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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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Deborah C. (Seattle, WA)

A different perspective on WWII
Erik Larson is a master of narrative nonfiction, and this book does not disappoint! He portrays one year in the life of Winston Churchill, beginning with when he was named Prime Minister in 1940. Even if you are already very familiar with the events of WWII, I think you'll find this book interesting, because it offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the life of Churchill and those around him. You really feel like you are right there with them, and even though we all know how things turned out, it is very suspenseful! Recommended for history buffs and biography fans in particular, but anyone who loves a good story will enjoy it.

It was OK
Expected much more after The Devil in the White City. This was much less. A big gossipy. Very readable and predictable. All tied to Pearl Harbor attack that got the US President to come on board.

Entertaining Light History
Winston Churchill was not exaggerating when he said that the future of Western civilization depended upon the outcome of the Battle of Britain. Late 1940 and early 1941 truly was an historic time in the life of the world, and for those wanting or needing a refresher, this book is a good one.

All of the stories in the book have been told before by others and better, but Mr. Larson performs a service by telescoping them into one compact book. The book has its flaws: little is written about the Battle of the Atlantic, the importance of Churchill's speeches is underplayed, and it glosses over some of the major strategic considerations that went into Churchill's decisions, but we learn quite a lot about what life was like in London during the bombing Blitz that Hitler and Goering unleashed on the British Isles in the mistaken belief that the British would crumble and seek a peace deal with the Nazis. Clever use of German propaganda minister Goebbels's diaries also remind us — a useful reminder — of how easily some government officials find it to lie.

Mr. Larson relies mostly on secondary sources, but the ones he uses are reliable. Far more detail is available in any good Churchill biography, but those tend to omit stories about everyday life in London. Knowing what Londoners found to eat, the sexual license of the times, the nights of terror, and the unadulterated courage of the English people provides much needed context. And Larson is, as ever, an entertaining writer.
Vic L. (Charlotte, NC)

Review of The Splendid and The Vile
Being a history buff the book was very interesting for me. I do not believe that this is one of Erik Larson's better novels. The novel gives you a good understanding of the situation England was in after the fall of Europe. But it also delves into the incidental details of the lives of family members, secretaries, and other minor characters. By removing these segments from the book it would be more interesting and a faster read.

The book does provide a historical reference to the spirit of the English people and how Churchill was the right person at the time for England. It is disappointing to see that the aristocratic younger people continued to play while the general population suffered from the air attacks.

I did like the author including insight into the thinking of the German leadership and outlining the errors that were made by the leadership to win England. As well as what it took to get the United States to provide support for the war effort.

Overall the reader needs to understand that the novel does provide an interesting historical perspective to the Battle for Brittainy.
Alan K. (Westport, MA)

The Splendid and the Vile
Churchill's first months as Prime Minister and the bombing of England from 1940 to 1941. Larson is a storyteller and he casts a wide net to cover people and incidents that vary in their importance to the period. What's missing is an overarching historical perspective beyond the well-known story of incredible courage. Larson's book, Isaac's Storm, does have a clearer and more targeted approach to it's story which is lacking here. But as a general narrative of an eventful year, it is entertaining and quite interesting.

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