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Churchill Paperback – October 26, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this enthusiastic yet first-rate biography, veteran British historian Johnson (Modern Times) asserts that Winston Churchill (1874–1965) was the 20th century's most valuable figure: No man did more to preserve freedom and democracy.... An ambitious, world-traveling soldier and bestselling author, Churchill was already famous on entering Parliament in 1899 and within a decade was working with Lloyd George to pass the great reforms of 1908–1911. As First Lord of the Admiralty, he performed brilliantly in preparing the navy for WWI, but blame—undeserved according to Johnson—for the catastrophic 1915 Dardanelles invasion drove him from office. Within two years, he was back at the top, where he remained until the Depression. Johnson delivers an adulatory account of Churchill's prescient denunciations of Hitler and heroics during the early days of WWII, and views later missteps less critically than other historians. He concludes that Churchill was a thoroughly likable great man with many irritating flaws but no nasty ones: he lacked malice, avoided grudges, vendettas and blame shifting, and quickly replaced enmity with friendship. Biographers in love with their subjects usually produce mediocre history, but Johnson, always self-assured as well as scholarly, has written another highly opinionated, entertaining work. B&w photos. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Praise for Churchill by Paul Johnson:
 
"Johnson . . . give[s] the reader the definite sense of having known Churchill, or at least of having hung out with him for a bit . . . Churchill lets you spend some time in the man's company, and who wouldn't want that?"
New York Times Book Review

"Johnson’s distillation of life lessons from Churchill’s stories career [is written in] . . . vivid prose and [with] consistent intelligence and urbanity.”
—Jon Meacham, Slate.com
 
"[If] you appreciate clarity, authority, and verve in historical writing, you will understand why I gulped down [Churchill] and now declare it the most exciting biography I read in 2009."
—Jesse Kornbluth, Huffington Post

"Johnson clearly shares and revels in Churchill's generosity of spirit and limitless intellectual energy. He has produced a book that is a joyand a worthy tribute to both of them."
Washington Times

"You read Johnson to be provoked and entertained, and on both these scores his biography, like its subject, succeeds wonderfully."
The American Conservative

"With deft narrative skill and keen insight, Johnson masterfully sketches the phases of Churchill's life . . . Along the way, Johnson gives us wonderful insights into Churchill's character . . . Rich with anecdote and quotation, Paul Johnson's Churchill illustrates the man's humor, resilience, courage, and eccentricity as no other biography before."
National Review

"Paul Johnson is the most celebrated and best-loved British historian in America."
Wall Street Journal
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143117998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143117995
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Beginning with Modern Times (1985), Paul Johnson's books are acknowledged masterpieces of historical analysis. He is a regular columnist for Forbes and The Spectator, and his work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

225 of 230 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Of all the towering figures of the twentieth century, both good and evil, Winston Churchill was the most valuable to humanity, and also the most likable. It is a joy to write his life, and to read about it. None holds more lessons, especially for youth: How to use a difficult childhood. How to seize eagerly on all opportunities, physical, moral and intellectual. How to dare greatly, to reinforce success, and to put the inevitable failures behind you. And how, while pursuing vaulting ambition with energy and relish, to cultivate also friendship, generosity, compassion and decency."

That's the opening paragraph of Paul Johnson's "Churchill", and if you appreciate clarity, authority and verve in historical writing, you will understand why I gulped down the next 190 pages and now declare it the most exciting biography I read in 2009.

I've studied Churchill; we all have. But the breadth of the man gets lost in a handful of anecdotes and film clips. Paul Johnson delivers the big picture and the tiny detail. So masterful is his approach, so sharp is his observation, so exacting his sense of detail that it's not hard to agree with his assessment --- Churchill saved the world as we know it.

And not Churchill the God, but Churchill the extremely interesting man. Johnson piles on the detail. Yes, Churchill drank whiskey or brandy all day --- "heavily diluted with water or soda." Yes, he stayed in bed as much as possible, for as he told Johnson (who interviewed him at the tender age of 17), the secret of life is "conservation of energy. Never stand up when you can sit down, and never sit down when you can lie down."

As a young politician, Churchill was asked what he stood for. "Opportunism, mostly," he quipped. In fact, he was a liberal, and very progressive.
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73 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. Schwartz TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Paul Johnson's new book on Churchill is a mini-biography that partakes of the 'character' tradition, so important in the seventeenth century. It covers Churchill's entire life, but in a schematic way. With less than 200 pp. of text there is not much room for detail. For a one-volume life Johnson himself recommends Lord Jenkins' 2001, thousand-page account. Still, Johnson's book is rich in anecdotal detail; it is clear that he could have delivered a much larger book, had he desired to do so. The portrait is highly favorable, as one would expect from Johnson's earlier written comments on Churchill, but it includes a significant number of criticisms. It is admiring, but not fawning.

Most of all it is an enjoyable read, a kind of children's book version of history, but written for adults. For those who have little knowledge of Churchill and the great events with which his life intersected it is a good place to start. It is also a nice 'character' of a political leader. Johnson is not shy in recording his views and this is (as I recently wrote about John Lukacs' LAST RITES) a strength, since we know precisely where Johnson stands and we can agree or disagree with his clearly-articulated point of view.

There is a brief but attractive series of photographs accompanying the text. This is a lovely afternoon read (one that should include whiskey or brandy and soda, fine claret, champagne, tea or some similar beverage of which Sir Winston would approve). It is uplifting without being unrealistic and brings both smiles and tears at various points.

Highly recommended.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The vast mountain range of literature about Winston Churchill has sprouted another foothill. Paul Johnson's biography, as you might expect from a Briton, is full of unstinting admiration for Churchill the person as well as the political figure. His faults and failures are duly noted but almost always excused, and there are spots where the amount of credit piled upon him strains credulity a bit. But all in all, the story of his adventurous life is told succinctly and colorfully. We get to know Churchill as a human being, not just as a face on the front page of wartime newspapers. For those unwilling to burrow through the huge Churchill literature, this slim volume will provide a good basic account, albeit from the pen of a fervent admirer and fellow countryman.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), born to wealth and privilege, was an indifferent student at Harrow, but his energy and boundless ambition carried him easily into Parliament at the age of 26 and kept him there through two world wars, the first of which dealt him a humiliating setback, but the second of which he was a major factor in winning.

Churchill's dogged advocacy of the disastrous Dardanelles campaign in World War I very nearly ended his political career. In typical Churchillian fashion, he first accepted the blame and then got up from the floor, dusted himself off, and went back to the job of keeping British world power in tiptop shape. Johnson gives a workmanlike summary of Churchill's lonely interwar campaign to wake his country up to the menace of Nazism, his assumption of power in the war's darkest hour, and his five brilliant years of leadership.
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