Review: “The Splendid and the Vile” by Erik Larson

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, And Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson. Crown Books. 591 pages.

I picked up this book while I was on vacation, mostly because I recognized the author’s name. He’s the same author who wrote In the Garden of Beasts, the excellent book about the American family living in Nazi Germany before the war. This book was about Churchill, focusing on the years 1940-1941, from the time when he was elected as prime minister of Great Britain until loosely when America joined the war.

Like most historical books, it has its good points and its bad points. Larson get caught up in a lot of the details of that year, especially describing what Churchill and his family were like. The references to Winston Churchill were interesting, but I lost interest when the book spent a great deal of time talking about the love life of his daughter and other family members. At 591 pages, and with small type as well, the book goes into excruciating detail about a lot of things I wasn’t interested in, especially when it came to their personal life.

The politics, especially between Great Britain, the United States and Germany, however, was fascinating, and Larson does a good job showing how everyone was trying to persuade and out guess the other parties. Hitler’s plan to invade Britain, and then to invade Russia hinged on getting Churchill to sue for peace, who knew at the same time that their only hope for survival lay on help from the U.S. So they were all dependent on each other. The dynamics of this interaction made for interesting reading.

All in all, it was interesting reading, although a bit too long, with too much emphasis on their personal lives for my taste.

Four of five stars.