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The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 Paperback – November 5, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 1,356 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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*Starred Review* The second volume of the late Manchester’s Churchill biography (The Last Lion: Alone, 1988) left its audience in suspense with Churchill’s appointment as British prime minister in May 1940 and in anticipation of how Manchester would present Churchill’s and Britain’s finest hour in WWII. Foiled by illness, Manchester tapped Paul Reid, who has magnificently completed Manchester’s work. Opening with a character sketch of Churchill in his multifaceted guises of sentimentality, egotistical insensitivity, and brilliance, Reid dives into Churchill’s war leadership in 1940 that is the cynosure of his place in history. Reid’s got the research right, down to the day, down to the minute. He shows Churchill defying Hitler and appeasers––the French leadership and figures in the British government––who even in 1940 thought peace could be arranged with the triumphant Nazis. As Reid chronicles Churchill’s public speeches, communications, and strategy sessions, he affords regular glimpses at Churchill’s private aspects—his wittiness, sybaritic consumption of scotch and cigars, and moods bordering on depression. If reading Churchill’s life after 1945 entails an unavoidably anticlimactic quality, Reid nevertheless ably chronicles its main events of writing his WWII memoirs and assuming his second premiership of 1951–55. Manchester was one of the best Churchill biographers, and this capstone to his magnum opus ought not be missed. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Majestic . . . This book is superb. It has tremendous pace, rich detail and immense drama.”The Washington Post
 
“Masterful . . . The collaboration completes the Churchill portrait in a seamless manner, combining the detailed research, sharp analysis and sparkling prose that readers of the first two volumes have come to expect.”—Associated Press
 
“Matches the outstanding quality of biographers such as Robert Caro and Edmund Morris, joining this elite bank of writers who devote their lives to one subject.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Breathtaking . . . brilliant and beautiful, evocative.”—The Boston Globe
 
“A must-read finale for those who loved Manchester’s first two books.”—USA Today
 
“The final volume is . . . majestic and inspiring.”People
 
“One of the most thorough treatments of Churchill so far produced.”Library Journal (starred review)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1200 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (November 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345548639
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345548634
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 2 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,356 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been nervously awaiting this book for years. My first encounter with Manchester came when volume one first came out. I was a child, and I went to visit my grandmother (who was in London during the Blitz); she held the book up to show me what she was reading. "The man." she said. "The great, great man."

Years later, I read the first two volumes almost in one sitting - couldn't put them down - and have reread large parts of them over the years (every time I looked some piece up I'd find myself sitting down for an hour or two because I couldn't stop). I remember when Finest Hour reported that the trilogy would never be finished: it was like a punch in the stomach.

I had my doubts about the ability of another author to write worthily of Manchester, and I was afraid this volume wouldn't measure up. No need to worry: this is every bit as much a page-turner as the last two volumes. It's not QUITE Manchester - I thought I could feel a bit of a difference in style, somehow - and yet it IS extremely good, much better than I had expected.

Like the first two volumes, we begin with a preamble ("The Lion Hunted") in which we are (re-)acquainted with the book's subject. There is a certain amount of repetition of material from the two earlier preambles, but much good new material as well. I've read thousands of pages on Churchill, but even I found some good new anecdotes and quotations here. After that we're hurled right into the middle of the most dramatic days of World War Two. The unexpected, catastrophic defeats; the incompetence and perfidy of the people in charge of France - it doesn't take much from a writer to make this an exciting story, and yet I don't think it has ever been told better than this. Really, just what I had hoped for from Manchester himself.
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Format: Hardcover
There are many good biographies out there, but a great one is rare. This is one of the great ones; William Manchester has taken the art of biography to a new level. Most biographies are merely "interesting," rarely making any effort to give the reader a sense of what it would have been like to be or know the subject. Manchester does just that. Rather than write a narrative story of Winston Churchill's life, he has chosen instead to give us a rich tapestry of Chrchill's life as it was woven. Many biographers are simply idolizers of their subjects; this is not so with Manchester. He reserves no harsh judgment, just as he reserves no due praise; when he is reporting something negative that Winston did he says it was negative, and explains why.
But The Last Lion is more than just a biography. In attempting to capture the essence of Churchill Manchester has written some of the best material about World War I and the appeasement crisis. It is rare that historical events can be made to feel like the present, but Manchester has done this.
Both volumes of this work are well worth your money, your time, and your attention. Indeed, the only bad part of Manchester's biography is that he will not be able to finish it. It is not known how much of the third volume he was able to put together before Alzheimer's made work impossible for him, but it can be hoped that whatever he was able to do will someday be published, no matter how unpolished it may be.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Last Lion: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932," is the first of William Manchester's projected three-volume biography of Winston Spencer Churchill. I found it a superbly crafted, supremely well researched account of the first 58 years of the life of the 20th century's greatest statesman. With wit and candor, Manchester chronicles Churchill from his earliest days as the neglected and troublesome first child of Lord Randolph Churchill and his American-born wife, Jennie, to his entry into the political "wilderness" over home rule in India in 1932. Manchester's portrait of his subject is balanced and objective; we see Churchill at his finest: a courageous (almost to the point of foolhardiness) army officer, and later a gifted Member of Parliament who became one of the youngest Cabinet ministers in British history. We also see him at his worst: a Cabinet minister with appalling political judgment at times, quick to meddle in other ministers' affairs while neglecting his own, and with an uncanny ability to alienate not only his political foes, but almost all his political allies as well.

In addition to a wonderfully written chronology of Churchill's life, Manchester provides an overview of the times in which Churchill lived. I was fascinated by the author's account of Victorian England -- its culture, its mores, and its view of itself in the world. The sections which describe Churchill's times make highly entertaining and absorbing reading by themselves.

"The Last Lion: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932," clearly shows why William Manchester is one of the pre-eminent biographers at work today.
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Format: Hardcover
"Defender of the Realm, 1940 -- 1965" is the final volume of William Manchester's massive three-volume biography, "The Last Lion", of Winston Churchill (1874 -- 1965). The first volume, published in 1983, titled "Visions of Glory", covered Churchill's life from 1874 -- 1932, while the second volume, published in 1988, titled simply "Alone, covered the years 1932 -- 1940. This new sweeping third volume covers Churchill's life beginning with his ascension to the office of Prime Minister in 1940. It focuses upon the WW II years, follows Churchill during the years between 1945 and his second period as Prime Minister from 1951 -- 1955, and concludes with Churchill's years of comparative retirement up to his death. The biography was a near lifetime project for Manchester (1922 -- 2004). Manchester had researched the third volume of the trilogy, prepared well-organized and voluminous notes, and done some of the writing. Near the end of his life, however, Manchester realized he would be unable to complete the third volume. He selected journalist Paul Reid to complete the work.

The result of Manchester's and Reid's efforts is a detailed, dense study of 1200 pages. The book offers a thorough, multi-faceted look at the complex statesman that was Winston Churchill, in his determination, devotion to Great Britain and to civilization, brilliance, and frequent pettiness. Because Churchill's personal life was inextricably intertwined with his public life, this book goes far beyond biography. It is a masterful political and military history of the WW II years and, to a lesser extent, of the years following.

Churchill the man is most in focus in the 50-page "Preamble" to the book.
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