Cover Image: The Splendid and the Vile

The Splendid and the Vile

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Member Reviews

I received an advanced digital copy of this book from the author, publisher and Thanks to all for the opportunity to read and review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Eric Larson is a master of making history come to life. The Splendid and The Vile is another amazing piece of history brought to life.

5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended.
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Thank you Crown Publishing and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital ARC of this book.  

The Splendid and the Vile was excellent.  Such a timely book to read on leadership, and how a great leader leads citizens through times of turmoil.  It was such a great book to read during this time of unrest and chaos in the U.S., U.K., and all over the world.
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As always, Larson writes a very engaging description of historical people and events. Never writing TOO much detail, the reader receives a clear understanding of this amazingly tense time in Britain's handling of WWII.
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Here are my pros and cons for The Splendid and the Vile:

1.	I love Erik Larson. I love the way he writes nonfiction as if you are reading a novel. I know other people write nonfiction this way too, but Larson is the master at it. 
2.	I appreciate how his books always have a personal aspect. In this book, you aren’t just learning dry facts about the Churchill and WWII in this book… you are learning about Churchill’s family as well. Larson is excellent at combining history with human interest. 
3.	This book is exceptionally well researched. Larson has a commitment to accuracy and thoroughness that really seems unsurpassed by anyone else.
4.	Larson stated “...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.” Larson pulled Churchill out of the stuffy history books and humanized him for future generations.


I would read anything Larson publishes. I love his style, his attention to detail, his mastery of the topics he writes about, and his ability to humanize his subjects. He is easily my favorite author of nonfiction. 

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Churchill, British history, or WWII history.

Thank you NetGalley and Crown Publishing for a free eARC of this book, which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
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Not a huge WWII guy, but I love Larson's writing, and this was no exception. Looking forward to his next work.
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Larson always pulls it out and The Splendid and the Vile is no exception.

Though this book to me a while to get into, a result of several starts and stops before I got into the mood, I found myself completely fascinated and drawn in to the well written history of the man no one knows enough about and the war we only see one side of. 

History lovers and WWII buffs will want to engross themselves in this engaging look into the most pivotal moments in history.

You won't regret getting a copy!

Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for providing an early copy of this book.
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The story, mainly, of Winston Churchill in the first year of World War II. Wonderfully read by John Lee, who always brings a lot to audio books. I learned a lot about the early part of the War. Even then, Hitler seemed overconfident.
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Erik Larson's books are always great and this did not disappoint. I learned a lot and look forward to his next effort.
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The Splendid and the Vile was the perfect book to read during a pandemic.  During the Blitz, the British people endured day after day of unrelenting bombing that killed tens of thousands of people and left a like numbered of peopled maimed and injured.  How were they able to endure such a thing and face it with courage and stoicism? Ever since I first learned of the Blitz at the tender age of nine years old, one of the questions I have always wondered was: How were the people able to go on day by day with their daily lives while bombs obliterated their cities, destroyed their food sources, and killed their loved ones? Larson provides a poignant look at those days and attempts to answer some of those questions in this book by focusing on the human aspect behind the government and the throne.
First of all, much credit has been given to Churchill and his war cabinet, and despite the things that didn't go quite so well, there is no doubt that his courage, his optimism, and his eloquent speeches gave his people hope during such dark days.  I have listened to some of his speeches many times and I am in awe of what he was able to do and how he was able to inspire hope in people.  I think part of it had to do with the fact that he was never afraid to tell his people the truth, but with that truth always came optimism and hope and the conviction that his people would succeed in the end.  Because he believed it, his people did, and they never gave up, despite Hitler's frustration otherwise.  
What I really enjoyed in this book was the portrayal of Churchill's idiosyncrasies and his flaws.  Larson made this larger than life figure human, and I really enjoyed that aspect of this book, even laughing out loud a couple of times at some of the uncomfortable scenarios in which his advisors found themselves. I can't imagine anything more uncomfortable than having to advise your prime minister and finding him stark naked in his room, smoking a cigar, while you have to give him news.  And Churchill was known for doing work in his bathtub and spending long hours in there for rest and relaxation.  
The story follows Churchill's first year in office, through the Blitz, portraying his desperate plea for Roosevelt's aid against Germany, especially after France fell in June 1940.  Larson, using extensive research through personal journals, archival notes, documents, intelligence documents, diaries, and other primary and secondary sources, gave the reader an inside look at his daily life, both personal and public, as well as his family and the people who surrounded him on a daily basis.  The stories of his daughter Mary (which I personally loved), his wife Clementine, his daughter-in-law Pamela, his personal assistant Colville, and others, provided a more personal look at the events during this time period.  While I have read a lot of biographies and non-fiction books about this time period, they can be a bit dry and focus so much on the political nature of this time period, while Larson really focused on the human interest stories and how the daily bombings affected people's lives.  Yes, the subject matter can be grim as they were in the middle of a war and desperate, so I really appreciated those stories that demonstrated the courage it took to survive almost two years of struggling alone in a desperate situation.
The Splendid and the Vile was a wonderfully researched book about the struggles Churchill faced during his first year at PM during World War II and the unflinching courage he took to face Hitler and encourage his people to never give up during such desperate times.  I loved how the author told the story from the perspective of those around him, never flinching from the realities of what happened, but showing the human interest stories that existed that really made this time period come alive.  I really savoured each moment; Larson certainly has a gift for making history seem alive and I could picture everything in my head so easily.  Do I think the book has too many details and should be edited more to get rid of those details?  Hell no, it is those details which make this book so great to read and Larson truly has a gift for making you empathize with what was happening rather than just writing descriptions about the events.  I have an extensive knowledge about the war (I teach it) and enjoyed this book tremendously.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in Churchill and the Blitz.
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Another beautifully researched and compellingly written book by one of my favorites, Erik Larson. Though the topic of the book interested me a bit less than his previous works (I often steer clear of political figures), Erik's unique style drew me into the narrative easily. The Splendid and the Vile showcases the messy humanity behind characters big and small from the Churchill orbit before and during the Blitz.
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If only secondary school history textbooks read like Erik Larson's books. We would have a far more educated electorate. Reading The Splendid and the Vile and learning about the sacrifices that the British made during World War II, it seemed logical to examine US reactions to requests for mask wearing and social distancing  to reduce the spread of COVID 19. I fear that if the today's US population had been challenged in the same way as the British, we would be living under Nazi rule today.

Larson is an exceptional author who delivers facts while still attending to the dramatic arc, and doing it all with exquisite language.
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Erik Larson is a highly skilled writer. In anybody else’s hands (save a few) this book would be unbearable. 

It is a slice in time - about 9 months of Churchill’s leadership when the UK was continually being bombed, over and again, by the Luftwaffe. 

We know Churchill as a great orator - one of the worlds best. This book dives deeper into the real Churchill and those that surrounded him. His flamboyance, his charisma, his almost accidental ability to bring out the courage in others. 

If you like historic novels about WW II, or if you’ve wondered about Churchill but never read much, this book is for you. The average fiction or even nonfiction reader may have a tough time. It’s long. It’s
non-stop facts. It’s every cough, sneeze and whisper. And because it’s written by Larson, it’s pretty interesting. 

#netgalley #thesplendidandthevile
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This book is great! Would definitely recommend. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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Erik Larson has a way of writing nonfiction that makes it as intense and enthralling as the latest thriller.  For twelve months, Great Britain was subjected to an unimaginable bombardment that left 45,000 people dead and whole sections of London and surrounding towns in ruins.  Churchill had to not only keep the population from crumbling under the onslaught, but also ramp up desperately needed wartime production and convince the United States to join the conflict.  Larson helps you see Churchill as not only the indomitable leader he was, but as a real person with interesting quirks, issues and family dramas.
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The Splendid and the Vile is an interesting take on World War II, focusing on one year, beginning with Winston Churchill's installation as Prime Minister. Erik Larson knows how to tell a tale- it is immersive, accurate, and reads like a novel. However, I think this hefty tome (over 600 pages) could have been edited a down by 100 pages and not lost anything. I learned a great deal about the toll Germany's bombings took on London, and I definitely recommend listening to the audio version. This would be 3.5 stars, but I rounded up for Goodreads.
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Erik Larson is a wonderful author of nonfiction. He writes books that just grab your attention and I always learn about historical events or people.

Splendid & Vile focuses on Winston Churchill.  I was never under the impression that Churchill was always loved and admired.  He had many vices.  Larson does a great job of giving us the flesh and blood Churchill – down to his love for kimonos.  Churchill did a brilliant job giving the English hope to fight on.  

While Churchill provides a focus for this story, we learn exactly what England was up against.  It’s the details that Larson gives that stick with me.  His choice of quotes are well placed and effective. It’s the complete picture he paints from the perfect blend of the monumental facts and the minute detail.

I came away with a much better understanding of the Battle of Britain. I had very limited knowledge that England, not just London, was subjected to the horrendous bombing. I have more admiration for the English’s ability to withstand such horror.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

5 star read for me.
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Day by day history of London's darkest year 1940-1941, which was Churchill's first year as Prime Minister. Poland and Czechoslovakia had fallen to Hitler, Holland and Belgium were invaded, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. Erik Larson forges this account based on personal diaries, recently declassified documents, the journals by Wm. Shire, and the national network of diarists tasked with keeping track of the public mood. Rather than a strict accounting of military events, but there are a few such as the sinking of the French Fleet by the British, this provides a very personal narrative about Churchill and his family, warts and all. The relationships between Churchill and his Secret Circle, and between he and his Cabinet, are played out over dinners at Chequers, 10 Downing Street including the bathroom, and Parliament. Highly recommend to anyone who studies history, especially social-political history. It has the personal tone of Isaac's Storm, and heavily sourced like Devil in the White City and In the Garden of the Beast. One inconsequential recommendation--if you are like me and do a lot of back and forth between the index and the text, the paper copy might be better. I read a kindle edition, and for this reason I wished I had read the paper.
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A remarkable, exceptional book. I haven’t read a lot of history books since college because they’re often so dry, but even the title of this screamed new and different to me. And I was rewarded. Erik Larson has a true talent for narrative nonfiction. He brings Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister to life by bringing us inside the family and aides who knew Churchill best, and by letting us experience the fear and resilience of the British during the Blitz. I loved this one.
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Just what we've come to expect of Erik Larson -- meticulously researched, engagingly presented. If you like his earlier books, you'll like this one, too!
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I usually really love Erik Larson's works, but I found this title to be extremely boring. To be fair, this is not my favorite time period in history and I have no intrinsic interest in Churchill. I think others who are interested in the subject matter would enjoy Larson's detailed approach. I just found it tedious.
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