The Splendid and the Vile

A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

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Pub Date Feb 25 2020 | Archive Date May 31 2022

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake delivers an intimate chronicle of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz—an inspiring portrait of courage and leadership in a time of unprecedented crisis
“One of [Erik Larson’s] best books yet . . . perfectly timed for the moment.”—Time • “A bravura performance by one of America’s greatest storytellers.”—NPR 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review Time Vogue • NPR • The Washington Post • Chicago TribuneThe Globe & Mail • Fortune • Bloomberg • New York Post • The New York Public Library • Kirkus Reviews • LibraryReads PopMatters

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.
The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when, in the face of unrelenting horror, Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake delivers an intimate chronicle of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz—an inspiring portrait of courage...

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Featured Reviews

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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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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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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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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Like The Devil in the White City, Larson's latest is a gripping piece of non-fiction written like a novel. Engaging, easy to read, and fascinating!

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