

Great, informative, easy to read non-fiction account of World War II! Highly recommend!
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I always learn so much from Erik Larson and even with knowing a fair amount of WWII London history and the Churchill family, there is so much insight here.  Instead of spewing facts and death totals, Larson gives us a real sense of the human spirit and incredible bravery the Londoners displayed every day during the Blitz as well as insight into some of the key players in Germany and the states. He also gives us insight into how the Brits felt about Winston Churchill and how the Churchill family weathered his unusual approach to leadership and his almost tireless energy when it came to saving his country against the odds.  Eric Larson presents the man and the myth as well as highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of Churchill's family and confidants. When you see what this small country went through before the Americans could finally be persuaded to enter the war it is truly amazing that they not only survived but came together helping each other and stoically supporting the man they knew could lead them out of the darkness.  With every book, I read on the subject I have more respect and admiration for this group of ordinary people who came together and stared death in the face.  My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
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