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This third and final volume of the unexpurgated diaries of Sir Henry 'Chips' Channon begins as the Second World War is turning in the Allies' favour. It ends with a prematurely aged Chips descending into poor health but still socially active and able to turn a pointed phrase about the political events that swirl around him and the great and the good with whom he mingles.
Throughout these final fourteen years Chips assiduously describes events in and around Westminster, gossiping about individual MPs' ambitions and indiscretions, but also rising powerfully to the occasion to capture the mood of the House on VE Day or the ceremony of George VI's funeral. His energies, though, are increasingly absorbed by a private life that at times reaches Byzantine levels of complexity. Separated and then divorced from his wife Honor, he conducts passionate relationships with a young officer on Wavell's staff and with the playwright Terence Rattigan, while being serially unfaithful to both. The one constant in his life is his son, Paul, whom he adores.
Through Chips's friendship with Rattigan we encounter the London of the theatre and the cinema, peopled by such figures as John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. At the same time we continue to experience vicariously a seemingly endless social round of grand parties and receptions at which Chips might well rub shoulders with Lady Diana Cooper, or Cecil Beaton, or the Mountbattens, or any number of dethroned European monarchs. Those unfortunate enough to die while the pen is in Chips's hand are frequently captured in less than flattering epigrammatic obituaries. The Archbishop of Canterbury was a 'fat fool of 63'. Lloyd George was a 'wicked unscrupulous rogue of charm'. George Bernard Shaw 'died as he lived - very selfishly'. But Chips's gift for friendship and his frequent kindness shine through, too.
He has been described as 'The greatest British diarist of the 20th century'. This final volume fully justifies that accolade.
© Chips Channon 2022 (P) Penguin Audio 2022