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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to Churchill's life and career
Though Winston Churchill has never wanted for biographers, over the past few years the publication of brief studies of his life have come into vogue. Written by some of the leading historians of the period - John Keegan, Geoffrey Best, Stuart Ball - they offer an accessible (if condensed) examination of one of the dominant figures of the twentieth century. Paul...
Published on January 15, 2005 by MarkK

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative but reads like a graduate thesis
Informative but the writing fails to flow or excite. For anyone not from Britain and that period, the book provides a long and confusing lanudry list of names - a simple reference table to sort out persons, dates, and affiliations would be most helpful. There are lots of citations and quotes to support manuscript, but not much about his personality other than his public...
Published 18 months ago by Jerry J. Bromenshenk


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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to Churchill's life and career, January 15, 2005
By 
MarkK (Phoenix, AZ, USA) - See all my reviews
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Though Winston Churchill has never wanted for biographers, over the past few years the publication of brief studies of his life have come into vogue. Written by some of the leading historians of the period - John Keegan, Geoffrey Best, Stuart Ball - they offer an accessible (if condensed) examination of one of the dominant figures of the twentieth century. Paul Addison's book is the latest addition to their ranks, and one that deserves to be ranked as among the best of these efforts.

Addison argues that the heroic status that Churchill enjoys today belies much of his career. Considered an irresponsible genius by his contemporaries, he was a polarizing figure who was never completely trusted by any side of the political divide. Yet as prime minister during the Second World War he went on to become "the embodiment of national unity," a symbol of Britain's determination to defeat Nazi Germany. Addison provides a more nuanced view of Churchill's career, noting his ideological consistency in a politically turbulent age. When war came, the man and the moment were ideally matched; indeed, many of the traits that his opponents deplored - his enthusiasm for war, his advocacy of impossible ideas, even the fact that he was half American - became assets in the conflict and were keys to his successful leadership.

Developed from his entry on Churchill for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Addison succeeds in providing an insightful introduction to the life of one of the dominant figures of the twentieth century. Though hardly a hagiographical account - he freely acknowledges such faults as Churchill's massive egotism - his portrait is a sympathetic one, depicting the prime minister as "a hero with feet of clay." The result is a good read and a great starting point for anyone seeking to learn more about this fascinating figure.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief primer on genius "with feet of clay", December 3, 2005
Addison knows that Churchill's life has received almost as many words as Churchill wrote himself, as one of the most prodigous authors of the twentieth century, known and admired by many as the greatest figure of his time, "saving the world" from Nazi Germany, the right man at the right place at the right time.

But Addison is not so sure. Churchill was maddeningly erratic, not only changing political parties twice but also inflaming deep hatred during his long, varied career as a military figure, prison escapee, politician, cabinet member, and prime minister. Much of the peculiarities about Winston we can attribute to his relationship with his parents, an American debutant and a half-crazed father who died young. Lacking their affections, and wanting to make a name for himself, Churchill took on risks and positions with abandon.

Addison has done a thorough study, more remarkable for its brevity when describing a man whose life has been chronicled many times before in thousands of pages. While leading England during World War II, Winston came to symbolize the twentieth century but he was in many ways a man of the nineteenth or even eighteenth century, believing in the Empire and being more of an egoist than an egotist. Yes, he was a racist in today's terms, with his contempt for what we would today call "developing countries" and their peoples, but for his time Churchill was not out of step. He was, at times, indecisive and, yes, out of step with popular feelings. His writings were often efforts to cast himself in the best possible light. This was especially true when he wrote his memoirs of World War II, right after he was thrown from office at his moment of triumph. This cathartic and somewhat self-serving post-war writing process regained him 10 Downing Street, it also left him as the primary arbiter of his reputation from the war -- the leader of the victorious nations gets to write history.

He was a fickle, spoiled, epicurean of sorts who seemed to love a good fight -- even a good war -- if it helped him get ahead and helped England stay ahead or stay alive. Loved or hated, he deserves to be admired for what he got right, not for what he got wrong. Addison is critical yet quite balanced in this treatment of this great yet flawed figure. And for those who want the concise Churchill story, this is it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent volume for readers of all stripes, December 29, 2011
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dcreader (Washington DC area) - See all my reviews
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Short lives of Winston Churchill abound, including volumes by well known popular historians such as John Keegan and Paul Johnson. Paul Addison's volume for Oxford Press's Lives and Legacies series, however, is well deserving of its status as the connoisseur's choice for an introduction to Churchill.

Addison succeeds because he does more than summarize Churchill's life. He frames the essential question regarding Churchill in the right way, and the story therefore becomes much more interesting as a result. The subtitle of the book "The Unexpected Hero" summarizes his thesis nicely. Churchill's career until the 1930s was a checkered one, and virtually no one would have expected him to become the towering figure of the 20th century at that point. How Churchill went from being nearly spent as a political force in the 1930s is therefore the story Addison seeks to tell in 254 pages.

The Unexpected Hero manages to touch every significant aspect of Churchill's life and career (as well as can be done in under 300 pages), but more importantly Addison is present throughout as a sure footed guide. His judgments on Churchill's actions are sound and serve the reader well, which is important because many of them are the subjects of entire books in and of themselves. Addison's scholarly and sober judgment leaves the reader feeling that he has been told the salient facts by an expert without an axe to grind.

Addison also nicely summarizes the state of play when it comes to contemporary disputes among historians on Churchill's legacy, and sums up barrels of ink nicely in his post script. Because of this, Addison's volume is not only a strong candidate for the best place to start with Churchill, but also a nice sounding board for those who have read so much Churchill they feel they have begun to lose their bearings as well.

Highly recommended.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Addition To Sir Winston's Understanding, April 2, 2005
By 
I've waited the past two months to receive a copy of this short biography on Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill. Reading this book does not disappoint.

This short work, though fair and favorable to Sir Winston, also discusses the controversies of his career. Not everyone in Britain was a fan of Churchill, with some disliking him, with others fearing he would ever have any part of the government. In spite of his monumental contributions to the World War II years, some never lost their mistrust nor dislike of the man.

As an American, I see him as the beacon of hope for war-torn Britain. The best possible man to lead the country during those years, an uncrowned king giving the British people the hope and stamina needed to go on, day by day, overcoming all the suffering World War II brought them. Should he not have been the best, surely there existed no one better. When one thinks today of World War II Britain, one must think of Winston Churchill. They have become intertwined and inseparable.

Even from his earliest years, Churchill always felt he was a person of destiny; so was able to equally accept and act in that role. One must wonder what England would have been without him. Prior to the war he was seen as too strident and hawkish, once the war began however his views and demeanor coincided exactly to the needs of the time. Once the war was over, most of the country turned their backs to him at the polls, feeling he was not up to running a tamer, peacetime government.

Being neither British, nor ignoring his earlier government service prior to World War II (he was 65 in 1940 at time of his becoming Prime Minister with many years of government service behind him), I cannot agree with their post war thinking. And as discussed in this slim volume, I agree with the author that the mistrust and distrust of earlier Liberal versus Tory episode was ever overcome. Too many felt they just could not count on, nor place their full trust in this man.

Winston Churchill is my 'cup of tea'. One of the few 20th Century men of both character and leadership. True, he had both great flaws and great abilities as well; and this book fairly shows both.

Recommended reading.

Semper Fi.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Force Of Nature, June 4, 2009
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This review is from: Churchill: The Unexpected Hero (Paperback)
Churchill was such an interesting and complex man that I do not believe any short book can adequately capture the full Force of Nature that was Churchill. Not only was Churchill a politician and great war leader in World War 2, but he also participated in 5 wars beginning with the 1898 Battle of Omdurman where he was a part of the last great Cavalry charge in British history. If all of that wasn't enough, he has had more words published than Charles Dickens.

This book does a decent job of introducing Churchill to those new to him. If this book whets your appetite to learn more of Churchill then by all means read the biographies penned by William Manchester, Roy Jenkins, and Martin Gilbert. Churchill's own writings also give great insight into the man. I especially enjoyed his "World War 2, The Gathering Storm."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Man In A Storm, February 10, 2013
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Winston Churchill is one of my favorite characters in modern history. Similar to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, he was a man who despite his many shortcomings, showed up at just the right time in history. I have read a number of biographies of Churchill, and found this to be one of the better ones.

=== The Good Stuff ===

* Paul Addison creates a reasonably balanced portrait of Churchill. He was a man of many talents, and at least a fair share of foibles. And while some biographers seem to think it their task to tear down the subject, Addison keeps to an even keel.

* We see some of the darker side of Churchill. He was a man of ambition, probably a borderline alcoholic, and capable of switching loyalties and promoting half-baked schemes. We see some of his racist tendencies, although to be fair these were well within the realm of respectable opinions in the 1920's. We also get a glimpse of Churchill taking a hard line against striking workers, a stance for which labor leaders never forgave him.

* Addison's writing style is easy to read, although he is prone to long paragraphs, something that seems to bother me more on a Kindle than in print.

* There were at least a few viewpoints and opinions which were new to me. Churchill evidently harbored some blame of the United States for the rise of German dictatorships. His logic was that the US forced Britain to repay their WWI debts. Britain had no choice but to force Germany to make their reparations ordered under the WWI peace treaty, which forced Germany into a deeper depression. This paved the way for Hitler's rise to power. A bit of a stretch in my opinion, but an interesting hypothesis.

* Most of us think of Churchill has a skilled forecaster of world political events. But this book highlights some of his miscues, several of which are fascinating. For example, in 1925, we find Churchill unwilling to invest in the defenses of Singapore, because he does not believe the Japanese to be a threat to seek territorial expansion. Oops.

=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===

* Addison gives me more credit for understanding the British system of government and politics than is justified. Some of the narrative was a little hard to follow, simply because I didn't understand the nuances and details of Churchill's maneuvering.

* Churchill was capable, at least in my opinion, of saying things in public that he really did not mean. His motive may have been to confuse his enemies, pursue some longer term agenda, or to maneuver opponents into an untenable position. In any case, Addison doesn't always give the reader the context to separate Churchill's postures from his actual opinions and beliefs.

* I would have preferred less pages spent on Churchill's political dealings in the 1930's, and more pages spent on the war years. As it was, the war years seemed to be about 15% of the total narrative, far too little in my opinion.

=== Summary ===

I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to any Churchill or history fan. The book was a bit of a slow read, and took a couple days to get through. But it was full of interesting and at least for me, new information. I would have liked better explanations of the British politics described, and more details of the war years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative but reads like a graduate thesis, March 10, 2013
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Informative but the writing fails to flow or excite. For anyone not from Britain and that period, the book provides a long and confusing lanudry list of names - a simple reference table to sort out persons, dates, and affiliations would be most helpful. There are lots of citations and quotes to support manuscript, but not much about his personality other than his public pensona. Some background about his family history and his own parents is provided, but virtually nothing about Churchill as a father and parent, nor what his personal friends thought of him. Overall, a story of a complex person; a product of his age and upbringing, who followed his own path. Also, for those enough who are old enough to remember Churchill, we only have the image of him in his senior years. Given that he was active and apparently reasonably fit as a young man, it would have been useful to include some images of the younger Churchill. I learned enough from this biography to make it useful, but it never fully engaged my attention due to the writing style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A man at the right time, March 16, 2009
By 
Scott Walker (Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Churchill: The Unexpected Hero (Paperback)
This interesting caricature can be summed up by Addison in the final chapter where he says arose Winston Churchill, who possessed "sublime egotism, magnificent oratory, and a passion for warfare". And the author goes on to say, "this book is the story of a politician who was underrated before the Second World War and overrated for a long time afterwards, but eludes all attempts to belittle or discredit him and lives as a hero of past and presents".

This is a serious biography that gets deeply personal at times; I remember only one instance where Addison evoked a chuckle. The chapters are dedicated on a time-scale from Churchill's birth in 1874 to his death in 1965. Much is donated to politics and his governing. There are end notes and extensive bibliography.

My understanding of Churchill has greatly increased and I can't help but see parallels to George Patton. Always the egoist, and in his beginnings as a leader I would consider him centrist, even liberal domestically. He was not afraid to play the antagonist, on both sides; he had many adherents, and plenty of critics. He had an interesting mix of beliefs, and I was surprised at the ideological dichotomy that existed.

Of course where most of us have our greatest knowledge of the man is during W.W.II. Even in the midst of the majority approving of Chamberlain, Churchill stood firm; he saw through the clutter to see the threat that existed. This determinacy, diligence, unwavering, and focus on winning the war, paid off in the end; through the power of his course tongued speeches the people leaped to his side. He also predicted the coming Russian threat and believed stern action was necessary. He came along at the right time and his flaws very much worked in the end.

I thought this was so good, where Churchil rebuked his son after a comment made about the oil magnates: "cultured people are merely the glittering scum which floats upon the deep river of production!"

We can't leave out that Churchill was a prodigious author. As he "matured" his ideology crept to the right, but he still continued to hold on to many of his earlier liberal beliefs. And, have we learned the lesson that Neville Chamberlain taught us?

Great statesman?

LORD bless
Scott
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Briton, September 3, 2014
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Churchill shows a steadfastness to the ultimate goal of victory over Hitler, despite crushing personal defeats in his life and House of Commons. From after World War l through the period just before World War ll Churchill was a lone voice against the German rebuilding and war preparedness of the Nazi regime. Truly one of the greatest Statesman of our time.
Robert Boothby
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great piece ., June 23, 2014
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George Allen (Diamond, Guyana) - See all my reviews
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Highly informative and instructive .it was a great refresher to my knowledge of English history ,and at the same time giving me an insight into the English political landscape .
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Churchill: The Unexpected Hero
Churchill: The Unexpected Hero by Paul Addison (Paperback - July 13, 2006)
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