The Splendid and the Vile : A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Bombing of London
The #1 New York Times bestselling author delivers a startlingly fresh portrait of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz. 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, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons (30,000 of them Londoners) and destroying two million homes. It was down to Churchill to hold the country together - and to manage the war. In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson gives a brilliant account with cinematic detail, showing how Britain's most iconic leader set about unifying the nation at its most vulnerable moment, and teaching `the art of being fearless.' It is the story of political brinksmanship in the global arena, but also an intimate domestic drama. Larson follows Churchill through the streets and meeting rooms of London, then out of the city to Chequers or Ditchley - the strongholds when the moon was brightest and the bombing threat most intense. Drawing on a wealth of untapped sources, including recently declassified files, intelligence reports, and personal diaries only now available, Larson provides a new lens on London's darkest year, and a compelling personal insight into the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their daughters, Sarah, Diana, and the youngest, Mary, who chafed against her parents' wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; her illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the cadre of close advisors who comprised Churchill's `Secret Circle', including his dangerously observant private secretary, John Colville; newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook; and the Rasputin-like Federick Lindemann. 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 - a leader of eloquence, strategic brilliance, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.