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The Splendid and the Vile

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

by Erik Larson

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson X
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
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  • Published:
    Feb 2020, 608 pages


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There are currently 29 reader reviews for The Splendid and the Vile
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Lois K. (St. George, UT)

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
The Splendid and the Vile is an extraordinary book. Erik Larson does not disappoint. I've read several of Larson's previous works and had high expectations. This is his best book to date. Far from being a ponderous tome of non-fiction, this book reads more like a thrilling novel. Larson zeroes in on a critical year in WWII history breathing life and insight into Churchill, his family and close associates. Larson's research creates a very detailed picture of a blitz besieged England and the impact on everyday life. Even his footnotes are interesting. This is an excellent book for book club discussion as it addresses many issues; war, leadership, family, and even romance. I highly recommended it. One of the best books I've read in a long time.
Jill M. (Highland Park, IL)

Larson writes non-fiction like fiction...
Erik Larson's latest book, "The Splendid and the Vile" is the story of the London Blitz, using Winston Churchill and his family as the center of action. They're used much like the William Dodd family in Larson's best-seller, "In The Garden of the Beasts". Larson writing introduces Churchill to readers less familiar with him and his times. For the more knowledgeable reader, Larson's writing adds to the Churchill story. Its another grand look at history from a real master.
Deanna W. (Port Jefferson, NY)

You Are There
As in all his other books, Erik Larson places his readers right in the historic moment. The historic events seem to unfold in real time. A long and terrific read.
Shirley T. (Comfort, TX)

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson is a well researched and very readable account of the power of leadership in the critical year of World War II from May 1940 to May 1941.

Winston Churchill's belated appointment as Prime Minister of Great Britain proved to be an outstanding factor in protecting the nation as it stood alone against the aggression of Germany led by Hitler and his Nazis. Before his appointment a significant political segment of the country's leadership and even the current US Ambassador, had argued for appeasing Hitler.

Larson cleverly alternates the story of the swift Nazi conquest of mainland Europe with the refusal of Churchill to surrender to Hitler. His defiance was supported by the King and Queen who remained in London. Britain, alone and largely unprepared, successfully evacuated it's defeated forces from the beaches of Dunkirk to rebuild it's Island defenses. The book shows Churchill's support of aeroplane production allowing the brave RAF retaliation against the German bombers. By his persistent work with US President Roosevelt he gained American Lend Lease support so important for survival.

Larson also demonstrates the human element of Churchill's courage, optimism, eloquence and persistence in inspiring his family, government colleagues and the British nation. This is an inspiring work which brings out the character of Winston Churchill and of the British people "in their finest hour".
Betsey V. (Austin, TX)

Good faction!
In this era of dysfunction in both the U.S. and Britain, Winston Churchill stands out as a beacon to move his country past fear into courage. Erik Larson masterfully delves into Churchill's psyche and reveals the real man: the political hero, the family man, the leader. Larson digs deep into diaries and once-confidential interline reports to take his readers behind the scenes to what really occurred during what may be the darkest year in British history. In captivating prose, he makes history come alive and takes the reader into rarely-tread territory. Just as he did with (name previous books), Erik Larson takes a subject that's somewhat familiar to readers and recasts it into a whole new light, giving insights into what true leadership really looks like.

I'm an incorrigible fiction reader and even though Larson makes fact read like fiction, I wasn't completely satisfied because I wanted to feel it more emotionally. At times, it seemed more saga-like. So it's a 4 star for me -- but likely a 5 star for any avid Larson reader."
Dona N. (San Rafael, CA)

Churchill's Challenging First Year as Prime Minister
In this latest book, Larson brings to the fore the skills seen in his previous works; extensive research, a compelling story, and an intimate look at history. He describes the challenges that faced Winston Churchill upon assuming the office of Prime Minister of the U.K. following Neville Chamberlain 's failed appeasement policy and the retreat to Dunkirk. This is early 1940, as France is about to fall to the Nazis – and the foe is turning its awesome military towards the U.K. It is a story told before, but one worth revisiting, about how close Germany came to invading and conquering the U.K. Using extensively researched sources, Larson alternates between the view in London, Berlin and Washington. He adds perspective with details about Churchill's personal life, the lives of his adult children and the people who surrounded him.

While exhaustively researched I found the length and number of details to be challenging. If this had been an academic publication much of the information would probably have been footnoted.

At 500 pages, this is not a quick read but the careful reader will be rewarded. I would recommend this book for any anglophile, devotee of Churchill, WWII history fan, and those who appreciate Larson's ability to make history come alive.
MN Book Lover

A Year in the Life of Churchill (and others)
Erik Larson's new book, The Splendid and the Vile, looks at a year starting in 1941, when Winston Churchill became the British Prime Minister, and ending a year later. During that time, Britain suffered badly with the Blitzkrieg that hammered London and other cities, and reverses in the ground war in North Africa and Greece. The book centers on Churchill, but spreads out to include his family members, political friends and foes, ordinary Brits, and members of the German high command, all based on diaries or letters or other forms of contemporaneous records. The book is dense with characters, and at 500 pages it is not a fast or easy read, but it offers some new insights and a personal look at many issues of which the reader may not have been previously aware. Well-written and interesting subject matter.
Janet T. (Northbrook, IL)

The blitz up close
The Splendid and the Vile covers one year, mid 1940 to 1941, during which German bombers were pummeling London and other British sites. The threat of invasion was continually present. Churchill was looking to the United States for help, but the US political situation made assistance questionable.

The book begins with some scene-setting, and would benefit from a reader's patience during the first 50 or so pages as the threat increases. I love a good nonfiction narrative, and this delivered. I'd recommend it to readers of history who appreciate a detailed account of the Churchill family under the toughest of circumstances. Thank you for the review copy.

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