Dear Commons Community,
I just finished reading The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson. It has already made it to number one on the New York Times Bestselling List and deservedly so. Anyone who enjoys reading about Churchill or World War II will find this a “can’t put down” book. It documents the abilities of Churchill to rally his country with “great oratorical powers” and sheer will while Britain was experiencing devastating destruction at the hands of Germany’s Luftwaffe.
While much of the book focuses on Churchill in 1940 and 1941, Larson takes time to detail family issues such as son Randolph’s gambling, drinking and marital problems. British and American leaders such as Max Beaverbrook and W. Averell Harriman are well represented in the book’s pages. German leaders such Herman Goring, Joseph Goebbels, and Rudolph Hess also receive a good amount of ink. While the book does not shy away from the horror and calamity of the blitzkrieg, Larson also provides humor. For instance, after Germany’s third in command, Rudolph Hess flies solo to Scotland to try to work out a peace agreement with the British without telling anyone let alone seeking approval, Hitler goes into a temper tantrum and starts sending Hess’s associates to concentration camps. At one point, Goring calls Willy Messerschmitt on the carpet for letting Hess have access to a plane. Goring asked him “How he could possibly let an individual as obviously insane as Hess have an airplane?” To which, Messersmith replied: “How am I supposed to believe that a lunatic can hold such a high office in the Third Reich?” Laughing, Goring replied: “You are incorrigible, Messerchmitt!”
In sum, I found it a great read that provided incredible insight to Churchill and this period of his life. I highly recommend it.
A full review can be found at the New York Times.