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THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
A SUNDAY TIMES, THE TIMES, ECONOMIST, DAILY TELEGRAPH, EVENING STANDARD, OBSERVER BOOK OF THE YEAR
'Undoubtedly the best single-volume life of Churchill ever written' Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
A magnificently fresh and unexpected biography of Churchill, by one of Britain's most acclaimed historians
Winston Churchill towers over every other figure in twentieth-century British history. By the time of his death at the age of 90 in 1965, many thought him to be the greatest man in the world.
There have been over a thousand previous biographies of Churchill. Andrew Roberts now draws on over forty new sources, including the private diaries of King George VI, used in no previous Churchill biography to depict him more intimately and persuasively than any of its predecessors. The book in no way conceals Churchill's faults and it allows the reader to appreciate his virtues and character in full: his titanic capacity for work (and drink), his ability see the big picture, his willingness to take risks and insistence on being where the action was, his good humour even in the most desperate circumstances, the breadth and strength of his friendships and his extraordinary propensity to burst into tears at unexpected moments. Above all, it shows us the wellsprings of his personality - his lifelong desire to please his father (even long after his father's death) but aristocratic disdain for the opinions of almost everyone else, his love of the British Empire, his sense of history and its connection to the present.
During the Second World War, Churchill summoned a particular scientist to see him several times for technical advice. 'It was the same whenever we met', wrote the young man, 'I had a feeling of being recharged by a source of living power.' Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt's emissary, wrote 'Wherever he was, there was a battlefront.' Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Churchill's essential partner in strategy and most severe critic in private, wrote in his diary, 'I thank God I was given such an opportunity of working alongside such a man, and of having my eyes opened to the fact that occasionally supermen exist on this earth.'
Roberts (Napoleon: A Life) serves up an extraordinary biography of Winston Churchill. A resolutely pro-British empire "child of the Victorian era" who was emotionally neglected by his aristocratic father and frivolous American-raised mother, Churchill by his 20s had already reported from, fought in, and sometimes written books about imperial struggles in such places as Cuba, Sudan, India, and South Africa. He leveraged fame due to an escape from Boer captivity to win an election to British parliament in 1900 at age 25. As first lord of the admiralty during WWI, he was scapegoated for the military fiasco of Gallipoli in 1915 and cast into the political wilderness, which strengthened his nonconformist, independent nature, Roberts writes, helping him when he became prime minister in 1940. Roberts captures Churchill's close working relationship with FDR ("the greatest American friend we have ever known"), his distrust of his chiefs of staff, and his excessive faith in Stalin's promises in 1945. He also captures the man, dispelling the myth that Churchill was prone to depression and revealing his deep love for his wife, Clementine; his egotism, his wit, his loyalty to friends, his penchant sometimes for "selfishness, insensitivity, and ruthlessness"; and his "sybaritic" love of good drink and cigars. This biography is exhaustively researched, beautifully written and paced, deeply admiring but not hagiographic, and empathic and balanced in its judgments a magnificent achievement.