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Churchill: The Unexpected Hero Paperback – July 13, 2006
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
`This is a highly readable short biography of a hero with feet of clay' Lloyd's List
`gloriously readable style and lightly-worn scholarship' Scotsman
`short but masterly book . . . intriguing, penetrating and thoughtful' Mail on Sunday
`a considerable achievement . . . could be read with profit and enjoyment by anyone interested in modern history' Independent
`a treat . . . full of arresting insights . . . scrupulously accurate in areas where other biographers frequently trip' Finest Hour: Journal of the Churchill Centre and Societies
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found this book interesting. I had never thought about all the years of service he had before WWII. I had assumed he was always a good leader and well respected. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Rachel S. Jerdin
Due to the writing style I have not finished the book. I found this book terribly lacking in any emotion. Read morePublished 21 months ago by 3bunnies
Everyone it seems has written a Churchill biography but this nod has passed the first test. It has new insights about the life and times of Winston Spencer Churchill. Read morePublished 23 months ago by David Jones
Churchill shows a steadfastness to the ultimate goal of victory over Hitler, despite crushing personal defeats in his life and House of Commons. Read morePublished 24 months ago by robert boothby
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 .Published on June 23, 2014 by George Allen
I am a sucker for history and especially, Churchill. He was an enigma to many, having survived more triumphs and failures than almost anyone in history I can recall. Read morePublished on June 15, 2014 by DB
He was indeed unexpected - he had not had a particularly auspicious life yet, without him at the advent of WW II, we might all be giving the Nazi salute. Read morePublished on April 11, 2014 by Stella Irwin