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112 of 124 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost purely a political biography, January 7, 2002
This review is from: Churchill: A Biography (Hardcover)
What most reviews don't tell you is that Roy Jenkins, himself a politician, has created an almost purely political biography of Churchill. Even more narrowly, it is a focused on the House of Commons and Churchill's role in it over a span of some 50 years.
In more than 900 pages, Jenkins barely touches on Churchill's personal life, his relationship with "Clemmie," his children or with anyone outside the closeted world of British politics. The little details of daily life, which provide density and color -- what brand of cigars he smoked, what books he read for pleasure, what he ate for breakfast -- are almost entirely missing.
A greater fault, in my view, is that Jenkins fails to adequately explore and explain Churchill's place in the decline and fall of the British Empire, which took place in great part during Churchill's watches. This is a story, as Jenkins tells it, mostly of the Old Boy's club, of Asquith and Lloyd George and Chamberlain and all the rest. Reading Jenkins, you would hardly know that during the course of Churchill's life one of the world's greatest powers and greatest empires became an also ran on the world's stage.
Granted, Jenkins is a masterful writer with a great grasp of the politics of 20th century Britain. If politics, in great detail, is all you demand of a biography, then Roy Jenkins' Churchill will suit you very adequately.
--Lan Sluder
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 12, 2014 3:10:17 PM PST
margot says:
Quite right in everything you say, but I like the skewed political bias, and all the minutiae. It's not as though this were the only Churchill biography in town. Jenkins fills in gaps that are glossed over by the three or four other biographers I've been through.

Posted on Feb 6, 2014 3:49:48 PM PST
Jack Rice says:
What a stupid review! And so many positive votes, from those who, like the writer, don't know the difference between closeted and cosseted, i.e. think they're smarter than they are.

The "decline and fall of the British Empire [sic]" did NOT take place during Churchill's watch. Churchill believed that imperialism, British style, was a civilizing force and struggled mightily to preserve it, but he was rarely in a position to do anything about it. He was only one vote in the Commons and "on watch" as PM only during the war years -- when Britain was struggling for its existence, never mind its empire -- and a couple of years in the early 50s. He was swimming against a tide supported by the anti-imperialist U.S., under whom a UK -- broke and spent by factors Churchill had nothing to do with -- was forced to become a client state.

This is a political biography. Personal life??? It's been written about endlessly! Don't fault Jenkins because he's not gossipy or into pillow talk, which the reviewer and other vulgarians expect.
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