THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
‘Every time Churchill took to the airwaves it was as if he were injecting adrenaline-soaked courage directly into the British people … Larson tells the story of how that feat was accomplished … Fresh, fast and deeply moving.’ New York Times
A STARTLING, GRIPPING PORTRAIT OF WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE ALIVE IN BRITAIN DURING THE BLITZ, AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE AROUND CHURCHILL.
On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, 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, the Nazis would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons and destroying two million homes.
In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson gives a new and brilliantly cinematic account of how Britain’s most iconic leader set about unifying the nation at its most vulnerable moment, and teaching ‘the art of being fearless.’
Drawing on once-secret intelligence reports and diaries, #1 bestselling author Larson takes readers from the shelled streets of London to Churchill’s own chambers, giving a vivid vision of true leadership, when – in the face of unrelenting horror – a leader of eloquence, strategic brilliance and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.
THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
‘An enthralling page-turner’
O: The Oprah Magazine
‘Fresh, fast and deeply moving … Larson’s deft portraits show the essential connection that words created between the powerful and the powerless, capturing the moments that defined life for millions struggling to survive the decisions of a few’
New York Times Book Review
‘There are countless books about World War II, but there’s only one Erik Larson … There are many things to admire about The Splendid and the Vile, but chief among them is Larson’s electric writing. The book reads like a novel, and even though everyone (hopefully) knows how the war ultimately ended, he keeps the reader turning the pages with his gripping prose.’
‘A particularly gripping read, written with bounce and brio. Larson pulls together vivid vignettes – some moving, some amusing, a few grim … A fine writer of narrative nonfiction history.’
Robbie Millen, Times
‘This book is peppered with eye-popping details … A deeply compelling work of history … Without resorting to heroism, it makes one long powerfully for real leadership’
‘I have an early copy of this book on my desk and idly began reading the first pages—and suddenly time disappeared.’
‘Larson’s skill at integrating vast research and talent for capturing compelling human dramas culminate in an inspirational portrait of one of history’s finest, most fearless leaders’
Booklist (starred review)
‘A captivating history of Churchill’s heroic year, with more than the usual emphasis on his intimates.’
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
‘Nonfiction king Erik Larson is back.’
Larson (Dead Wake) delivers a propulsive, character-driven account of Winston Churchill's first year as British prime minister , when the German air force launched "a full-on assault against the city of London" in preparation for an invasion that never came. Larson's profile subjects include Churchill's 17-year-old daughter, Mary; his private secretary, John "Jock" Colville, who kept a meticulous (and likely illegal, due to the national security secrets it revealed) diary; Nazi leader Rudolf Hess; and, to a lesser extent, ordinary Britons. Juxtaposing monumental developments, such as the Dunkirk evacuation, with intimate scenes, Larson notes that on the night Churchill learned French leaders wanted to make peace with Hitler, he raised his dinner guests' spirits by passing out cigars, reading aloud telegrams of support from other countries, and "chant the refrain from a popular song." Larson highlights little-known but intriguing figures, including chief science adviser Frederick Lindemann, who made a multifaceted but unsuccessful case for why tea shouldn't be rationed, and documents the carnage caused by German bombs, including the deaths of 34 people at the Caf de Paris shortly before Mary Churchill was set to arrive at the club. While the story of Churchill's premiership and the Blitz have been told in greater historical depth, they've rarely been rendered so vividly. Readers will rejoice.