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The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Alone 1932-1940 Hardcover – October 28, 1988
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About the Author
William Manchester was a hugely successful popular historian and biographer whose books include The Last Lion, Volumes 1 and 2, Goodbye Darkness, A World Lit Only by Fire, The Glory and the Dream, The Arms of Krupp, American Caesar, The Death of the President, and assorted works of journalism.
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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. If the later parts of the book don't quite keep the same level of excitement, neither do the events they recount.
My only complaint is the ending: really, the book just stops. Read the end of volume II: I would have expected Manchester himself to end with a climactic summary, perhaps returning to his major insight from the start: the central significance of Churchill in history is that he was a product of the late nineteenth century who was able to bring the virtues of the era of his formative years to life again at a time when they were needed, and when the British people were not yet too far from them. Actually, I do have one other complaint, and it's with the publisher: the dust jacket doesn't match the first edition dust jackets of the first two volumes. Doesn't look as good on the shelf as I would have liked.
All in all, this is a worthy final volume. Manchester himself would be proud, and there can be no doubt that this trilogy would be Churchill's favourite biography. Highly recommended, to fans of the first two volumes and newcomers alike.
Papa Victory....Father of the Victory pretty much summed it up. He stood up to Hitler when England was all alone and many in England were trying to figure out how they might arrange a truce. The darkest days of the initial German Invasion... he was in France as the Prime Minister.... He undertook grueling airplane trips to meet with Roosevelt in North Africa and Canada.... he went to Moscow via Africa.... he was not a young man at the time... I was impressed by many things about Churchill, his leadership. His willingness to put his own bacon in the fire without hesitation.... he was a great man and I don't think he is appreciated for how great he was.
As a boy he was fascinated with toy soldiers. He would go off to war in India at the age of 21.
His father did not like him because Winston did not apply himself in school and he would get into trouble.
A tragic school prank was played on his father, Sir Lord Randolph Churchill, when in college. His friends drugged his drink and the next morning Randolph woke up next to a prostitute, who gave him syphilis. This limited relations with his wife, Winston's mother, who became involved with many prominent men.
Like his father, Winston aspired to become a member of Parliament (MP). He became a skilled orator, winning the respect of many but also alienating many with his sharp tongue. Early in his political career he was vilified for switching parties. He somehow would win re-elections even though he often had few supporters in Parliament.
He married Clementine, with whom he had 5 children, and they would for the rest of their lives exchange great affection for one another. In 1921 they endured the tragic death of their 2½ year old daughter Marigold, who died of septicemia, possibly from the hesitancy of a nanny.
He was made head of the British navy. In wanting to relieve the slaughter of thousands in the trenches of WWI, he devised a strategy which would require Germany to take soldiers off the front lines, possibly allowing victory for the Allies. Sail the British navy past Gallipoli and through the Dardanelles Strait and into the Black Sea on Germany's flank. For this failed attempt he was wrongly blamed for many years. Churchill took part in WWI, given the command of a brigade. He was fearless (foolhardy?) and would stand up in the trenches giving instructions to his men while German bullets whizzed by him.
Having lived through Britain's golden age of world supremacy, he wanted to maintain British rule over India.
He fought depression his whole adult life, and found oil painting as a wonderful distraction.
As a schoolboy, studying the Scriptures was part of his curriculum. The day he became head of Britain's navy, Clementine quoted him Psalm 107:23,24: "Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters; they have seen the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep." And before going to bed that night, Churchill read Deuteronomy 9:1-3: "Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, 'Who can stand before the sons of Anak?' Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the Lord has spoken to you."
This is a great book about a great man.